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PG Buzz

The advent of tradition

By Tracey Bearton
12 December 2023

Chocolate treats ignored as calendar sales rise and single cards beat festive packs

Advent calendars have been making a real comeback with indie retailers pretty much selling out of stock as customers made a date with the traditional versions.

Interestingly, the lure of the chocolate treat behind the wee door appears to be paling – as Cards & Gifts Dronfield’s Carl Dunne has discovered, admitting: “We sell all chocolate and I’m going to get fat on what I have left over!”

Above & top: Carl Dunne has gone all out for Christmas – but has a surfeit of chocolate advent calendars
Above & top: Carl Dunne has gone all out for Christmas – but has a surfeit of chocolate advent calendars

With just a couple weeks to go until the big day, there’s still a lot to play for on the Christmas trading front, and indies have been stirring up the festive feeling, Carl feels his overall sales are down so far “but over the last few days it’s definitely kicked in”.

In addition to the rise in traditional advents, the general feedback is that 3D designs are leading the trend for something different, single cards are beating pack sales, charity cards are still popular, and specialist captions have been hitting the spot – while the price of stamps is a topic of conversation, although people recognise the value of second class at 75p.

Continuing the series, PG Buzz gets a more detailed lowdown on the current state of Christmas card sales from a trio of indie greeting card retailers. Today it’s the turn of Cards & Gifts, Universal Office Equipment, and Cards And Gift Wrap

Above: Charity cards like these from Ling and Clare Maddicott are customers’ favourites at Cards & Gifts
Above: Charity cards like these from Ling and Clare Maddicott are customers’ favourites at Cards & Gifts

Carl Dunne, Cards & Gifts, Dronfield

What’s the balance in sales in your shop between single cards and packs?

“Singles are always going to outsell packs, it’s the captions. Packs are all well and good for work colleagues or parties where you’re just giving them out to all, but the captions make it special and those are the bestsellers.

“I’d also say that some of this year’s packs aren’t as good as pervious years when it comes to style. I think publishers need to have a serious look at redesign for the future and work out how to make cards amazing and more sustainable – ban glitter I’m sick of vacuuming!”

Are charity packs more popular than other packs?

“Yes, people want to give a card and support a charity so it makes them feel like they’re doing the kind thing at Xmas. Many people are saying ‘I’m not sending cards this year, I’m going to donate to charity’, so we point out they can do that, support retailers and the charity by sending charity cards instead.”

Any particular captions or trends coming through?

“Grandparents appear to be going woke! Less of the granddaughter and grandson, and more of grandchild or children – has gender identity finally conquered the silver spenders? It looks like it!”

Have customers cut back due to postage costs? 

“People are definitely hand delivering more. People recall the Scout Christmas post as being great, for example, but many have said they’re sending less because of the cost of stamps and can’t believe that Royal Mail isn’t doing something specifically to make sending festive cards cheaper, like a month’s reduction in price or stamps bought in a card shop are cheaper if they are definitely for Christmas cards, or even Christmas envelopes with lower pre-paid postage.”

Do you sell stamps, and how are sales compared with previous years?

“Yes, and we’ve had to switch to cash only for this as the cost of paying for stamps by debit or credit card actually wipes out the pence of profit due to bank transaction charges. We’re about 80% down on last year’s stamp sales and second class is definitely the seller, we’ve not sold any first-class stamps for days!”

How did your advent calendar sales go?

“We sell all chocolate and I’m going to get fat on what I have left over! This one was a real pain for me as last year I sold out and could have sold 10 more cases so this year I ordered an extra 10 cases alas, my bedroom is filled with 10 cases of advent calendars! Couldn’t figure this one out as I was cheaper that Poundstretcher, Sainsbury’s and was posting on socials constantly. We had the last-minute run on them on the 30th, 1st and 2nd but I have a lot left over.”

And how are festive season sales going in general?

“Over the last two days it’s definitely kicked in but it’s easy to see that we’re down. We’re at least £2k short a week at the moment which is a serious worry as Clintons, close by, say the same as does Poundstretcher. It’s weird in an affluent place like this that sales are dropping.  Save our High Street, save independent traders, shop local!”

Above: There are eight busy post offices in the Universal Office Equipment group, all selling greeting cards
Above: There are eight busy post offices in the Universal Office Equipment group, all selling greeting cards

Elliot Jacobs, Universal Office Equipment

post office network in Camden, Crouch End, East Finchley, Hertford, Muswell Hill, Potters Bar, Stoke Newington and Ware

What’s the balance in your shops between single cards and packs? 

“Single cards and packs are very different target markets, we sell a lot of both, usually the early phase of Christmas is more about packs and the later period swings to the singles.”

Are charity packs more popular than other packs? 

“It doesn’t seem to make a huge impact in the sales volumes – but it’s great to support a good cause!”

Any particular captions or trends coming through? 

“Merry Christmas!”

Have customers cut back due to postage costs? 

“Our sales are tracking about the same volume as last year – but it’s this week that is the big one for sending!”

Do you sell stamps, and how are sales compared with previous years?

“We do. I can’t share that data as it is Royal Mail/Post Office confidential.”

And how are festive season sales going in general? 

“Up on last year and currently on track for our forecast. We have adjusted our range to be more eco and cost-conscious and that seems to be being well received.”

Above: Greetings subscription boxes and own-brand paper tape are doing well at Cards And Gift Wrap
Above: Greetings subscription boxes and own-brand paper tape are doing well at Cards And Gift Wrap

Janet Ross-Jordan, Cards And Gift Wrap, Isle Of Lewis

What’s the balance in your shop/online between single cards and packs?

“Both are still selling well but there’s a definite shift towards single cards. People are sending less cards but sending more elaborate ones. I’ve seen a huge increase particularly at local fairs in single relation cards.”

Are charity packs more popular than other packs?

“Definitely. That has been my experience for years. All my Christmas cards are charity cards in that I donate a percentage of all festive sales of packs and singles, including advent cards, to my local Western Isles Cancer Care Initiative, who support people living here in the Outer Hebrides with things like transport for someone to accompany them to appointments and treatments on the mainland as the NHS doesn’t cover this, and no one should have to go through that alone, away from home. As well as sourcing cards from suppliers I actually designed my own Christmas cards this year from which all profits will be going to WICCI. These are available locally in both English and Gaelic.”

Any particular captions or trends coming through?

“I designed Gaelic Christmas cards for the first time this year and the demand was higher than I anticipated. Wildlife is always popular, robins will always be a favourite on Christmas cards and post boxes, but maybe that’s just my trend?”

Have customers cut back due to postage costs? 

“I sense people are sending fewer cards but taking time to choose the cards they are sending. Instead of a ritual of sending quick cards to everyone in their address book there seems to be more thought going in to who they’re sending to and what they’re sending.”

Do you sell stamps, and how are sales compared with previous years?

“I do sell stamps and sales have been slower than previous years. I could write a whole screed on postage stamps and how I think Royal Mail is trying to kill off card sending but that’s not what you want for this!

“This year’s Christmas stamps are beautiful – apart from the barcodes – and it’s a shame fewer of them will be dropping on to people’s doormats. I did design some paper tape for wrapping in a postage stamp design with no barcodes and it’s been a real hit. So, while actual postage stamp sales are down, my tape stamp sales are very healthy!”

Above: Bestsellers for Janet have been Ling’s advent cards and her own Gaelic captions
Above: Bestsellers for Janet have been Ling’s advent cards and her own Gaelic captions

How did your advent calendar sales go?

“There has been a definite increase in advent calendar cards sales. And why not because, if you send advent cards, you have to send them before the end of November and just think how ahead of the game you feel then!

“! only sell traditional advent calendars both full size and cards. Traditional advent calendars are what Christmas memories are made of. I’ve sold a lot more than usual but sales of the card versions are definitely outstripping the full size. I think the cost of postage for a small parcel, which is what most full-size advent calendars fall under, has put many off posting advents. But. with sales of single cards on the increase and people wanting to send single cards that are special, the advent calendar card market is booming.

“I was worried I’d overstocked but then had to reorder in November. And, despite being the first week into December I’m still getting orders online for advents. Either people are late or they’re super organised for next year! “

And how are festive season sales going in general?

“Very strong. While packs of cards might not be what they were years ago, the drive for eco-friendly, quality gift wrapping is on the increase as are creative gifts like jigsaws and craft kits. Christmas pudding chocolate has been very popular!

“I’ve also seen an increase in subscription box sales which has surprised me as these tailed off post-pandemic but both my gift wrapping and greetings card subscriptions have been making popular gifts this season.”

TAGS Cards & Gifts, Cards And Gift Wrap, Clare Maddicott, ling design, Universal Office Equipment

PG Buzz

Big success for shop’s first craft fair

Created: 06 November 2023

Crafters from Carloway and beyond came together for the inaugural Carloway Community Shop Craft Fair on Saturday November 4.

Marking the six months of the Carloway Community Shop, which opened on May 8, the event in Carloway Community Centre saw a total of 33 different crafters display their wares across 42 tables. Over 90 per cent of the stallholders were from the island.

Glassware, knitwear, jewellery, ceramics, cards, toys, and confectionery were amongst the items on display to customers. Spaces at the fair had sold out in under 24 hours.

Melinda Whitington of Hebridean Charcuterie 

Organiser and Carloway Community Store General Manager Mercer (who goes by a single name) said the fair was the biggest of its type to be held on the island this year, and was delighted with how the event unfolded.

“The idea was to allow local people to show their wares, but it’s a great way to show the shop because not everyone knows about it,” he said.

“As well as the fully licenced shop, we have the cafe and the gallery. We launched evening dinners a few weeks ago.

“I want to say a massive thanks to the local support and the staff. Also the board of directors, as it is very supportive. Without them it wouldn’t have been possible.”

Inside, stallholders were enthusiastic about how the first fair had been, as well as the significant difference the shop had made to the area.

“It’s an amazing place. For the first ever one, a real triumph,” said photographer Ralph Tonge.

Charly Hamlyn, of Charly Hamlyn Ceramics, said: “They just have such wonderful stock, and on top of that they do things like this. It’s brilliant.”

Paul, creator of Hebridean Copper Kettle Fudge, said in an area of the world in which people can be stand-offish, the shop had brought the community together.

Lee Thomson with her stall

Several of those exhibiting their works already had a working connection with the Carloway Community Shop. At adjoining tables, Val MacDonald of Hebridean Craft Creations, and Inga Benga of Crafty Inga, both said they had been able to forego using online retailer Etsy thanks to having a local physical space for their work.

Val’s husband, Calum MacDonald, added that the set up worked well for local craft makers as tourists stopping for basic supplies were also being introduced to locally made goods that could could serve as souvenirs.

Whilst the fair was an opportunity to exhibit and sell products, the day also served as a social hub in what can be a quiet season. Tina Finlayson, overseeing a table selling her and her daughter’s homemade cards, acknowledged that the chance to interact with other craftspeople and customers meant more to her than any income from the day.

“As someone who is housebound with a disability, it’s good to have something, to meet new people. Today I’ll go home with a buzz just because I have met people,” she said.

Mercer said that it is his hope that fairs can run two or three times a year.

A charity raffle held during the fair raised £382. The money will be split between the Carloway Community Association and The Leanne Fund.

PG Buzz

Mind your language!

By Tracey Bearton
16 May 2023

Hebridean publisher and retailer responds to Islanders’ demand for Gaelic greeting cards

Everyone knows if you move countries then learning the language is a major step to being included as part of the community, and that also works right here in the UK, with greeting cards playing their role too.

English might be the official language but it’s definitely not the only one spoken across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – and it’s not even the mother tongue of many who consider themselves complete natives of these islands.

Above: Controversy reigns over this balloon birthday design wording, while the Gaelic for Many Thanks is easier
Above: Controversy reigns over this balloon birthday design wording, while the Gaelic for Many Thanks is easier

With plenty of publishers now offering Welsh language cards, as well as the more niche Cornish captions and dialects such as Scouse, Geordie, Brummie, and Mackem, Janet Ross-Jordan has expanded her Cards And Gift Wrap retail business to include her own Gaelic designs.

Based in the Outer Hebrides, Janet’s often been asked for Gaelic language cards but said she “struggled to find affordable and attractive” designs from publishers – the ancient Celtic language of Gaelic was always dominant in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, while the Lowlands spoke Scots which is much closer in style to English.

Above: Janet with Theo Paphitis at the latest Small Business Sunday event in Birmingham, and her wee shoppie by her house
Above: Janet with Theo Paphitis at the latest Small Business Sunday event in Birmingham, and her wee shoppie by her house

She explained: “Historically, it’s the native language of the islands but Gaelic speakers have faced persecution over the years from several angles. There’s now a desperate drive throughout Scotland, but especially in the islands and on the west coast, to boost the numbers who speak Gaelic so it doesn’t die out, and becomes a widely-spoken native language again.

“Old-fashioned designs weren’t going to help the image of Gaelic being the current and still relevant language that it is.”

The demand has meant Janet now offers her cards wholesale as well as retailing through her online store and wee shoppie at her Isle Of Lewis home – she also offers her own paper sticky tape that’s been championed by TV’s Dragons’ Den and Ryman stationery chain entrepreneur Theo Paphitis – and she’s been amazed at the diversity of requests.

Janet added: “A local hotel has requested my card designs for their customers, in particular tourist groups who inevitably includes someone who has a birthday and so want to buy a card – the opportunity to give a card in the local language of their holiday destination has extra appeal and helps promote the beauty of the Gaelic language.

Above: Gaelic greetings – thinking of you (left) and congratulations
Above: Gaelic greetings – thinking of you (left) and congratulations

“The challenge has been getting the phrasing right. I’m not a native Gaelic speaker but my children all are. Like all languages, Gaelic is fluid and still evolving so there are generational differences in how someone might say Happy Birthday. Even in English we have different birthday phrases on a card, such as Happy Birthday or Birthday Wishes, and it’s the same in Gaelic.

“There’s often more than one right way to say something. When I ask for feedback on social media about a design wording I get many different responses, but I find language fascinating so I’m enjoying the challenge. My latest balloons design is causing controversy between the older and younger generations just now, so I may change the wording!”

The May issue of Progressive Greetings has a full diversity and inclusion cards feature, click here to read it.

PG Buzz

#SBS winner causes sparks

By Tracey Bearton
9 March 2023

Indie retailer digs deep for extra eco effort and blacks out island school

Indie retailer Janet Ross-Jordan went from hero to villain in a matter of days – having dazzled entrepreneur Theo Paphitis with her eco-friendly paper tape she then blacked out the local school by causing a power cut!

Janet, who has run Cards And Gift Wrap from her Isle Of Lewis home for 10 years, met Theo at the annual #SBSwinners event a few days ago after being picked by him for retweeting as one of his six Sunday winners back in June after describing her business to him on the social media platform.

Above: Janet in her official Theo picture and arriving at the Birmingham event
Above: Janet in her official Theo picture and arriving at the Birmingham event

She tweeted a couple of pictures of the bestselling stars paper tape she created when she got fed up with removing sticky plastic-based fastenings from wrapping paper to recycle it – and Janet even handed Ryman stationery chain owner Theo some rolls that she packed in her luggage for the long journey by ferry and train to the Birmingham event: “I told him they were for wrapping his presents for Mrs P!”

But she then came back to earth with a bang on Friday, 3 March, when she had to apologise to all the parents and staff at Sgoil An Rubha, the school next to her house in the village of Bayble, after cutting through the electricity cable so the children had to go home several hours early.

“We didn’t know about the electricity cable lying just under the grass, unmarked and unboxed,” Janet explained. “Luckily it wasn’t someone just digging with a spade that went through it but I’m sorry for the inconvenience that we blew the power and closed the school!”

In keeping with the eco-credentials that run through her business, Janet was having a polycrub installed, a gale-proof version of the polytunnel that’s made from recycled salmon farm pipes, so she can grow her own veg in the wild island environment, and it sits next to the Cards And Giftwrap shoppie, as Janet calls the building she moved the business into after starting it from her bedroom.

Above: The polycrub that caused the power outage is next to Janet’s shoppie
Above: The polycrub that caused the power outage is next to Janet’s shoppie

She told PG Buzz: “When the digger when through the cable it cut the school off too so they all had to go home mid-Friday, a couple of hours earlier than usual. I think the children loved me, parents and teachers not so much.

“Living on an island is great, we have beautiful beaches and wild scenery but we also have wild weather and, other than potatoes, gooseberries and rhubarb, we haven’t been able to grow much. Unfortunately, there was a very shallow unknown electricity cable under the site of the crub – it’s now buried under it.

“If there continues to be a salad shortage I may have donate a few cucumbers to the school canteen as recompense!”

Having started off selling bookmarks, Janet expanded into cards, giftwrap and stationery, and got into paper tape because she found it difficult to source a recyclable version for the brown cardboard boxes used to pack orders for posting.

Above: Theo Paphitis retweeted this post for Cards And Gift Wrap’s #SBS win
Above: Theo Paphitis retweeted this post for Cards And Gift Wrap’s #SBS win

She said: “I wanted it so the tape didn’t have to be ripped off for recycling, and thought others might like to do the same so I designed a Christmas paper packaging tape. But my customers started using it to wrap presents too and I realised there was a need for paper tape to go with recyclable gift wrap.

“You can make presents look awesome with 100% recyclable wrapping – it looks better, saves time, doesn’t cost the earth and helps you have a greener lifestyle. I’m now looking in to designing some wrapping paper to go with the tape.”

Cards And Giftwrap is a mainly online business, stocking publishers including Flamingo Paperie, Citrus Bunn, Cake And Crayons, Wrendale Designs, Roger la Borde, and James Ellis, as well as wrapping paper, fabric wrap, the paper tape and Janet’s own greeting card designs with Gaelic captions.

Above: Janet managed some on-the-spot marketing to Ryman owner Theo
Above: Janet managed some on-the-spot marketing to Ryman owner Theo

“There’s a shortage of those,” Janet said, “and, with it being a main language here in the Outer Hebrides, there is a need. It’s something I’d like to expand, along with the wrapping paper and the few notebooks I’ve designed myself.

“But I probably suffer from imposter syndrome like so many artists and don’t really consider myself an illustrator so I suppose that holds me back a little. Winning the SBS award and attending the event really helped me with that imposter syndrome. I left the event feeling I had every right to be there!

“Meeting Theo was amazing, he was so easy to talk to and he loved the tape. I gave him a few rolls and he said he liked the tape and ‘we’ll talk later’ – I have no idea what means! Should I be expecting a phone call!?

Above: A selection of Janet’s recyclable paper tape designs
Above: A selection of Janet’s recyclable paper tape designs

“I’ll never forget him studying my tape and exclaiming ‘I like that!’ When a successful entrepreneur like Theo says they like something I’ve designed myself it’s a huge confidence boost.”

Selling her tape both wholesale and retail through her website, Janet is keeping wholesale availability restricted to small independent businesses as “you always get something a bit extra when you shop small so I’d like to do my bit to support other small retailers by offering them the chance to stock something you can’t get at the supermarket”.

She also retails via the online platforms Faire and Isle20, which was set up during the pandemic to help people support small island businesses, and she sells to locals through the shoppie in her garden.

Janet added: “Having my shoppie – which I raised money for, converting part of our garage, through a Kickstarter fundraising project – means local customers don’t have to come in to my house and I haven’t got boxes of cards, giftwrap and more under the proverbial bed anymore.

“It’s called a shoppie because it’s small but I also live in hope that shoppie beats the social media algorithms that seem to blacklist any selling terms in social media post wording!”

Above: #SBS winner publisher Nicole Elders was also at the Birmingham event
Above: #SBS winner publisher Nicole Elders was also at the Birmingham event

The latest #SBSEvent marked the 10th gathering since Theo started his Small Business Sunday movement in 2010 and almost 1,000 of the 3,750 businesses now in the network were in attendance – including publisher Nicole Elders who was one of the winners back in May.

Businesses can enter via Twitter, where they should tweet Theo on @theopaphitis between 5-7.30 pm on a Sunday using the hashtag #SBS, then he picks six small businesses a week to retweet to the growing network. On Instagram companies can enter by posting on their feed or commenting under the #SBS open Instagram post, and need to follow and tag @theopaphitis, plus include the hashtag #SBS.

TAGS #SBS, Cake And Crayons, Cards And Gift Wrap, Citrus Bunn, Flamingo Paperie, James ellis, Nicole Elders, roger la borde, ryman, wrendale design

© Max Media Ventures 2023. The publishers cannot accept legal liability for any errors or omissions, nor can they accept responsibility for the standing of advertisers nor any organisation mentioned in the text.

Dragon’s stamp of approval for Point ‘shoppie’

Created: 04 July 2022, Written by Annie Delin for

A small business based in the Isle of Lewis has scored a big thumbs up from an acknowledged expert in business success.

Janet Ross-Jordan of Bayble has seen sales jump since Dragon’s Den judge and small business champion Theo Paphitis picked her as a Small Business Sunday (SBS) company in mid-June.

Janet said: “Each week Theo picks six winners from people who enter with a tweet explaining why they deserve to be selected.

“You submit your own entry, which of course has to be short and precise for Twitter, and he decides which six each week attract his attention.”

Janet caught Theo’s eye with her eco-friendly business,, run from her home in Bayble in between duties as a mum.

She entered her home-designed eco-friendly gift-wrapping tape, with the tweet: “I got fed up removing tape from paper to recycle the giftwrap. Now I design eco-friendly paper tape.

“You can make presents look awesome with 100% recyclable wrapping – looks better, saves time, doesn’t cost the earth. Helping you have a greener lifestyle.”

After Theo had announced her name as one of his SBS six on 20 June, and had re-tweeted her message, Janet immediately noticed increased interest and new orders coming in.

She said: “I have had people who I didn’t even know were followers congratulating me and it’s definitely given my business a boost, with lots of kudos and as a way to underline that I’m serious about this business.

“I have heard from other businesses in the SBS network and have had some orders from them – the effect has been noticeable, especially given how slow retail is at the moment.”

Being social media savvy has been important to Janet in the ten years since she set up her business – but so has the ability to innovate.

She said: “You have to make the most of social media, living on an island. There are a limited number of people to be face-to-face customers so when I started the company I knew I had to look beyond the island.

“Having said that, I have a physical shop presence here at my home, and I have recently introduced ‘borrow-boxes’ – a shop in a box for people who are stuck at work through the day or stuck at home through ill-health.

“I lend the box of cards, gift-wrap and other items out for a week and they can browse and decide what they would like to buy, then I collect the box back from them.

“It works really well for workplaces like GPs surgeries, school staff-rooms and other places where people are not able to pop out to the shops during the day.”

Janet’s also got new paper tape designs on the way, including stars, moons, hearts and spots, allowing people to make up their gifts and packages to be completely recyclable, plastic-free and affordable.

And if success comes from a Small Business Sunday listing, that’s exactly what Theo Paphitis intends. As he said: “I started SBS to help give small businesses a leg-up and help them achieve their potential, so it’s always a pleasure when I’m able to see my winners thrive.”

You can follow Janet’s business at, where there are links to other social media accounts.

Pictures show Janet at work on her subscription boxes, her recyclable paper gift tape, and the borrow-box scheme  (Janet Ross Jordan)