I love the stationery industry and I realize now more than ever that invitation retailers and manufacturers have a big fight ahead of them. I also realize how much I care about this industry. This year’s show was an indication to me that my role is shifting as more of retailer advocate than anything else. At least that is how I was naturally postured in my open discussions with CEO’s of independently owned major brands such as Inscribe, Birchcraft, Checkerboard and Envelopments. I was also very vocal at a conference on Saturday talking about the future of the Stationery Industry and a meeting of the Invitation Stationery Alliance.
At both meetings a focal point was how retailers should embrace technology, become more invested in the efficiency of digital printing and look to align with major online retailers like tinyprints.com. I agree that retailers should embrace technology but in a different way. I believe their biggest focus should be to use technology to bring in traffic to their stores whether it is designing a web site that speaks so loudly that a bride will pick the phone to call or to take a drive to visit. Perhaps another way to embrace technology is to have computers in the store so customers can look at images or type wording themselves and have a feeling of being “hands on.” Any retailer knows that there is nothing more “hands on” than the tactile experience of seeing and feeling live samples and having an invitation professional make sure every detail is perfect. However, the new generation is addicted to online connectivity so we have to go with the “current” and have more electronic devices present in our stores.
One of the major points I brought out to anyone who would listen is that stationery brick and mortar retailers and their manufacturers need to unite collectively to make sure that the retail environment has online presence in any search for stationery a consumer makes. My major concern continues to be the continuing lowering of the bar on what constitutes a quality invitation. More and more people that buy online that are left to their own “devices” to select an invitation. They are left without the excitement and the passion that retailers convey as well as the options to customize an invitation that is uniquely theirs. The end result is that the average amount of money spent on invitations will continue to decrease which can having a crippling effect on retailers and manufacturers alike. So who wants to step to the plate and help me????