The Digital Age has created so many opportunities for an influx of new business models for invitation selling ranging from digital printing, electronic Invitations, specialized niches such as Same Sex Weddings and Scroll Invitations. International companies are going after the US market with unique papers. Internet companies are emerging that sell strictly components for DYI, like pocket components, envelopes, boxes, papers, packaged formal invitations that can be run through a printer. Then there are  a new crop of “designers” that are working with invitation software like Mountain Cow along with the vast and creative component suppliers like Envelopments or Marsupial and marketing on their own websites or sites like Etsy. In addition established brands have created cobranded e-commerce sites that thousands of dealers have as a component of their existing website. And finally brands themselves are selling direct more and more frequently.

The pie has been divided in too many slices to count. What most of the industry does not understand is the ripple affect that taking market share away from the retail environment has. The impulse and emotion that drives upscale invitation purchases in the retail environment is not replicated looking at a computer screen. The scope of decision-making is much more pragmatic. Not having a retailer to inspire the consumer to purchase an invitation that reflects the elegance of the party, not having a chance to engage with physical samples and not having a motivated businessperson showing customization options that are not available online all deflate the average invitation sale. That decreased revenue trickles down to the manufacturer and paper suppliers.

Most painful to the retail environment is when their staff and physical location are used to establish a preference for an invitation and then is heartlessly purchased online for a lower price with no respect for the time and expertise the individual merchant put in to allow that decision to be made.

The National Stationery Show 2013 had numerous vendors that can help a retailer differentiate themselves from online retailers carrying the same brands by offering enhancements to the invitations that can be done outside the brand producing the product as well as more and more opportunities to forge an alternative strategy of invitation selling that is more unique and is handled through a rich mixture of sourcing their own papers, accessing separate companies to provide finishing and fulfillment services with the end result of offering invitations that cannot compared apples to apples anywhere else. In addition you could find invitation vendors who only sell through retailers and offer different degrees of exclusivity.

These are merchandizing strategies that invitation retailers need to embrace in conjunction with having a well-executed local marketing plan and elegant website that has great local visibility and inspires the visitor to leave the computer screen and come into the store.

For retailers who did not make it to the National Stationery Show 2013 , we compiled a report on exhibitors relevant to the personalized invitation, stationery and bridal categories providing the information on covered vendors that a retailer would want if they were shopping the show themselves. The caliber of the exhibitors was strong and there were some very impressive new companies.  To get more information on ordering the report click here. To order the report now click here.