The Stationers Guild

Archive for 2010

Digital Holiday Photo Cards: A little secret

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

The digital camera has revolutionized photography.    The rapidly evolving technology has made it possible for the amateur to take great photographs, one of which often ends up on the family’s annual holiday card.  As a stationer, I am often asked whether I prefer cards that are digitally imprinted on the card or photographs which are mounted on the card using adhesive strips.

Invariably, I believe that photographs printed on photographic paper are superior to images that are digitally reproduced on paper.  If consistent and high print quality are your overriding objectives, then a commercially reproduced photograph is your best choice. 

There is nothing easier than visiting your local photography store or photo printer and having high quality images printed in a matter of minutes at prices which are generally less than 20 cents per photograph.  Nevertheless, images from your digital camera often get cropped when converting them to a standard 4″x 6″ photograph.  This is because the aspect ratio is slightly different from the standard 35mm image.

Without going into a lot of detail (see previous digital photograph article), you might lose about 1/4″ off the top of a horizontal photograph.  If you have already cropped your image, this means that you might lose the top of someone’s head when the edited photograph is produced.

To avoid having this problem, be careful and avoid cropping your photograph too closely.  Better yet, I just learned this little secret when printing some photographs for a client:  rotate the picture 180º and this will cause the body(ies) to be cropped while leaving the heads intact.

Inverted Digital Photo for Cropping

For those seeking an attractive  photo card with great print quality and beautiful designs, take a look at William Arthur’s holiday photo cards.  William Arthur offers a variety of printing options for holiday photo cards.  Have your photographs imprinted directly on the card using William Arthur’s superior digital printing capabilities or use their photomount cards and mount your photographs with the pre-applied adhesive strips.   Whichever option works best for you, William Arthur is a good choice for those seeking a stylish photo card at an affordable price.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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No matter how far you push the envelope, it is still stationery

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

One of my favorite puns and one which could well serve as tag line for the Stationers’ Guild is: “No matter how far you push the envelope, it is still stationery.”   While this is always good for a laugh – at least for those that know how to spell “stationery” – I suspect that the relevance of stationery is fast becoming lost to a growing number of people who live online.   This was brought home to me today when I received an email from Envelopes.com.

The subject line of the email was “Push the Design Envelope” followed by “Your Designs + Our Envelope = Perfect.”   Now, I have never heard of Envelope.com but I discovered near the bottom of their website that  Envelopes.com claims to be  “the leading supplier of plain and printed envelopes in all sizes, styles and colors, to businesses, organizations, and individuals. © 2010. All rights reserved.”

The fact that I have “never heard” of Envelope.com is not disturbing.  In fact, with a little research the company was formerly known as Action Envelope and is headquartered in Long Island.  I find it surprising that the “leading supplier” of envelopes would change their name if they were that well known, but very little surprises me anymore in the stationery industry.

Which brings to a serious question:  What is the difference – if any – between stationery and paper?  To many, I suspect there is not a lot.  Nevertheless, I hate it when people refer to Saint Clair as a “paper shop.”  Perhaps, I am getting a little sensitive as I grow older, but I am confident that I know the difference between “paper” and fine stationery.   It may simply be a question of style and elegance, but to me stationery is reflected in a quality paper that begs to be touched.   Monograms or names that are embossed or engraved on fine stationery simply add another layer of elegance to an already rich stationery experience.

The stationery industry is overrun with flat and insipid designs printed on “paper” – not paper that raises to the level of  “stationery.”   While we can lament the decline in the informed consumer, let us spend our time rejoicing in the many who still treasure the craftsmanship that goes into making fine stationery.

And for those designers and printing companies who are inspired to create beautiful stationery rather than become leaders of mass-marketed papers, we salute you and wish you well.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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D’Arconte Holiday Cards: Respect for Traditions but always Cutting Edge

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

One of the highlights of my year is visiting Bob D’Arconte at his studio in Dumbo (Brooklyn, NY).  Bob does not suffer fools lightly, which is why I always ask Sheila to schedule the appointment.  We normally schedule a meeting in early August to select our holiday card designs, but this year we got overtaken by events (new granddaughter) and, as such, this meeting was a “last minute” attempt to salvage a few boxes of his much sought after holiday cards.

D'Arconte Gold and Silver Trees on Red

Each year, I try to select a few images that I believe can be faithfully reproduced in a digital format for viewing on the Internet.  I am always sorely disappointed since D’Arconte’s colors, beautifully engraved images and blind-embossed frames and designs simply can’t be properly reproduced in today’s digital medium.  For that I am truly sorry, since his flair and craftsmanship is - in my estimation - several steps ahead of the rest of the field that seems to have difficulty finding their identity in designs and print quality that simply lack inspiration.

Since we arrived late in the year, Bob was already well into formulating his new holiday cards for 2011.  Like all great artists, some of these “new” designs are mutations of earlier efforts, but all were dazzling examples of what an inspired artist can create who fully understands and appreciates the medium he is working with.   In addition to the holiday cards, we had the opportunity to see some of the initial designs of a new line of stationery that incorporates Bob’s unique art deco motifs.  While Bob can clearly visualize the end result of the design and engraved color combinations,  I saw a few geometric shapes and some “scratchings.”   He patiently talked us through his art deco concept and I am more than convinced that a rich stationery treat awaits us next year.

D'Arconte Getting Together this Winter

Found below are several holiday card designs featured in this year’s collection.  These cards are engraved on heavy paper stock and are available in only a few leading stores located in major metropolitan centers across the United States.  D’Arconte does not actively promote his stationery or holiday cards preferring to work only with a few qualified stationers and corporate clients who appreciate the uniqueness of his product and are as passionate about service quality as he is.  I mentioned to him that I had received several requests for images and samples of his designs and we agreed that perhaps next year we could throw up a website that would feature some of his remarkable holiday cards and perhaps some stationery.  I realize this doesn’t help those looking for his cards this year, but at least it is a step in the “right” direction.

Joy Holiday Card Detail

Close Up of "Joy" Holiday Card

A word about D’Arconte’s designs.  First, the images don’t do his holiday cards justice.  Engraved images are three-dimensional and both the bold and subtle contours of his engraved designs and embossed frames are simply lost in most Internet browsers.  Secondly, the absence of color or pronounced “white space” only enhances the beauty and symmetry of his designs.  Seen on a “white” Internet background, this visual impact and sophistication is sadly lost.   Thirdly, D’Arconte “bumps” metallic inks (primarily gold and silver) twice to give them a rich burnished feel.  As each engraved color is applied in a separate press run, this extra “bump” for metallic inks  requires an additional run.  Trust me.  The impact couldn’t be more stunning.

Please find below two additional holiday card samples.

D'Arconte Joy Holiday CardD'Arconte Trees Covered in Snow

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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Google changes the landscape of Local Search

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

It has been awhile since I have posted articles on the Stationers Guild website. It isn’t for lack of interest, it is simply that I have found that the landscape of SEARCH and INTERNET MARKETING is changing so radically that  it is difficult to know how to position one’s business.  The new search parameters imposed by Google are so impactful that most local business owners need to seriously rethink their overall marketing strategy. 

For the most part, I believe that these changes are “good” (where “good” is a relative term) for local business owners since geo-targeting capabilities in most new cellphones raise the importance of local search results.  The bad news is that if a local business doesn’t have a website or has a website that is not properly configured for local search, they will be left out in the cold.  Found below are – in my estimation - some of the more impactful implications of Google’s emphasis on “Google Place Results”:

  1. In the past, a local business did not need  a website to be listed on the Google 7 or 10-pack list of local businesses.  The Google Lucky 7-pack has now disappeared and has been replaced by Google Place Search.   Don Campbell of Expand2Web describes the impact of these changes on local search.   If you don’t have a website, get one now!
  2. New and growing constraints on AFFILIATE marketing by Google are designed to provide an online  buyer or visitor with improved or more relevant SEARCH results.  Gone are the days when one could throw up an affiliate website designed to generate commissions if one clicks on the embedded link and buys something on a sponsor’s site.   In fact, I have recently discovered many websites designed to link to third-party websites may have already been deindexed by Google and may not even show up in search registries. 
  3. While all of these factors are positive for local businesses over the long term, it does require a greater commitment by local business owners to embrace internet marketing.  Fortunately, there are a number of relatively inexpensive ways to do so.  Nevertheless, it is important to act now.

Because of these changes, I have decided to overhaul the Stationers Guild website.  These changes will occur over the next several months but are designed to enhance the visitor’s website experience and  promote affiliate programs with established vendors who have a commitment to excellence and support their storefront dealers.  I think you will find the Guild website will become increasingly more valuable as it will begin to support your local marketing initiatives.  More on this later. 

For those who wish to learn more about creating a viable online presence, I have established a sister website called www.rite4u.com which will give you the lastest insights into the latest changes in internet marketing and the “best” tools to take advantage of these changes in technology.  Through this website you will be able to access valuable affiliated resources such as Don Campbell’s Expand2Web which builds local search friendly Wordpress websites. More information on Expand2Web will be forthcoming shortly. 

If you value your business and seem confused or concerned about the evolution of the stationery industry, I suggest that you register now at rite4.com and learn how you can protect and grow your investment.

Richard W. May
Thérèse Saint Clair

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Sweet Pea Designs and Technology

Friday, October 15th, 2010

We are sad to report that Sweet Pea Designs has “run into several issues” that prevents them from completing their website within the desired time frame. In a note to their loyal dealers, owners Anne Johnson and Kim Kreis are sad that they “will be missing out on Christmas sales after 22 years in business.”

Technology is a double-edged sword. Unfortunately, technology and the internet have become such an all-intrusive component of our business that we simply can’t “love it or leave it!” We are quite sure that both Anne and Kim are terribly frustrated that the transition to automation did not work as well as its purveyors promised.

As dealers, we too share their disappointment and frustration and are hopeful that Sweet Pea Designs will emerge next year with the beautiful designs our clients treasure. Our thoughts are with you.

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Wedding Stationery Promotion

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

William Arthur, one of the leading wedding stationery and wedding invitation designers in the United States, has recently announced that for the “first time” they are offering a seasonal promotion on all wedding sales from William Arthur.   Now through November 1st, each purchase of 75 or more personalized pieces of wedding stationery (invitation, response card, informal note, rehearsal dinner invitation, etc.) will receive an additional 25 free (same item and copy).  This offer extends to William Arthur’s wedding album collection and Vera Wang On Weddings and Vera Wang Celebrations.

William Arthur Wedding Invitation

William Arthur Terracotta Wedding Invitation

William Arthur has signficantly augmented its line and together with their beautiful array of papers, printing options and customization features is a perennial favorite for bridal couples.   If you are seeking a high quality wedding invitation or wedding stationery to celebrate this important event in your life, William Arthur is certainly worth a look. 

Vera Wang On Weddings

Earlier this year, Vera Wang introduced her latest wedding stationery collection called Vera Wang On Weddings.  Featuring spectacular new customization options and incorporating her elegant sense of style, Vera’s new line of wedding invitations has drawn rave reviews from experienced stationers across the United States and abroad.

Vera Wang Wedding Invitation

Vera Wang Wedding Invitation

Both William Arthur and Vera Wang have much to offer. Visit a qualified stationery store in your neighborhood for more details on this “first time” wedding stationery promotion from William Arthur. You will be glad you did.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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A Message with an Impact

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

While in Vermont for a wedding, I happened to be driving by a Church and noticed the following message posted on a large sign near the entrance:

Honk if you love Jesus!
Text while driving
if you want to meet him!

Regardless of your religious affiliation, the message is quite powerful.  Nevertheless, I am not sure it is a ringing endorsement to attend Church since the message implies that you can get closer to Jesus by texting while you drive than by sitting in a pew.

Now, I am all for clever word play to make your point, but the context or setting must be taken into consideration when crafting your message.   While the message at the Church entrance is certainly a  “public service” and “driver safety” message, many would consider it out of place at a House of Worship.

Similarly, “texting,” “writing” on someone’s Facebook Wall or “tweeting,” is very much different than sending a personal note on fine stationery.  For the most part, digital exchanges on Facebook and Twitter are public manifestations and lack the warmth and intimacy of a personal exchange of correspondence.

While the words or message may be identical in either medium, the handwritten note bestows a level of considered importance that most forms of digital communication simply can’t match.  A well-crafted note written on elegant stationery simply stands out from the seemingly endless clutter that daily piles up in our inbox or the ever-present demands to stay in touch with our social media friends.

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Walmart on my Mind: Discounting or the Filofax Conundrum

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Discounting has always been a source of conflict within the stationery industry.   Many see it as a normal competitive business practice, while others view it as irresponsible behavior that does not properly reflect the appropriate “value” of the product or service provided.   This is clearly a very difficult concept to get your hands around and, I suspect, that there is no clear consensus on how to enforce (assuming it is needed) ”fair and reasonable” pricing to protect a brand.    While “pricing competitiveness”  is an important component of discussion on discounting, the subject has ramifications that have a huge impact on business in general and far-reaching but less well understood social consequences.

Rather than discuss this in a conceptual framework, I think it is useful to highlight some of the radical changes that are occurring in the publishing industry.    As we all know, the newspaper industry is imploding on itself as print advertising revenue is displaced by online advertising and cable TV.  Warren Buffet remarked that with “news” content distributed free (or nearly free) over the Internet it is difficult to build a convincing business case for the survivability of the newspaper industry.  I tend to agree with him.

Similarly, with price wars heating up in the book publishing industry and the growing acceptance of downloading and reading books digitally it would appear that a similar revolution is taking place in the book publishing industry.  Barnes & Noble has put itself up for sale and I suspect that the days of “print publishing” are numbered.    Certainly, there is a compelling case to be able to access any book (whether in print or not) immediately online; however, some of us still prefer the touch and feel of paper to back-lit digital readers.

Regardless of how we feel about these changes, change is coming and it is being driven by a more efficient and less-costly distribution system.  In effect, while you may prefer to read a print version of the New York Times with your morning coffee and pop down to the library to check out a book, it seems likely that these everyday rituals will soon be displaced by something quite different.  Some of us may find the transition easy, but others less so.   For me, it is difficult to imagine the beautiful Barnes and Noble bookstore in Union Square (NYC) turned into a warehouse to sell third-world arts and crafts.  And what about the employees, the editors and publishers?  What will become of them in this brave new world?  Is Walmart hiring?

Now to a practical case.  Our store, like many stationery stores, carries Filofax.  Yes, not everybody has migrated to an iPhone or Blackberry.   For several years, I have been following the evolution of Filofax to determine how they intend to deal with the digital assault on their dated merchandise.  The first thing Filofax USA did was to setup a rather cheap Yahoo online store some years ago to sell their merchandise directly to the public.  The website is far better today, but in an effort to retain sales they began to sell their products to online discounters and now offer consumers special deals that their retail outlets can’t match.  In effect, Filofax is competing with their own retail outlets at terms and conditions not available to their retailers.  This creates an awkward situation for retailers who have been servicing an aging client base who still use the Filofax product.

My objective here is not to throw cold water on Filofax’s merchandising strategy, but to highlight how extraordinarily difficult it is for store-front dealers to retain a stiff upper lip as they are being systematically disintermediated by their suppliers.    I suspect that many retailers will soon decide that the level of customer maintenance to support the yearly agendas and refills doesn’t justify the time and money commitment.    It’s sad to tell your regular clients to shop online, but quite frankly it may be the best solution (at least over the short run) for the client, the retail store and for Filofax.

As boutique stores begin to shed lines and, perhaps, determine that it is no longer worth the effort to remain open, the entire commercial real estate landscape of towns will begin to change.  We are already witnessing this across large stretches of the United States.   The business centers of small towns will simply disappear, strip mall will be plowed under and vacancy rates are likely to sky rocket as the “fixed” infrastructure costs no longer justify selling products that are being systematically discounted by big box stores and online retailers.   Perhaps, these towns will evolve into something quite beautiful and unexpected, but I have my doubts. 

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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Real Card updates Bar & Bat Mitzvah Collection

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

I have just been advised that Real Cards Studio will be releasing updates of their Bar/Bat Mitzvah Collection at the end of this month.

Real Cards’  new designs feature a large circle letterpress printed in 3 colors with a fun new type treatment, a new pocket folder with space for two invitations –  perfect for the twins celebrations, a pretty new square pocket folder in a larger size, a delectable new paper and foil and emboss combo that looks almost edible, an updated pocket folder with an incredibly cool custom illustrated portrait of the mitzvah-ee, and for the fashionista: our first pattern-printed pocket folder with matching diecut envelope that is to-die-for! 

This Seattle-based company is now run by lead designer Heather van Breda and features styles that dazzle and printed on quality paper that will make your Bar & Bat Mitzvah guest sit up and take notice.

Thérèse Saint Clair is delighted to carry Real Card Studio’s delightful and trendy invitations.

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If you want traffic, claim your business on Google

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

As most of you are no doubt aware, I have written extensively on how important it is to claim your business on Google.  This service is FREE and THE MOST IMPORTANT ADVERTISING AND PUBLIC RELATIONS INVESTMENT YOU CAN MAKE!   Google has just made it more so, by eliminating other “local” search directories from search queries that contain a local qualifier.   For instance, if one is looking for “wedding invitations Omaha” on Google you will no longer be able to find directories such as local.com or YELP search rersults.  With one deft stroke, Google has killed the competition for local search directories that have been piggy-backing for free on their search network.

Here is what you need to do:

  1. If you have not claimed your business on Google, do so immediately.  It is simple, FREE and the most valuable investment you can make.  Just click on the hyperlink and do it now.  It takes about 15 minutes.
  2. If your store is listed on Google, make sure you spruce it up with photographs and other goodies.  Post a couple of videos of your store  on YouTube and have it linked to your local listing.  YouTube is owned by Google and they love to see you playing the game.
  3. Visit getlisted.org and see how you rank for local search.  It is FREE and simple and I would certainly follow the hyperlinks and get listed on these five local search registeries.

Over the next couple of months, I will be rolling out a few inexpensive and easy business strategies to position your business for online search.

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