Latest trends in fine stationery, custom invitations and announcements from the Stationers Guild

In a press release released late this afternoon, Crane & Co. will acquire William Arthur from Hallmark.  This announcement is sure to send shock waves through the stationery industry

William Arthur, based in West Kennebunkport, Maine,  is one of the leading quality stationery and custom invitations in the United States.   Its origins can be traced back to 1949 when Philip and Rita Renning founded Ten Bamboo Studio.

In 1984, Bill and June DeJonge acquired the company and greatly expanded the popularity and distribution of this fine stationery line, cementing their reputation as having some of the best designs and customer service in the industry.  It then changed the company’s name to William Arthur.  William Arthur became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc. in 1997 and employs nearly 300 designers, artists, skilled craftspeople and customer service professionals.

Crane & Co. is one of the oldest companies in the United States and as well-known for printing the U.S. currency as it is for its engraved stationery and custom invitations on 100% cotton paper.

According to the press release, the purchase will be finalized on November 30th, although both companies will continue to operate semi-autonomously until the second half of 2013.  At some time in the future, business operations will be consolidated in Crane’s North Adams facility (MA).

In and of itself, the news is not surprising.   Premium stationery brands have been under increased pressure by commercial printing firms masquerading as fine paper companies and Photoshop “designers” whose products are for the most part less than inspiring (I’m being generous!).  The Internet has made it possible for insipid designs and questionable print quality to become the industry benchmark where price is far more important than quality.  These firms thrive with an uninformed consumer.

By unifying two high quality brands under one umbrella, there is an opportunity for both brands (or a unified brand) to set a quality standard for discerning consumers to embrace.  Whether they will succeed remains a huge question, but consumers seem more aware that brand quality is a far more important component in their purchasing matrix.   I certainly hope that Crane doesn’t plan to go bottom fishing for Walmart consumers.

Many William Arthur dealers will find this announcement disconcerting, but I am encouraged by the bold initiative of Crane.   In fact, the very survival of the industry needed someone to standup and raise the banner of quality and brand integrity.  Let’s see if Crane has the will to persevere.  I, for one, certainly hope so.

Richard W. May
Therese Saint Clair

Tags: crane & co., Hallmark, Walmart, William arthur

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