Monday, 7 November 2011

Not on the high street?

'Mainstream' according to the dictionary equals 'ideas, attitudes, or activities that are regarded as normal or conventional; the dominant trend in opinion, fashion, or arts.' 

A very simple explanation I think.  So my question is; why if black people are part of the fabric of our modern British society are greeting cards reflecting people of colour not on the high street? Or anywhere much else. 

The UK is one of the biggest consumers of greeting cards in the world.  There are 800, mostly small business, producing glorious greeting cards for all occasions but less than 1% of those companies produce cards that reflect the 9.1 million people of colour that are part of the British population.

Greeting cards reflecting non white people are considered 'ethnic' or 'specialist' which is why I am confused - I would say over 9 million people shopping on the high street is a mainstream consumer audience - but with so few shops being prepared to sell cards that are not 'mainstream' something is going a bit off base. 

But, what I would really like to know are your thoughts ....


  1. I work for a greeting card wholesaler and we stock cards by the major publishers (Simon Elvin, Hambledon, Regent, etc) While it is fair to say that when they use images of people on them they are white, I would say about 80% of the cards they produce are generic. Adult male cards will have cars, sporty images or scenes on them, female adult cars will have flowers or shoes & dresses, kids cards are more likely to have people on them (usually illustrations of blond kids). We also stock a range called Black Gold which are code 75 size cards with photographs of black people on and often with long emotional verses. About 25% of our customers are from Africa, the majority of them are from Nigeria and most of those are from Lagos. They are not interested in the Black Gold range but will happily buy an age 1 card with a little blond girl dressed as a princess. We have asked why this is and have a couple of Africa the colour of their skin is not an issue so they do not actively seek cards with black people on, there is a kudos attached to products that are imported from Europe so they are keen to buy cards that are clearly not locally produced.
    We would be delighted to look at your cards with a view to stocking them in our cash & carry. Please email me

  2. I'm confused too. I can't believe it is taking so long for the High Street to understand what the general population wants and needs. No wonder so many of them are struggling when they are not willing to cater for 9 million of the population!

  3. I think it is because as black British people we are used to not seeing ourselves in the mainstream, whether that be on certain TV programmes, in most magazines and in fashion. Even a black Barbie doll is a relatively new phenomena, I remember my Grandmother having to go to America to get me one, and that was only 20 years ago. Therefore as consumers we don't expect to see people that look like us, we haven't grown up seeing that and have resigned ourselves to this fact; as a result we simply make do. I do think the tide is turning now, and I find your cards a complete breath of fresh air. I can only hope that your ethos is adopted by other industries!

  4. I know of one other distinct card company, Colour Blind cards.
    Ironically as the first poster mentioned their is a conditioning by many to not buy cards of colour. For me it has always been important to have a mix but I suppose it is both creating that need to look wider and have humouros as well as serious cards with people of colour on it, but I think it will take a long while. Worthwhile process though

  5. I've often thought this about many mainstream products which is why Im trying to learn how to develop my own clothing and cards depicting black and mix race people. I'm Black and my boyfriend is White, and he always trys to hunt out cards with Black women on, when buying a card for me, and gets frustrated at the lack of them. Also stats show that Mixed Race ppl are the fastest growing race of ppl in Britain. i would love for my Mixed Race brothers and little sister to have more images in the mainstream to identify with.
    R x

  6. As a fellow designer of her own line of black greeting cards, this mainstream exposure is not a easy road. A change will come if we all strive for change and pester our local greeting card shops to start selling black and dual heritage cards.

  7. Part of the reason why I started making greetings cards was to try and create cards with images that I, my family and many of my friends would appreciate. Even some of the black greeting cards in the shops does not always fit my needs. But even in the area of craft supplies choice is very limited... when have you ever seen a stamp or background paper featuring so called ethnic images? As for the high street, I gave up on them when I started making my own.