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Gabriel McGeown, Card Connection, Armagh and South Tyrone

'After 31 years as a publican I was looking for a new challenge. I wanted to exchange the long hours culture of working behind the bar with a business that was more flexible. I saw the Card Connection franchise for sale in the local paper and following some detailed research, realised it provided a great opportunity to run a thriving business selling a very popular product. The company had a good structure, it was well supported and the area had plenty of development potential.

'The consignment system is very popular. One of my main focus areas for growing the business currently is to work with new retail customers. New stores that I visit are very receptive to the Card Connection approach as it means they can offer more products to consumers at no extra cost to themselves. Many retailers are finding this particularly advantageous in recessionary terms.

'Most retail outlets need to be visited at least once per month to deliver the supply of greeting cards and to ensure displays are kept looking fresh and up-to-date with seasonal product. This is an important aspect of my work as attractive displays encourage customers, which of course, leads to higher sales. I deliver to small independent retailers and also chains like Cost Cutter, Spa, Vivo and Musgrave. I get sent regular new business leads from Card Connection's head office and when I have interest like this, I always aim to visit the retailer the following day. I believe that providing this level of service is one of the keys to running a successful business.

'One of the advantages of the greeting card market is that it is essentially a recession proof industry. However, with tough economic times anticipated for some time to come it is essential to continue to provide the highest quality merchandising service to my valued retail customers. To this end, Card Connection has introduced a number of innovative ideas including electronic hand held terminals, which calculate stock levels and produce invoices automatically. This has allowed franchise owners to cut down on admin so we can spend more time with our customers.

'So far I am delighted with how my Card Connection franchise has grown even in these challenging economic times. The quality of the products, the merchandising service and the consignment system is really popular and this has been largely behind my success so far. Each day my small team works hard but we have the satisfaction of knowing, like anyone who runs their own businesses, that the rewards are ours to keep.'