Custom print finisher The Occasions Group specializes in greeting cards, napkins and envelopes. Vice President of Business Development Sue Lund has been with the company for more than 30 years. After graduating college, she began working with Taylor Corporation, the parent company of The Occasions Group. She has held a variety of positions since then, including sales manager, account executive and director of product development.
Lund recently got together with PostPress to discuss her time in the industry, challenges The Occasions Group has encountered as a result of the pandemic and what opportunities she sees for the industry in the next few years.
How did you get your start in the greeting card/invitation industry?
I managed a high-end retail store. One of my customers was a leader at Taylor Corporation and encouraged me to interview for a sales manager position. Three interviews later and I was hooked.
I have spent my 33-year career with Taylor working in sales, product development, marketing and now business development. It is a wonderful industry, and I have met lifelong friends in our partners, our suppliers and our competitors. We focus on life’s celebrations. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What changes have you seen in the industry over the last several years?
From our perspective, the following are several key changes that have impacted the industry:
- E-commerce – Consumers are doing their shopping online. We are the print partner for brands in the holiday card and wedding markets, and all their orders are placed on their own e-commerce sites and with large online retailers like Amazon.
- Personalization – Consumers want unique cards and invitations. We are seeing incredible growth in this space.
- More designs and shorter runs – Consumers want choices. Our partners are looking for solutions that enable them to have smaller print runs. This allows them to test designs, offer more designs and eliminate obsolescence.
- FOIL! – Consumers love foil. Foil cards and invitations are growing double digits each year for the last seven years.
What challenges has The Occasions Group encountered because of the pandemic? How have you shifted to meet those challenges?
The Occasions Group offers print fulfillment to industry leaders in the life event and social stationery space. This includes weddings, graduations, baby, holiday and other life celebrations. The pandemic put a stop to traditional in-person gatherings, so our invitation and announcement business took a sharp turn almost immediately.
We quickly pivoted to focus on expanding our greeting cards sold online, and we’ve seen incredible growth in that segment. We also developed giftable products that took off, and we expanded our yard sign and banner programs. Parents and schools honored their kids with graduation yard signs. They were everywhere. We expect the same this year.
Our consumer holiday card segment also was incredible this year. It was more important than ever to connect with friends and family that folks hadn’t seen all year.
How do you believe the pandemic will continue to challenge the industry?
We are hopeful. We are expecting a strong year with growth beginning in March. We have refocused our attention to products consumers are seeking.
Of course, until we feel safe and are comfortable in larger gatherings, it will impact our invitation business, but I believe we will be back on our feet by year end. In many ways, the pandemic has helped our business by getting us outside of what we usually do and expanding into other product categories inspired by consumer trends that are likely to be around for a while.
How has the growing emphasis on sustainability affected areas like greeting cards, invitations and envelopes?
We partner with a few companies whose brand promises are to be environmentally conscious. Our manufacturing and custom print facilities are FSC-certified, which is how we are able to partner with these brands.
We have seen the most success with the sustainability message when it is marketed to consumers who seek that out. It’s more impactful when it is a brand-identity message or believable marketing content and not just a paper choice of PCW recycled paper.
I think the US is behind other parts of the world on sustainability, but it is a trend that will continue to grow, particularly in packaging. We do have partners that choose non-acetate options in single greeting cards and boxed cards, and we’re happy to give the option.
What are your predictions for the industry in the next five years?
We will continue to see growth in the greeting card market. Consumers want choices and convenience. Custom cards will see significant growth. Online shopping will continue to grow, but smaller boutiques will see growth as well.
We all need to be nimble enough to adjust as consumer behavior changes. We all had concerns when e-cards were launched. We found they really did not impact us as negatively as we thought. Customers like to touch and feel their cards and experience receiving a handwritten card or note in their mailbox. That will not go away.