Gifts Today magazine

GA celebrate 70th with a party

Cake and cream tea as members mixed business and pleasure at big birthday bash and AGM

In their biggest gathering yet, 120 members met at the Fazeley Studios in Digbeth, Birmingham, to mark the GA’s big birthday where they were treated to a full programme of seminars and networking, followed by the evening barbecue and disco – with cake!

Representing a gifts and greetings industry valued at between £220billion and £390bn, the GA’s plans for the year are to make GOTY, which is coming up for its 40th anniversary, more influential as well as increase the association’s membership.

CEO Sarah Ward welcomed everyone, and gave an interesting run through the history of the GA from their initial formation as the Fancy Goods Association, after introducing speaker Andy Powell who rather scared the audience with details of the General Data Protection Regulations where the onus for ensuring the security of all private information held falls on that business whatever the size.

He explained the Government has decreed the regulations will still apply after Brexit and, while setting companies with 250 employees as the level at which a full-time compliance officer must be appointed, he said: 'If you are trading as an individual and you’re using the personal information of an EU national, you may be subject to GDPR,' with £20million fines threatened for any breaches of personal info.

The new rules come into force from May 25, 2018, and Andy said that, as compliance will be monitored by auditing in a similar process to financial affairs, firms must have evidence of due diligence, training, and continued monitoring.

His slides will be available on the GA website shortly, and he recommended checking out the Information Commissioner’s Office website for more details.

The headline speaker was Geoff Ramm who gave an amusing and informative talk on OMG marking – observational marketing greats – prompting everyone to consider different ways to capture the attention of their potential customers.

Examples he gave included the photographer who got 75 people to respond out of the 96 on the visitors’ register that he emailed prior to a trade show to ask their favourite chocolate, with the promise that if they responded it would be waiting for them on his stand, and in South Africa Wimpy came up with a braille menu and burger buns with the details written on the top in braille made from sesame seeds in response to the negative publicity McDonald’s suffered from throwing a blind woman and her guide dog out because they have a total no dogs policy.

Chairman Henri Davis led the AGM business side, explaining how Sarah and the team are taking the GA to both current and potential members by visiting more trade shows than ever, setting up the Meet The Buyer events and encouraging retailers to join too, helped by the seminars they present at shows, and columns in trade magazines such as Greetings Today.

She announced that Widdop & Co’s Andrew Illingworth has stepped down from the national committee after many years’ service, while the GA have agreed to manage the Jewellery Distributors’ Association, where Sanghat Chandhok is about to take over from John Milligan as chairman.

Henri said: 'Doing business in the sectors we represent has changed beyond recognition in the last 10 years and our relevance for our members has changed to, impacted by technology and the fact the services they valued then are not the same now.

'We have spent the last 18 months talking to existing members and, indeed, those who have said they want to leave us, so that we understand clearly what it is they need from us in 2017. This face-to-face approach is particularly successful as the team become recognised and start to build strong relationships with members who are exhibiting and keep up-to-date with industry trends and issues.'

Following the biggest-yet entry for the 2017 GOTY awards, Henri added: “We are pleased to announced the GA are going to be working with Ascential Events to develop a much bigger and more influential awards that will take it to another level,” including a bigger and more prestigious ceremony at the end of the first day of Spring Fair.

The plan is for shortlisted products and companies to benefit from significant promotion in the run up to Spring Fair through Ascential’s 300,000 reach, plus featuring on the GOTY website, along with a dedicated UK and international PR campaign, plus social media activity.

The winners will be announced across all Spring Fair channels immediately at the show and in brochures available from the second day of the show.

Past chairman Michael Papé – whose family company Ravensden have been members for 33 years – closed the business part of the day with details of a new initiative where any member introducing companies and retailers as new members will receive a discount on their membership fee.

'As of December 31, 2016,” Michael said, 'The GA ended the year with 670 members – we have set ourselves a target of 750 by the end of 2017. We have a non-member subscriber base of over 3,500 who receive our emails, newsletters and, ultimately, utilise our services.'

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