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Rebranding heralds new era for The GA as it reaches out to gift and home industry

21 June 2016

The Giftware Association ushered in a new era at its members’ day and AGM at Pewterers’ Hall in the City of London on June 15.

It not only welcomed a new chief executive, Sarah Ward, but also the first retailer to become GA chairman, Henri Davis. The new branding, which looks to tonally position the association as a contemporary authority for the gift and home industry, was also unveiled.

In new vice-chairman Jeremy Corner, managing director of Blue Eyed Sun, it has a young entrepreneur who will spearhead the association’s increasing use of social media.

Jeremy said that seven years ago he had watched a video featuring Thomas Power, the first speaker of the day, about how the world was shifting from institutional thinking, which was closed, selective and controlling (CSC) to an open, random and supportive way of thinking (ORS).

“That resonated with me because that’s how I like to operate,” Jeremy said, adding that the implementation of ORS had benefited his business and he had introduced it for discussion at The GA’s strategy day

Thomas Power, who now sits on six boards as a ‘digital non-executive member’, told his audience: “Most boards are in that world of CSC. They don’t want information to leak out of that company – you can go to jail if you mislead a market or shareholders. You are very selective what you consume and what you share. You’re very selective about who you hire and you’re proud of your decisions – and you like to be in control of everything. And what’s fascinating is that doesn’t work online – at all.”

He and his wife created “the first social network before all of these others” in 1999 – subsequently selling it – and he “learnt what it meant to be CSC and what it meant to be ORS”.

In 2005 we experienced stalkers – in fact we had to put one in jail for 18 weeks. So we knew what it was like to receive massive abuse online – many, many years before it became mainstream. We experienced the need for personal security running a network.”

Thomas said that Microsoft had paid £18bn in cash for Linkedin, putting a value of around £300 on each member, whose data was moving to Outlook where everyone would be connected and there would be no contact request or need for business cards or emails..

He described Microsoft as “a comeback kid”, an institution moving from CSC to ORS. “And in the last few years most of the board members there trained in ORS – and it’s a very painful learning process because they don’t want to give up control.”

Thomas said that once a shift was made to ORS and information began to be released “you start to serve others – not just customers, but staff, shareholders and different stakeholders and the only way this can be done is through social media”. He invited the audience to “take the little quiz” at to see if they were ready to make the “personal journey” from being ‘closed’ to ‘open’.

He added: “The biggest challenge is reaching the point of acceptance that social media is important. And then, how do you then deal with it. It really is scary, the speed at which things are happening. I saw a post on why websites are no longer as relevant as they were and that most of our searches are done on our smartphones.”

Paul Felton, the designer responsible for The GA’s rebranding, said that a strong brand identity could help companies to tell their story and give them an edge over competitors.

The GA’s new branding recognises its 68-year heritage; “the vast bank of experience it has built up over decades and the dynamism of the industry”, as well as reflecting the association’s progressive outlook and commitment to securing a bright future for members.

Describing The GA as “a formidable support system and integral asset to you”, Paul continued: “The idea behind the branding is summed up by a quote from Albert Einstein, who said, ‘The only source of knowledge is experience,’ and knowledge and experience are the two cornerstones of The GA … the whole premise that is being used is that the proud past of The GA helps inform the present and the future. We are looking to tonally position the association as a contemporary authority for the gift and home industry.”

Sarah Ward had found early memorabilia in a drawer in her office – the prancing gift horse, which was bound up in the early identity of The GA. “Well, the gift horse is back – redrawn and modernised in the new coat of arms. And the heart of the logo has been crafted to give the appearance of a crown and a gift. There are also a few subtle nods back to the previous identity with the ribbons and the circle and the date when The GA was established.”

The brand also has a new colour palette – expanding it from just blue and red – to reflect the association’s authority and a vibrant, exciting and colourful industry. There is also contemporary stone-carved typography with new typefaces Elkan Sans and Percy Sans, in tribute to two of the founders of the association, Elkan Simons and Percy Sweeter.

The branding will be rolled out with design deposit certificates and membership certificates: Gift of the Year will also be given a greater GA brand identity.

Thanking Paul, new chairman Henri Davis said: “This rebranding is the first visual signal that shows what a modern, vibrant and relevant organisation we can be within the creative spectrum we work in – the gift and homeware industry. We hope you feel this is a really positive step that will help to build awareness and a recognisable brand identity for The Giftware Association in 2016 and beyond.”

Michael Papé, outgoing chairman and supplier, said that it was important that The GA maintained a balance which reflected both sides of the industry and he was delighted that Henri, a retailer, had succeeded him.

Michael revealed that the association had formed an informal partnership with designGAP, the “unique and comprehensive resource of talent and innovative creative thinking” in art, craft, fashion design and jewellery set up by Shirley Frost in 1980. She will continue to consult and oversee the development of its concept and the quality of membership. The designGAP brand will remain as a ‘standalone’ company. The GA will be handling administration and assisting with all projects.

Over the past eight months the national committee had been striving to move the association forward into its next era of growth. In Sarah Ward they had recruited a chief executive with experience in retail and supply – someone with extensive business acumen and a proven track record.

Under her leadership the whole GA team had gone from strength to strength, producing material of the highest quality – including the new stand at Spring Fair, The GA Lifestyle app, the Spring Fair promotional video, the At Home magazine and the business boost days. “All of this has put us in a really good position for the future,” said Michael.

Gift of the Year had been extremely successful and The GA’s stand will be rebranded as the Gift of the Year stand later this year to further promote the competition and the companies that are winners or are highly commended.

Michael’s vision for the association when he became chairman in 2014 was “community, collaboration and reputation – in a nutshell to act as a hub for the industry, allowing experiences to be shared and supporting each other”.

He told the audience: “Under Sarah’s leadership we have made positive steps to reach out to members and non-members, visiting 22 trade shows so far this year – many of which we haven’t attended before. The objective has been to speak to as many members as possible find out what is keeping them up at night and if, in any way, we can help them work through any issues they might have – while at the same time raising awareness of the association and its plans for the future.

“While we are well aware of the difficulties within the industry – and, in particular, the retail sector – we have welcomed 33 new members in 2016 with retention figures of 89% for our supplier members, up 5% from last year.”

Henri Davis said that she was “passionate about building The GA’s retail base while ensuring we don’t alienate our many supplier members”.

“We are all part of the same supply chain and whatever the size of business we are in we all need each other. Suppliers need retailers to buy their products and retailers need suppliers to produce the great products that will generate strong sales for them, online or on the high street.

“Each is nothing without the other and wherever you are placed in the chain as a member you have more in common with each other than perhaps you realise. Many of the services we offer are equally useful to all our members.”

Henri said that The GA needed to find ways, other than face-to-face contact, for independent retailers to access the services it provided and “enable them to dip into these in their own time – hopefully other members will appreciate this approach too.”

She continued: “I think some people imagine that trade associations don’t really have a role any more. But nothing could be further from the truth – and my job, working closely with Jeremy and the national committee, will be to ensure that our members and potential new members are aware of every advantage that belonging can bring.

“Sarah is as passionate as I am that we should offer them terrific value for money and that they should be able to see very clearly what their subscriptions buy.”

In an amusing and informative presentation, award winning speaker Geoff Ramm, creator of Celebrity Service and OMG Marketing, told his audience about the ‘unseen gap between good and amazing’ when it came to customer service.

He asked his audience if they treated everyone the same as they would a celebrity. “Celebrity stands for Consistency, Excitement, Love, Engagement, Bravado, Response, Independent, Thank you, and You and your team – the nine components that anybody in this room can use to really make a difference to create a gap between themselves and their competitors.”

Could they deliver a form of excitement for every customer? “The answer is ‘yes’“, he said, and went on to give examples of outstanding service. “Everyone in this room has a licence from me to be creative in developing excitement in every single customer. When you see amazing service being delivered, do you compliment people and tell them how brilliant it was?”

He urged them to “let character and personality shine through”, but cautioned: “Also keep your promises on deliveries and guarantees: if you don’t you’ll die in seconds on social media. It’s never been so important.”

The meeting saw Gift of the Year judge Amanda Fergusson – formerly of Andrew Brownsword, Hallmark and Caroline Gardner – elected to The GA national committee. She replaces Dodo Pad’s Rebecca Jay, who steps down after12 years.

The cutting of a cake by Sarah to mark the rebranding of The GA was followed by a series of seminars and workshops, covering an introduction to HR; resale price maintenance; pension auto-enrolment; intellectual property; dealing with large retailers; protecting your business; business online for profit; managing your utility renewals, agents’ law; advice on branding, and an insight into the benefits offered by The GA.

 From: Alan Monahan. Tel 01785 824901/07710 437789(m)

17 June 2016

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