The GA's well-attended members' day in May took 'Change to Grow' as its theme when suppliers and retailers came together at the Birmingham headquarters. The opening speaker at the live streamed event was Jeremy Corner, Managing Director of greetings card company, Blue Eyed Sun and luxury wedding invitations' supplier Ivy Ellen, who related how, a decade ago, he and his wife Jo struggled to cope with their expanding, successful business. A family friend and mentor introduced them to the 'Looking Back from Perfect' exercise and it changed their lives, enabling them to double their income whilst halving their working week. As a result, Jeremy now gives away a month of his year to other organisations as he tries to give something back to the community in which he works.
Social media and digital commerce expert Warren Knight, Founder and CEO of Gloople, told the audience about the importance of integrating social media into their businesses and what they needed to be able to start transacting online. Mark Jones, who set up online gift retailing company Occasions Direct six years ago, gave advice to those considering entering this incredibly competitive marketplace. Earlier, GA Chairman Andrew Illingworth said that hard times meant that the businesses of some members had not survived and others were severely cutting back on their expenditure. Fifty per cent of members lost were because of financial reasons. Despite this, The GA still managed high retention rates in 2012 - at 90 per cent for suppliers and 81 per cent for retailers. Some 126 new members had been welcomed into the association.
Andrew reported that The GA had reviewed categories for its 2014 Gift of the Year Awards and would be introducing two new ones, Gift Food and Home Fragrance, whilst Collect It becomes Commemorative and Collectable Gifts, and Body, Mind and Soul is replaced by Body, Bath and Spa. In addition to presenting an award for the judges' favourite winning product, other finalists will be recognised with a Judges' Choice award for the favourite highly commended entry. The 2014 competition will be launched at Autumn Fair in September.
David Simons presented The Elkan Simons Award - in memory of his father, who founded The GA - to John Joyce. He said John stood out in the gift and home industry as "an exceptionally successful entrepreneur, a leader in this market and a very generous supporter of fellow GA members, in particular those just starting up." At the Members' Day suppliers and retailers were able to take advantage of 15-minute surgeries with a selection of The GA's service partners and national committee members. Those wishing to view a video of the event, including the presentations by the speakers, should visit The GA's website www.ga-uk.org
Members able to upload designs and showcase products on new-look GA website
The new-look GA website, launched to coincide with Members' Day, has introduced a raft of benefits. These are aimed at increasing the exposure of members within the industry. Connecting to the association's website will give those who don't have an active web presence, or wish to bolster their online activity, an enhanced business presence, driving traffic back to their own websites or enhancing their online credibility and trust.
Any member will now be able to upload a 100-word profile of their business, together with three high resolution product images - representing their offering - and logo. The images will be automatically tagged to the Inspire section of the website, which will showcase the very best of members' products. Users will also be able to add a video for each product. There will be Facebook and Twitter icons linked to these profiles should members wish to share their pages. Retailer members using the website will also be able to feature their shops and store fronts in place of a company logo. Copying is a major concern to many involved in the gift and home industry. The GA has been tackling this problem on behalf of its members for many years and provides a comprehensive package of services to help companies with intellectual property protection and redress through the Copywatch service. Members will now be able to deposit their designs directly in the members' area. A certificate will be automatically created to acknowledge each design deposited. The improved website, which is easier to navigate, now enables member companies to be featured on the homepage. There is a comprehensive page outlining all the discounts and services available, while a dedicated events' page details upcoming trade shows and training programmes. In the members' area, which will in time, feature the latest supplier-to-retailer member deals and access to discounted webinars, businesses will also be able to upload their press releases and update their company profiles.
The real deal
Following the soft launch of The GA's member-to-member voucher initiative at Autumn Fair and Spring Fair, the scheme will be rolled out at Home & Gift in Harrogate with more than 20 suppliers expected to take part. AM International Agencies, Artscape Design, Made in Heaven, Sebnini, The Lagoon Group and 3D Displays are among the companies that have already signed up to offer special deals to retailer members at the show. These range from discounts on orders over a certain value to free carriage and free products, as well as the lifting of minimum order restrictions.
Measures in Queen's speech beef-up IP protection
Giftware Association Chief Executive Isabel Martinson has welcomed comments from the Alliance for Intellectual Property - to which The GA belongs - following measures announced in the Queen's speech to increase the level of protection for UK designers. Isabel says: "The GA's Copywatch services continue to help companies with intellectual property protection and redress. As part of the alliance we are able to present a strong and unified face to government. This is helping to strengthen legislation which, in turn, benefits our members."
The alliance said that the introduction of criminal sanctions for deliberate infringement of registered designs was a step in the right direction but added: "For any such changes to have real and lasting benefit for the UK's 350,000 designers, criminal sanctions must also apply for unregistered designs' rights.
"The draft Consumer Rights Bill is a prefect opportunity to deal with the huge problem of consumer confusion online. The internet has become an online shop window for illegal goods and consumers are unaware that many of the sites they are directed to by reputable search engines are selling, or providing access to, illegal goods. We also note the proposed changes to Trading Standards' powers and look forward to working with the Government and Trading Standards to ensure that any changes do not adversely impact the valuable work done by them in combating IP crime."
For The GA, log on to www.ga-uk.org