‘New era’ for The Giftware Association

The Giftware Association (GA) ushered in a ‘new era’ at its members’ day and AGM in London on June 15.

The body not only welcomed new chief executive Sarah Ward and new vice-chairman Jeremy Corner, who is managing director of Blue Eyed Sun, but also the first retailer to become The GA chairman: Henri Davis.

The Association unveiled new branding too, which aims to position it as a contemporary authority for the gift and home industry.

Michael Papé, outgoing chairman (and a 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.

He said that over the past eight months the national committee had been striving to move the association forward into its next era of growth.

He added that in Sarah Ward, The GA had recruited a chief executive with experience in retail and supply – someone with extensive business acumen and a proven track record.

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

The annual Gift of the Year competition 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.”

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

She added: “We are all part of the same supply chain and whatever the size of business, 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.”

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.


l-r: The GA’s outgoing chairman Michael Papé, new chairman Henri Davis,  new vice-chairman Jeremy Corner

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