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William Arthur Holiday Photo Album

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

As a public service announcement, I would like to inform everyone that today – August 23 – we received our William Arthur Holiday Photo Album.

I hope you receive yours soon so we can promote the holiday photo card sale which started on August 1.

Richard May
Therese Saint Clair

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Crane and the Thanksgiving Meal

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

One dear reader of the Guild News asked how I could possibly write so much about the “good and the bad” in the stationery industry.  The answer is quite simple:  I have a lot of free time to write while holding for a Crane customer service (that’s an oxymoron) representative to pick up the phone.

Getting in touch with a Crane customer service representative is fast becoming more difficult than talking to Adobe customer support.   After 20 minutes or so you generally will be able to speak to Adobe’s customer service representative in India or the Philippines, but it usually takes longer to reach a customer service rep at Crane who are located in the same time zone.

Now I don’t know how others feel, but I refuse  to remain on hold for more than 2 minutes to buy anything before I hang-up.   I am terribly sad to report that “waits” of between 20 to 30 minutes are now the norm at Crane rather than the exception.    Effectively, dealers are now subsidizing Crane’s gross inefficiency by allocating phone expense and staff time to simply hold for overworked and/or poorly trained customer service representatives to deal with Crane orders.

While this may be great for Crane’s expense controls, DeFalco & Co. have effectively  pushed the expense burden onto Crane’s dealers.   I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Crane customer service reps give priority to online Paperless Post orders rather than Crane’s dealers.   If you are not upset, you should be.

Editor’s Note:   Confidentially, I have been informed that DeFalco’s management style within Crane is referred to “DeFalco’s Folly,”  but sadly these megalomaniac bullies are rarely outed until it is too late!

Guild readers may be surprised to know that the “Good News” is that I have been invited to the Crane Thanksgiving Dinner which they celebrate annually in Plymouth (MA).  I requested dark meat on the enclosed reply card set:

Crane for Thanksgiving

The “Bad News” is that I will be served a drumstick:  A Crane drumstick!

P.S. Still on hold (listening to Lizzie and the Spin Doctors) and patiently waiting  for William Arthur’s Holiday Albums to support their sale’s promotion that began August 1.  Go figure.

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William Arthur and the Holiday Blues

Friday, August 16th, 2013

William Arthur has always been that “go-to” resource for personalized holiday greeting cards and photo cards as Crane would habitually drop the ball late during the holiday season.   Apparently, we are all now in for a serious role-reversal as we await delivery of the William Arthur holiday albums.  The Crane holiday albums have already arrived.

Given the dreary holiday outlook for most employees at William Arthur, it is hardly surprising that timeliness and efficiency have suffered, but we are already receiving phone calls from our clients asking “when do you expect the William Arthur holiday albums to arrive?”   Perhaps, they too have heard the rumors that they better get their orders in early this year.

Frankly, we don’t know for certain when the Holiday Albums will arrive.  One William Arthur employee (retained by Crane) informed us that William Arthur “always ships its holiday albums after September 15th” (clearly, he doesn’t have a clue) and other people – who should know – have suggested sometime between the end of the month and “shortly after Labor Day.”

To suggest that the Italians are running the show at Crane unjustifiably discredits  warm, creative and sensitive Italians.  Let’s just say that the Borgias are in charge and leave it at that.

Richard May
Founding Member Stationers Guild

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Keeping up to date with Crane: Online

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

It’s hard to know what is going on at Crane these days as management seems hunkered down in their bunker fending off criticism of their management style or lack thereof.   Fortunately, I do not have to sit on hold for 20 minutes like my wife trying to talk to a customer service representative to track down a wedding order, but the lack of communication is deafening.

A couple of days ago – like other Crane bricks-and-mortar dealers – I  received some lovely marketing propaganda to promote the Crane brand this summer.   While this is colorful and useful promotional material, I am at a loss to know how to use it.   Presumably, I could take the file down to Kinko’s and blow it up into a poster that I could put in the window or on a billboard in front of the store.  If I were industrious and wanted to send out a mailer, I could use one of the images to promote Crane’s holiday card sale.

Sadly, I am reluctant to use Crane’s images to promote the Crane name because we are simply driving our clients to Crane’s website and not our store.

Other stationers feel that I am short-sighted for not subscribing to the “abundance theory”  but I don’t like to be played by the house when all the cards are stacked against me.   Since nobody at Crane seems to know what is going on – or at least cares to share that information with its dealers – I decided to visit  Crane’s website  to stay informed.

Found below is a very brief summary of what I discovered:

  • Crane and Paperless Post (‘PP”) are clearly enjoying a great honeymoon given the prominence given to PP on Crane’s wedding page.     Conclusion:  Not sure that I would want to direct any clients to the Crane wedding page to do an online search.
  • William Arthur products will have a new home on Crane by September 1 and both sites are now integrated as of July 15th.
  • Crane’s personalized holiday card link doesn’t work (the sleigh) unless you are buying Father’s Day or Mother’s Day gifts.  (Suggestion to Crane:  With the Crane name you should be selling Montblanc and not Cross pens on your website)
  • If you are looking for William Arthur letterpress wedding invitations, you can still find them on Wedding Paper Divas for 20% off.

There is much more, but I think any sane person gets the picture:    There is “something rotten in Denmark.”

As I am trying to become a kinder person and Crane is clearly suffering,  I offer these heart-felt suggestions:

  • Reinstate your affiliate program(s);
  • Dump the paperless tiger;
  • Does Paper Divas really make sense as it is owned by Shutterfly?
  • Act like the prestigious brand you are! You have far more credibility and market clout than your consultants and venture capitalists give you credit for.

It’s nearly the same advice that I give to countless other vendors who want us to merchandise their “great” product at our store (and online):

QUOTE

As much as we like your cards, we must take a pass.

The issue is quite simple, we simply are not prepared to invest the time and money to merchandise a product to a very sophisticated audience that is sold online (your Etsy Store).

Being everywhere means that your card (regardless of how cute, meaningful or salable) is simply a commodity.  We long ago decided to channel our limited personal and financial resources into delivering products that are “unique” to our clients.

I trust you understand our position.

UNQUOTE

It’s all about image. Crane is not a reclamation project. Act like the 400 lb gorilla you are and not a chimpanzee.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

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Maybe Affiliate Marketing is Not Dead

Saturday, April 27th, 2013

When informed of his rumored death, Mark Twain stated that “reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”    Perhaps, the death knell for the stationery industry has not yet sounded.  Yesterday morning  I reported that William Arthur would be terminating its affiliate program on May 25th.  Shortly after the article was published, I received a phone call from a representative of Crane indicating that the announcement was “poorly communicated” and that Crane would migrate William Arthur to Crane’s Pepperjam affiliate program.  Commission structures would remain intact.

When I pressed for more details (i.e. “will William Arthur maintain their own ecommerce website?”), I was told that Crane’s IT people were working on it.  Frankly, that is not particularly reassuring, but I guess we can hope that Crane’s “rocket scientists” will let the Crane brand have a decent burial rather disappear in the paperless ether.

One of Crane’s fundamental problems has been its inability to manage its Online presence.  For years, we have witnessed Crane manage its online business as something distinct (dare I call it a profit center?) from its stationery business.    The silly idea that there is an “online” consumer and a “bricks-and-mortar” consumer is about as stupid as saying that consumers can be segregated by those who use fixed phone lines and those who use cell phones.    Just look at the phone or cable company:  The services are simply bundled!

Crane is mistakenly focused on tinkering with distribution channels rather than building a loyal base of savvy consumers who understand the difference between low resolution digital images found on the internet  and fine engraved stationery.  Just take a look at the jewelry industry:  Sure, you can buy a knock-off Timex (or Rolex) for $20 from one of the many street vendors in Times Square, but many buyers will think nothing of shelling out $25,000 or more for a Patek Philippe watch.  Why?  They want quality.  Both brands tell time, but only one makes a personal statement.

As I have said before, I don’t have a clue as to what is going on in Crane, but I suspect that the people who work there don’t either.   A company that has been in the “communications” business for over 200 years should certainly have a better message.  It’s dealers and Crane’s legion of loyal buyers of their brand certainly hope so.

Let’s keep the “personal” in personalized stationery.

Richard W. May
Founding Member of the Stationers Guild

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Stationery Industry: The Nail in the Coffin

Friday, April 26th, 2013

I just received an announcement that William Arthur is terminating its affiliate program – administered by LinkShare – on May 25th.    I realize that many bricks-and-mortar retailers have never actively participated in vendor sponsored affiliate programs, but I have always encouraged dealers to do so.  In fact, found below is an excerpt of an article that appeared on the Stationers Guild a couple of years ago, promoting vendor sponsored affiliate programs:

“Supporting the affiliate programs of your vendors should - and most probably will - bring  the following benefits to your business:

  • Properly used, affiliate marketing will drive traffic to your store;
  • Affiliate marketing is a far more effective marketing tool than the Yellow Pages and most paper media advertising;
  • Affiliate marketing allows you to build an online presence without the expense and fuss of doing it yourself;
  • Affiliate marketing gives you an opportunity to talk about and promote fine stationery and custom invitations;
  • Affiliate marketing gives you credibility with your customers to “see” that your store has online product capabilities;
  • You earn affiliate commissions when customers buy online through your affiliate ad referral;
  • You support your vendor by promoting their brand online;
  • Most importantly, you support the stationery industry by promoting quality brands.”

To many dealers, this is a non-event, but I can assure you that this is the final nail in the coffin of the stationery industry as we know it. Why?

The lack of a financial incentive to market brands carried by your store in social media channels will diminish a store front’s ability to compete. Simply stated, every time you promote a “house” brand in the media, you will simply drive traffic to the vendor’s online store – not your own. Sure, some clients may drop by to see the “real deal” and you may make an occasional sale, but most “clients’ will be happy to close the deal online. In effect, you have just become an uncompensated showcase for vendors selling to your clients online. Heck, you may have even paid for the albums that will now be used to promote your vendor’s products online.  What irony!

Lest you think this is an isolated event, Crane slashed its dealer affiliate commissions by 70% in March. As Crane now owns William Arthur, this is simply the consolidating end-play to disconnect its bricks-and-mortar dealers from Crane’s online business strategy. Let’s face it, we are the “muppets” and we have been well and truly played.

I do not know what the retail battlefield will look like after Crane’s business strategy is fully played out, but I can assure you that Crane’s brand won’t compare to Smythson of Bond Street or Pineider. Perhaps, Crane will join Martha Stewart in showcasing their brands at J. C. Penny. I doubt that Vera Wang will play along, she simply has too much class.

I don’t know about you, but I will be treating this National Stationery Show as my last. So join me in a trip of nostalgia when you walk the aisles of the Javits Center at this May’s National Stationery Show.

Richard W. May
Founding Member Stationers Guild

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Crane, William Arthur and Paperless Post: A Postscript

Friday, April 5th, 2013

As Guild news readers are aware, I have been spinning a tale to try and make sense of  Crane’s marriage to Paperless Post.  Is it true love or simply a marriage of convenience?    There is a tendency – me included – to believe that people behave irrationally or are simply dumb.   We are often influenced by our own self-interests rather than placing ourselves in the other person’s shoes.   Back in the old days we referred to it as “empathy,” but I suspect the current batch of MBAs refer to it as “game theory.”

In any event, one Guild member gave me a phone call yesterday evening and asked me to explain why Crane & Co. acquired William Arthur last year.  At the time, it certainly made no sense to me, but I tried to put on a “happy face” to suggest that this was a good thing for the industry.   Secretly, I had reached the conclusion that Hallmark paid Crane & Co. to take William Arthur off their hands because they planned to close William Arthur and didn’t want any negative repercussions that might tarnish the Hallmark name.  (Editor’s Note:  It makes about as much sense as the asset exchange between Papyrus and American Greetings some years ago.)

Again, I have no inside information but let’s put together a paperless trail that seems  to offer some plausible explanation to the events culminating in the acquisition of William Arthur by Crane in November, 2012.   As dealers may recall, the Vice President of Sales and the Head of PR and advertising resigned within a week of each other in October, 2011.  The President of William Arthur resigned or was fired in the spring of 2012.  Why?

Personally, I believe that all of these executives were painfully aware that Hallmark was not happy with the financial performance of the Maine company and planned to take harsh remedial action in the near future.   Faced with this unpleasantness, all three decided to exit.    Rather than close down William Arthur, Hallmark calculated the costs of doing so and went to Crane & Co. hat in hand and asked them to take over their largest competitor.  In fact, Hallmark would pay Crane to do so! (Editor’s Note:This is not unusual in the M&A  world.   I recall a Dow 30 multinational that paid a liquidator to take a 100%-owned subsidiary off their hands  to avoid the embarrassment of explaining a bankruptcy or liquidation in their annual report).

I am quite sure that the venture capitalists were salivating all over this unexpected development, since it represented an opportunity to create an inflated brand value at no cost to Crane.    Indeed, most of Crane’s new “brand management” team were caught totally off-guard by this development and expressed surprise at “how well run” William Arthur was when they visited it several weeks later.   In my estimation, this sale transpired for reasons that had little – if anything – to do with operating synergy.

Since both Crane and Hallmark are privately owned companies, there was and is no need for either company to explain the details of this transaction to the public.    If effect, Crane integrated its largest competitor under the Crane umbrella while simultaneously destroying the quality of its own brand.   Why?   Because the deal with Paperless Post was already well-advanced and its just as easy to kill two birds with one stone if they are both operating under one roof.

I sincerely hope that this yarn is simply a tale of a raving lunatic, but it is hard to believe that Crane will ever restart its mills in Dalton to produce fine paper.  I fear that the only legacy of Crane’s presence will be the beautiful Paper Museum.  Crane paper is now produced by Neenah and the Paperless Post platform is really not suited for letterpress or engraving, so I suspect that these stunning printing processes will probably be orphaned by Crane’s marriage to Paperless Post.

I don’t plan to write about this sorry subject any further, but would be happy to post any credible rebuttal to this tall tale.  Unfortunately, I suspect it is the hundreds of  loyal Crane dealers who have been played by Crane’s disingenuous management team.  Gosh, who knows, maybe the management team doesn’t have a clue that they too are being played.    As Mark Twain says, “It’s a lot easier to fool people than  convince them that they have been fooled.”  How true.

Richard W. May
Founding Member Stationers Guild

P.S.  These are my own views and I do pretend to represent the views of other stationers, vendors or the stationery industry in general.   I have received no inside information from any source in compiling this tale.  It should be viewed more as an editorial or opinion piece rather than fact.

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Lisa Blinn to Lead Design at Crane

Friday, March 8th, 2013

In a spate of recent announcements by Crane & Co., Lisa Blinn, “formerly Vice President of Design for William Arthur, and its accompanying brands, including Vera Wang Fine Stationery, has expanded her role within our company and will also be leading design for Crane.”

This is very good news for Crane as Lisa is one of the tested and true design professionals in the stationery industry. I have personally known Lisa for over 10 years and have found both her and her creative design team to be leaders and innovators in fashion stationery design. More importantly, she is a “good” person who will go the extra mile to help stationers create a custom design that distinguishes fine stationery from the dreary templates currently found online.

Lisa’s ability to “think outside the box”  is sure to bring a breath of fresh air in Dalton and North Adams. Hopefully, her “can do” attitude will be replicated throughout the Crane organization which until recently seemed more focused on internal reorganization than producing fine stationery.

With Lisa, Crane has an inspiring leader with great instinct and passion for design.   More importantly she brings real knowledge and expertise of fine stationery which appears to have been taken a backseat to Crane’s emphasis on “brand-building.”  With Crane’s name and production capabilities, this should be a marriage made in heaven.  All of us in the industry certainly hope so.

Best success to all!

Richard W. May

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William Arthur’s Holiday Photo Cards

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Check out William Arthur’s great selection of holiday photo cards now. William Arthur has been selling distinctive papers, custom made invitations and personalized stationery for discerning clients of fine paper products for greater than 60 years. No matter if you plan to use digital images or photo-mount your holiday photo , William Arthur has a great assortment of photo greeting card options for you to consider.

William Arthur Holiday Photo Card

Act now and buy your custom made online Christmas cards or photo-mount Holiday photo cards. The standard of their papers is unparalleled in the printing industry and during the past several years, William Arthur has spent a great deal to improve their already excellent printing functionality.

With the plethora of printing choices now accessible to the public, it is tricky to figure out which organization provides the best quality holiday photo card for the budget. Sadly, many digitally produced photo cards seem like commercially made flyers and also the paper standard can be of poor quality. The good news is, William Arthur provides customers using a variety of printing solutions for both high quality digital prints and photo-mount Christmas photo greeting cards. Settle on the desired printing option that works the best for you.

William Arthur Christmas Photo Card

William Arthur is one of the leading printers and designers of top quality holiday and Christmas photo greeting cards. The thing that makes William Arthur exceptional are their gorgeous papers, bold design photo frames and exceptional printing facilities. Based in Kennebunk,, Maine, William Arthur is still producing high grade stationery, custom wedding invitations and personalized Christmas cards for a long time.

Sheila May owns Therese Saint Clair and blogs frequently about wedding invitation trends and personalized stationery.

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William Arthur’s Christmas Photo Cards

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

See William Arthur’s great selection of holiday photo cards now. William Arthur has been selling exceptional paper products, customized invitations and personalized stationery for discriminating buyers of first-class paper products for more than 60 years. Whether you plan to use digital prints or photo-mount your Christmas card, William Arthur has a superb variety of photo card choices for you take into consideration.

Holiday Photo Card from William Arthur

Take action now and select your customized online digital Christmas cards or photo-mount Christmas photo cards. The product quality of their fine papers is unequaled in the printing industry and over the past several years, William Arthur has spent heavily to improve their printing facilities.

With the plethora of printing choices now readily available to the consumer, it is tricky to figure out which firm offers the highest possible quality photo greeting card for one’s budget. Sadly, countless digitally printed photo cards look like commercially made brochures and the paper standard can be of poor quality. The good news is, William Arthur offers buyers employing a range of printing methods for both good quality digital prints and photo-mount Christmas photo cards. Select the one that works best for you.

Christmas Photo Card from William Arthur

William Arthur is one of the leading designers and printers of top quality holiday and Christmas photo cards. The thing that makes William Arthur unique are their gorgeous papers, rich design photo frames and superior printing facilities. Based in Kennebunk,, ME, William Arthur has been creating top of the line stationery, custom announcements and personalized holiday cards for quite a while.

Sheila May is the owner of Therese Saint Clair and contributes articles often about wedding invitation trends and personalized stationery.

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