My Top 50 UK Greeting Card Publishers - Part 1 of 3
Written by Jean-Paul Michael
You may well be wondering what this Canadian bloke is doing writing about his favourite UK greeting card publishers... Well, my love affair with UK greeting cards and UK card publishers isn’t recent, as it started back in the early 1990s. That was the time my company sent me to England, to my first international stationery show in the city of Birmingham in the West Midlands. While I had some prior knowledge of the UK’s influences on the North American greeting card industry, I had no idea of the extent of those influences at the time.
Over the next 25 years, trends and publishers both here and across the Atlantic have come and gone, but I feel that from experience, I can make one definitive statement: Anything worthwhile in this industry, or at least any lasting greeting card trend that matters, likely had its origins in the United Kingdom.
For starters, as we mentioned in one of our earlier blog posts, The History of the Greeting Card, the very first commercial Christmas card was made in England, in London, which firmly cements my first statement.
Fast forward to the present, however, and in terms of design, the Greeting Card Association recently stated that the UK card industry is recognised as being ten years ahead of others, and business blogger Brandon Gaille confirms the strength of the UK's market is partly due to the high per capita level of greeting card publishers.
With more than a thousand publishers, most of which are small or micro businesses with few employees, it's no surprise that at least one in every six retailers in the UK stocks greeting cards.
The UK may be the world’s second-largest greeting cards market, behind the US, but it boasts the largest number of per capita sales too. It was discovered in a survey by Ofcom (an independent regulator for communications services in the UK, including postal services) that in recent years, more UK consumers have been sending greetings cards than any of the other countries surveyed, and each buys an average of 33 cards annually.
The most recent Market Report by the Greeting Card Association showed that the UK greeting card market is today valued at a staggering £1.75 billion at retail and it must be said that this continuing industry growth would not be possible without its many publishers.
A selection of what the UK has to offerI am delighted to bring to you the first part of my favourite UK greeting card publishers, some of which I know firsthand or have known about for many years and some which are new to me. I wish I could include them all but with there being over a thousand, here are some of the ones of note that I wanted to share with you, in Part 1 of our three-part series.
Archivist Ltd, Churchill, Oxfordshire
Archivist has been around since 1994, since Sarah and William Allardice decided to offer high-quality letterpress products with a sense of fun. Letterpress is a traditional printing technique where many copies are produced when a press inks the image and then stamps the paper with an impression, and it was the norm for five centuries, though the process is rarely used now. As well as selling gorgeous, original cards, Archivist designs amazing, luxury boxes of matches with wonderful designs, which can be found on sale in famous British retailers including the Natural History Museum, the V&A, Conran, Paperchase, and Liberty.
Cardology, LondonWhen it comes to memorable cards that are more a gift in themselves, Cardology are sheer masters of creation. Sisters Kripa and Dipa and co-founder David create wonderful, handmade, 3D pop-up cards using two techniques - one called Sliceform engineering, which is essentially interlocking pieces of card together to make 3D models and the other being kirigami, which is a variation of origami. I feel that Cardology's collection of stunning, intricate designs for all kinds of occasions are wonderful to look at and priceless for a recipient to receive.
Cinnamon Aitch Ltd, BirminghamCinnamon Aitch offers a great multitude of contemporary cards that are often gorgeous and sometimes unusual but they are always great quality and clearly made with love. Sara and Sarah have been designing and making cards together since 2000, even though Cinnamon Aitch was founded a few years before then, and they currently do so from their Birmingham studio. They also sell cards designed by other artists too and all the products are hand-finished. I love so many of their designs that it would prove difficult to choose a favourite!
Citrus Bunn, London
With both lovely fine art prints and cards full of funny puns, Citrus Bunn has plenty of fabulous creations to suit everyone. If you love wordplay, like the London-based watercolour artist Clemency Bunn herself, you'll adore the cute and funny cards, like Moochas Gracias, a thank you card adorned with a cow, or the good luck card You Can Dodo It, featuring, you guessed it, a dodo on the cover. I couldn't see a card I didn't like on the Citrus Bunn website - they are all so sweet!
Crumble & Core, LewesBased in East Sussex, Crumble & Core is a lovely watercolour greeting card business made up of three friends who created it over a cup of Earl Grey tea - how very English! In-house artist Jilly Mercer, commercial wizard Louise Pike and retail guru Lucy Rigby produce charming and pretty (and decidedly British) cards that are all hand-embellished with gemstones. The original paintings on the cards - from wildlife to sports and even underwear and a London bus - are a great draw and make these cards all winners in my eyes.
Deadpan Cards, London
Deadpan says, "If you can't say something nice, say something factually accurate," and their cards do just that and they end up being hilarious. The aptly-named card company is made up of Vic and work colleagues Neil and Nick, and the latter two decided that the cringe-worthy cards they always see at work should be replaced with ones that tell the truth instead, hence one of their cards simply saying, 'A year has passed since you last got one of these cards' rather than 'Happy birthday'! If you have a similar sense of humour, or at least if the recipient of one of these cards does, you'll love Deadpan, which can be found in The Saatchi Gallery Shop, The British Library and many other upmarket retailers, as well as on Etsy.
Doodleicious Art, Crewe
Cheshire-based Sarah Capper is so talented that it's no wonder her gorgeous Doodleicious Art is selling across the globe as well as in the UK. Having been creative since a child, it was only in recent years that she decided to take the plunge and follow those childhood dreams to sell her own products, including wonderful cards adorned with nature and arranged in patterns. Each and every card features daisies, and her daughter Daisy is named after them. You'll find Sarah's art on beautiful cards for all occasions, as well as cushion covers, art prints and more.
Fiona Barker Design, Wellingborough
The relatively new Northamptonshire-based studio Fiona Barker Design is Fiona Barker's way to help motivate and encourage families by promoting positivity in the home with her inspirational illustrations. Since founding Fiona Barker Design in 2017, Fiona Barker has been working from home, hand-drawing simple albeit cute, lovely and positive illustrations to put on her cards, as well as printables, like posters. I chose Fiona's business for this blog post because of the great way she encourages children with her designs, as well as spreading positivity for all ages with her fantastic range of cards.
Flying Teaspoons, Stoke-on-Trent
Flying Teaspoons is a quirky name for a business that creates quirky cards for animal and wildlife lovers, and they are made with the medium of collage. Artist and illustrator Laura carefully and painstakingly cuts up tiny bits of magazine pages and layers them to create the cards' characters, including fabulous flamingoes, funky foil trees and stunning foxes. From up close, you can really see the detailed work. I've never seen anything quite like these cards, which are sold by various retailers including galleries, cafes and nature centres, as well as online.
Forever Funny, Quedgeley, Gloucester
When it comes to making people smile, Gloucestershire-based Anastassia Neislotova from Forever Funny hits the mark every time with her special, personal cards. She tries to put all of her love, positivity and kindness into her creations and often makes them funny too, in order to make the recipients happy, whether that's with a pun-filled avocado card ('avo great birthday'!) or a cute blank-inside card to welcome a little one into the world. The designs are original and sweet, and definitely make people smile.
Gemma International, Andover
Gemma International is well-known in the UK for both greeting cards and party products, since being established by founders Lindesay and Margaret Rudd-Clarke in 1984. Since developing My Little Pony products way back when, Gemma has developed cards and partyware for other industry leaders such as Hello Kitty, Disney, Angry Birds and Nintendo. They also publish their own ranges and brands, including Gem Fairies cards, which can be found in many retailers across the UK and are a big hit with little girls.
Green Pebble, Beccles, Suffolk
Suffolk-based Green Pebble is a publisher of fine art greeting cards, with a focus on promoting British art by British artists. The art that you see on their cards is based on real art that the artists produce for exhibitions and galleries and include many different types of medium, such as paintings, illustrations, collages and Batik art. Green Pebble's high-quality cards and stationery products can be found in some of the best gift and lifestyle shops in the UK, as well as online.
Hallmark Cards UK, BradfordA greeting cards leader around the world, Hallmark Cards began its journey in America over a hundred years ago in 1910, when Joyce Clyde Hall started the company with just two boxes of picture postcards. Then joined by his brothers and Hall Brothers was founded, and then in 1928, Hall Brothers became Hallmark Cards. By 1958, Hallmark Cards was trading from London, so Hallmark Cards UK was born. Today, Hallmark UK is known as a superbrand and even its Amazon store has over 5,000 cards on sale - from pop-up, glittery or simple cards to ones featuring famous characters like Star Wars, Frozen and Harry Potter.
Happy Hound Cards, Ringwould, Kent
Happy Hound Cards has a selection of unique, bespoke, high-quality cards for pet lovers - and not just dogs! They now sell cat cards too, and all of them have been designed to bring a smile to the recipient's face. From pen and ink designs to cartoons and more, Happy Hound Cards are printed on recyclable eco cardstock; all of our products here at Northern Cards are environmentally friendly too, and our cards have the FSC logo, so we chose Happy Hounds for this blog post partly for this excellent feature and partly for the wonderful designs. Plus all of their cards are blank inside, so you can add your own words, which is a bonus.
Tune in next week for Part 2 of this three-part series, when I will be writing about more of my top 50 greeting card publishers in the UK.
As a disclaimer, I should say that this is by no means an exhaustive list of UK card publishers and is the first 13 of my top 50 favourites. Moreover, it only includes UK card sellers who have a website.
In the meantime, I truly hope you take as much pleasure as I have wandering through these wonderful websites. I know among them you will find more than one special card you’ll want to send someone as an expression of caring or celebration.
Jean-Paul Michael has spent his entire adult life in the greeting card industry. He co-founded Northern Cards when he was 18 years old and over the last 3 decades, he has held many varying positions in the company. Today, he is proud to be Northern Cards' Publisher and a lifelong greeting card geek.