The Stationers Guild

Archive for 2009

2010 Wedding Invitation Trends

Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

The first quarter of 2010 will determine wedding invitation trends for the year.   In fact, I suspect that wedding invitation designs have pretty much been defined long before the “Will you marry me?” question was asked this holiday season.  I have it on very good authority that this is so:  Google.


Google Trends tracks the number of web daily searches for a particular term (in this case “wedding invitations”) over the course of a year.  As the chart above demonstrates, searches for “wedding invitations” peak toward the end of the year and early January and then begin to tail-off rather significantly after the first quarter.  The chart above also compares the search term “online wedding invitations” (shown in red) to “wedding invitations” (shown in blue).   As suggested by the chart, prospective bridal couples do not feel the need to distinguish between wedding invitations sold online and those that are offered exclusively through storefront stationers.

The New York Times (December 29, 2009) reports that bridal magazine ad pages are down significantly in December, 2009.   Quoting sources the Nielsen Company and Mediaweek, bridal magazine ads for December, 2009 were down 8.4% in Brides magazine, 25.5% in Bridal Guide and 23.9% in Martha Stewart Weddings.   While ad pages are booked far in advance and certainly reflect the rather depressed economy, the battlefield for wedding invitations has shifted to the Internet and the public is indeed poorer as a result.    As I have written on numerous occasions, low image resolutions, limited customization options and the inability of the online client to compare different papers and printing processes greatly diminishes a company’s ability to distinguish their brand.

It is interesting to note, that of the top 10 companies listed on the first page of Google for the search term “wedding invitations,” only one is a credible printing company:  Crane & Co.  Not surprisingly, Wedding Paper Divas, remains in the top position.    It does so because it has the most aggressive and intelligent application of paid search and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies of any company in the business.   In a revealing New York Times article, Tiny Prints (a sister company of Wedding Paper Divas), describes how it competes for holiday greeting cards and photo cards by paying up to $50 to acquire a client.   I would suspect that they will pay that and possibly more to acquire a client willing to purchase a wedding invitation online.

While Wedding Paper Divas has certainly upgraded its line in recent years with companies such as William Arthur merchandizing their line through them, one wonders whether this business model is sustainable.    In fact, William Arthur now sells directly online and other companies such as Minted offer a wider range of quality invitations from craftspeople who do not generally market their equisite designs online.

For those seeking quality wedding invitations coupled with superior customer service, I strongly recommend that you visit a stationer in your neighborhood.    Most of these stores carry a far wider range of wedding invitation samples than any online dealer.  Customization options are limitless and you can actually feel the paper samples and see how ink colors change depending on the printing process.  In 2010, do yourself a favor and see why choosing your invitation in person makes all the difference in the world.

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The lost art of fine stationery

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

I don’t like to quote myself since it appears – and is – self-serving, but I recently published an article called “It’s not worth the paper it’s printed on – The lost art of fine stationery.”   The tongue-in-cheek article seeks to apply a monetary value to correspondence using engraved stationery to determine if it is any more relevant than the new forms of social correspondence such as Twitter and text-messaging.

Clearly, the conscious act of  visiting a stationery store to design your own personal stationery demonstrates a level of commitment to a  meaningful form of communication.  I think it is fair to say that words exchanged in writing tend to leave more of a lasting impression than a phone conversation.   While both may accomplish the same objective, the simple act of taking the time to write a brief note resonates on a more personal level.

I recently learned that an industry research study (I did not actually read the report) had concluded that 86% of people interviewed still considered “paper” correspondence to be a more effective form of communication.  More than that, the trend is holding steady suggesting that text messaging and social media sites may not be making as much headway as once suspected.

Certainly, today’s New York Times article “Buying, Selling and Twittering All the Way“  suggests that the Twitter model has been seriously compromised by Big Business.  Twitter’s tag line of “What are you doing?” now seems to have been overtaken by paid mercenaries building “brand awareness” for their employer.  According to the article, Greg Ahearn of Toys “R” Us stated that Twitter is “a way people can stay connected with the brand in a way they’ve never been able to before.”   Now, I can’t really understand why people would want to stay connected to a brand (even Toys “R” Us), but I am absolutely convinced that the Big Business footprint in Twitter will drive their audience to greener pastures.  Big Business simply doesn’t get it:  Twitter is about people, Twitter is not a medium for aggressively selling or creating brand awareness!

I am reassured that people still value the exchange of social correspondence:  It is a habit and art form well worth preserving.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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D’Arconte Engraved Holiday Cards

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Several weeks ago Sheila and I paid a visit to Bob D’Arconte at his studio in DUMBO:  Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass in Brooklyn, NYC.  A visit with Bob is always both entertaining and educational since we are both so very opinionated.   As Sheila frequently remarks, “Rick is often wrong, but never in doubt.”

While D’Arconte’s fine engraved stationery and holiday cards  may not be as well known as Crane or William Arthur, he is a living legend in the stationery industry.  His holiday cards and stationery are unmistakable in their design simplicity and elegance.  His use of white-space and blind-embossing to frame his engraved designs create a three-dimensional feel that, in my opinion, elevates his work to an entirely different level.

I am hesitant to categorize D’Arconte’s style since under his skilled hand almost any object or landscape can easily be transformed into a work of art.  During our visit, D’Arconte was  in the process of engraving a two-colored peach motif onto a fold-over note.  Bob pointed out that the application of one color before the other created a hue that was quite different when the application of the  ink colors was reversed.  Certainly, the close registration printing and color-match required to create desired outcome: an engraved peach that looks almost eatable, is a tribute to Bob’s fine eye and mastery of his craft.

D'Arconte Engraved Christmas Card

D'Arconte Engraved Christmas Card

Bob will probably slap my hand for including a sample of his new holiday card line because, quite frankly, the low-resolution internet images do not do them justice.  Bob and I had a long discussion on how the internet is destroying the public’s perception of fine stationery.  Neither Bob nor I can understand how anyone would ever consider buying stationery or a custom invitation online without the benefit of touching various papers and seeing how ink colors change depending on the paper stock and printing process.

While this sample image of D’Arconte’s holiday line give you a hint of Bob’s talent, you should make an effort to see these exceptional examples of contemporary engraving in person.  For instance, a snow globe in the  “Snowman in a Snow Globe” is blind-embossed and the outline of the globe is barely perceptible in a low-resolution internet  image.  I have purposely not reproduced the image because I felt it would detract from the elegance of the card.  In one of Bob’s vintage holiday cards, he has the New York skyline engraved in gold strategically placed inside a blind-embossed apple.  The “Big Apple has never looked so beautiful.

The D’Arconte line is not widely available owing to Bob’s desire to work only with experienced stationers who understand and appreciate his product and have the same attention to detail and customer service that he does.

It is indeed a pleasure to spend a few hours with a master craftsman.  Sheila and I were enriched by the experience.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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Return Address Labels

Friday, November 20th, 2009
 This is my first blog about return address labels.  I am so excited that has a wide selection of return address labels as well as book plates and the most fun of all, for all my cooking friends, cute  personalized “from the kitchen of” labels.  With the holidays fast approaching, return address labels would make great gifts for all those friends we don’t know what to give!  I am hopeful that everyone will agree that return address labels are indeed different and stylish.

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Stationery until the hen comes home to roost

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Another online invitation and announcement company surfaced today:   Chickadee Prints.    In the tag line of its online Press Release, Chickadee claims to be “a company that aspires to create unique designs for stationary . . .”  Well that stopped me in my tracks.  How can a company aspire to create “unique” designs for a market that they can’t even spell properly?  

Chickadee Prints Press Release
Chickadee Prints Press Release

Needless to say,  this stunning revelation caused me to read further and I learned among other things that Chickadee Prints offers a “completely ‘green’ service . . .”  Well, it is not completely “green”  unless you believe that 30% recycled post-consumer waste means completely green.   I did not have the benefit of a “new math” education, but surely 30% can’t be 100% no matter how far you stretch the truth.  The good news is that Chickadee “sells their products at surprisingly low prices- giving them quite an edge over competitors.”  Since you can customize your invitations online at Chickadee’s website, you are free to spell stationery any way that makes sense to you.  If stationary works for you, go for it!  As for me, I will wait until the hen comes home and the chick learns to spell. 

Now, I am regularly accused of being disrespectful to online printers and online retailers.   I think this accusation is, perhaps, a bit harsh, but probably correct.  The fact of the matter is that paper is not stationery, “green” is not being 30%-committed and “unique” designs are not synonomous with ”good” designs.  And did I forget printing?  The printing process has a considerable impact on the “look” of fine stationery and custom invitations.  To suggest that one can sell invitations “at surprisingly low prices” is not even 30% of the story.  Paper stock, printing options and design customization options are so varied within the industry that it is simply impossible and even foolish to compare prices.  If price is your primary search determinant, then Chickadee and a slew of other similar online companies might work for you.  If you are in doubt (and you certainly should be), I strongly recommend that you visit a Guild member store in your neighborhood to see and touch the paper you are buying.

If on the other hand, you are a competent designer  and want to setup your own online dealership, visit SitePalatte which has a variety of hosting and invitation template designs to launch your new business.  At $10 to $50 a month this is a very good deal.  As for me, I will continue to work with established printing companies, talented designers and continue to peddle paper the old-fashioned way:  one client at a time who insist on seeing and touching the papers to determine what they are buying. 

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Save 10% on William Arthur Holiday Photo Cards and Digital Photo Cards

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009
10% of William Arthur Holiday Photo Cards

Save 10% on William Arthur Holiday Photo Cards

Now through November 30, save 10% on all William Arthur holiday photo cards and digital photo cards.   William Arthur is one of the leading holiday photo card companies in the United States.  This year’s new holiday photo card album had something for everyone:  a selection of a full-bleed digital holiday photo cards,  “transitional” holiday photo card that could be printed digitally or with photo-mount adhesive tape and the traditional William Arthur photo-mount cards.

As readers to this Blog know, I still believe that the reproduction quality of commercially-printed photographs is still superior to digitally reproduced images.  Nevertheless, many customers find it more convenient to go digital.  Regardless of which choice you make, I strongly recommend visiting a Guild member store in your neighborhood to view samples of the many printing options.  William Arthur, a trend-setter for holiday photo cards, should certainly be on your short list with their outstanding selection of great holiday cards.

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Make Christmas special this year

Saturday, November 7th, 2009

Halloween kicks off the holiday season for me.  I carefully store away my Mad Hatter costume and begin to formulate the complicated logistical plans for our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.  Quite frankly, celebration and stress seem to go hand-in-hand at this time of year and with each passing year I feel that there is often more stress than good cheer.   The anonymous photo below – whose source I would gratefully acknowledge – is a hilarious example of what Christmas has become.



“Ditto Christmas” is one economical way to keep up with Jones’ and relieve the stress that is often associated with finding that dysfuntional light-bulb that seems to always short-out your lighting system each year.   I suppose it is our preoccupation with gadgets and “things” that make the holidays so stressful.

I am no different.  This year my wife, Sheila, bought me David Rock’s new book Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long.  This is one of many new and exciting neuroscience books that explains the workings of the brain.  I am just now exploring the section on the prefrontal cortex, which is much like a stage where actors (thoughts) pop-up on stage and seek to trigger a reaction with the audience (memories).  To avoid wasting my limited cerebral energy -which is often strongest at 2:00 a.m. – I am now working on turning stage lights off and getting a good night’s sleep.  Sheila is most grateful.

You are probably wondering what this has to do with “making Christmas special this year.”  Quite frankly, I’m not sure myself, but if I write long enough something is bound to popup – the stage lights are now fairly dim.  I guess “Ditto Christmas” is a metaphor for the stupifying routine and mental stagnation that now seems to dominate one of our most sacred times of the year.  Regardless of one’s religious beliefs, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas and the days that immediately follow, should be full of happiness as family members share the joys of celebrating these special days with each other. 

This year many in our extended family have foresaken gifts (to avoid taxing the prefrontal cortex) in exchange for gathering at our home to share each other’s company in front of a warm fire, good food and great wines.   Who knows, I might even put a few lights on the house to celebrate the season and provide a warm welcome to our gathering family. 

It has taken some planning to avoid having another “ditto Christmas” and I can truly say that both Sheila and I are truly looking forward to Christmas with great  joy and  cheer.  I will store my Grinch costume for another year and allow Max to be the dog he was meant to be. 

I hope that your holidays will be filled with love and joy.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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What to do with an e-vite?

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Sean Bradley, the passionate store manager of Tabula Rasa Social Stationers, has some very good advice on the proper way to respond to an “e-vite.”  In an open letter which clearly articulates the differences between custom invitations and fast-food e-vites, Sean recommends that you “Click on delete and report as Spam.”  I’m not sure Sean goes far enough.

In a quick impromptu survey of other Guild members, most concurred with Sean’s recommendation but some went a step further.  Here is a just a short list of some of their comments:

  1. How about a $25 gift certificate to attend an Emily Post webinar on etiquette?
  2. How about an e-RSVP which is cc’d to all of your Twitter followers inviting them to crash the party?
  3. Post the e-vite  on eBay and see if you can get someone silly enough to bid for it.  (P.S.,why didn’t I think of that one?)
  4. Send an e-apology saying that you would gladly participate vicariously if the party was recorded and posted on YouTube.
  5. Block the sender.
  6. Forward the e-vite to David Letterman to see if makes his Top 10 List of Tacky e-vites.
  7. Change the Google map place listing for the party.
  8. Take a deep breath and send your “friend” a polite note on personalized stationery declining the e-vite.  (P.S. If you want to push the envelope, include a $25 gift certificate for personalized stationery).
  9. Kindly decline the invitation but offer to pipe-in music from your  iPod  through a PodCast.
  10. Offer to make a cameo appearance by video  posted on YouTube.

I guess there is a time and a place for everything, but quite frankly I have never found the time for an e-vite nor do I expect to anytime soon.  Once we strip the formality and personal touch from the way we communicate with each other the importance of the occasion begins to lose its relevance and interest.  Thank you, Sean, for sharing your letter with us.

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More Cheap Wedding Invitations

Wednesday, October 21st, 2009

I continue to be amazed that “Cheap Wedding Invitation” websites continue to emerge on almost a daily basis.  Just today, I learned that Love Bug Invitations had just launched a website selling “cheap” wedding invitations.  While I have no quarrel and indeed encourage bridal couples to seek the most affordable wedding invitation for their budget, the idea of searching for a “cheap wedding invitations” strikes me as a bit daft.  Furthermore, I think most people agree with me.

According to Google, roughly 40,000 searches were performed in September using the search term “cheap wedding invitations,” while 1,200,000 searches were performed for “wedding invitations.”  This suggests that less than 4% of web searches had already decided on their market niche: “cheap”.    Not “affordable,”  “budget-conscious,” “inexpensive,” or “reasonably priced,” but “cheap!”   Beware bridal couples, you will get exactly what you are paying for.

The first tell-tale sign that you are being played is the About Us section.   The Love Bug About Us Section is most revealing:  

“Love Bug Wedding Invitations began as a result of the fun and excitement of planning weddings.  After many years of looking through bridal books and shopping the aisles of  stationery stores, we knew we had found our niche.  We love what we do and find immense joy in helping brides to find the perfect stationery for a day they will never forget. We only work with the leading manufacturers in the industry to assure our customers are getting the very best in wedding stationery.”

The first clue is that anyone could have written this.  You have no idea who you are dealing with and what level of experience they have in dealing with bridal couples.  The second clue is their claim to “only work with the leading manufacturers in the industry.”  The manufacturers listed on their website are Carlson Craft, Nuart, McPhersons:   Taylor Companies that use the same recycled designs under different labels.    The third clue is to see a percentage discount linked to a particular brand name.  Except for seasonal promotions, this generally signifies that the manufacturer does not stand behind integrity and intrinsic value of their brand.    In the case of Love Bug Wedding Invitations and the Taylor Company distribution channels, disounting is a way of life.   I find it amusing that Love Bug’s Tag Line is “LoveBugWeddingInvitations … where ‘discount’ is our claim to fame!”  How appropriate.

If you are looking for invitations and working on a tight budget, I strongly recommend that you contact a Guild Member store in your neighborhood to see the paper and design options that fit your budget.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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Fine Stationery: It’s personal

Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

We just received an email from a friend of one of our European clients asking us how she can order stationery.  Found below is a slightly editorialized (names removed) and abridged version of her email request:

“I have just been admiring the (pale blue) card and envelope sent me by Jane Doe of Oslo, Norway, and would like to know how I can order some similar cards and envelopes as well as sheets of letter paper.  Until recently, I have used the stationery I bought through Merrimade, but after they went  ’modern’  they only answer standardized, in robot-like-fashion to my questions, and there is no r e a l  person I can write to or  e-mail with. So I have given them up. But I urgently need new stationery!”

I suspect that this is not unusual in our increasingly digital world:  personal service has been replaced robots.  As stationers, we are finding that there is a clear negative correlation in the “quality of service” and “quality of stationery” as our suppliers increase the level of automation in their front and back office.   As the email above suggests, the buyer is also finding it increasing difficult to interact with moronic robots that have replaced common sense with efficiency. 

As the  evidence of a disconnect between discerning clients and the skilled artisans that produce fine stationery continues to accumulate, I suspect that fine paper manufacturers must eventually decide whether they want to be all-things-to-all-people or concentrate on providing distinctive papers, quality designs and great customer service to a more restricted client base that appreciates personalized stationery and custom invitations.  It is not an easy decision. 

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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