The Card Centre

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by The Card Centre's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from The Card Centre is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Director John Barratt
Typical window display
The Card Centre, based in Felixstowe, was acquired in
1947 by Managing Director John Barratt’s parents. At
that time, they ran the store as a confectionery shop and
tobacconist’s, with a small section for cards. John came into the
business in the mid-1970s and ran it jointly with his parents. His
father retired in the 1980s, and his mother in the 2000s; John
now runs one of the largest independent card retailers in East
Anglia. He tells
The Parliamentary Review
Over the years, we have consistently managed the shop with three guiding
principles: service, choice and price. They are all salient, but the one of paramount
importance to us is service.
Good service is synonymous with good staff. We have been, and still are, so very
fortunate in having excellent employees: hand-picked and knowledgeable. They
must be knowledgeable because in order to provide that service we’re renowned
for, one has to know the difference between a Rolls-Royce and an Alvis, a whippet
and a greyhound or a Monet and a Renoir – or even, as has happened recently,
between a male and a female guinea pig.
Memory too is crucial as we have to know from which company any given
card originated, and where it can be located in our display. We deal with over
80 suppliers, from the large to the very small. We also try to encourage local
artists and photographers by not only stocking their merchandise but also by, on
occasion, commissioning work.
»Director: John Barratt
»Founded in 1934
»Based in Felixstowe, Suffolk
»Services: Independent retail of
greeting cards
»No. of employees: 10 part-time
»John’s parents took over the
store in 1947, and turned it
into a confectionery shop and
tobacconist’s, with a small
number of cards
The Card Centre
Highlighting best practice
Community and the
We support local organisations
wherever possible, especially in the
musical, theatrical and artistic fields
– including the new and growing
Felixstowe Book Festival.
For the past 25 years, we have
commissioned an artist to produce a
local Christmas view every year; we
consequently have this printed and then
donate the entire profits to The League
of Friends of the FelixstoweHospital.
We are passionate about the
environment and wherever possible
source cards, stationery and packaging
from recycled materials. In 2013, we
were very pleased to receive an award
for best independent card shop in East
Anglia by Progressive Greetings, an
excellent organisation who do sterling
work promoting the card industry.
We have also been judges for the
prestigious Henries awards for the past
seven years running, which are held at
the Grosvenor House Hotel, London.
Above all else, we remember one
key thing throughout our work – a
greeting card received through the
post can bring so much joy and
pleasure to so many people.
Fears and concerns for the
Business investment, consumer
confidence and indeed customer
morale have certainly been dented
over the past year, with the uncertainty
over the British exit from the European
Union and the complete ineptitude of
parliament being the two major issues.
Leadership on all sides has been woefully
inadequate, and the government itself
has been seemingly held hostage by
a minority and retrograde right wing
which appears to have lost touch
with the business community that it
proclaims to champion.
In the wake of this terrible political
circumstance, there has been a
noticeable decline in the footfall in
the high street, the malaise of which
is another concern. The blame for
this, in our opinion, lies in three
Firstly, government. If the high street
is to survive in anything like its present
form, and we fervently hope it will,
government needs to make a level
playing field between it, the internet and
out-of-town shopping developments.
Secondly, councils. Car parking has
become increasingly expensive, and
public transport, especially in our rural
areas, is less frequent and close to
non-existent. Businesses would benefit
if a short period of free time in central
car parks was to be allowed.
Thirdly, business itself. We feel that big
business has become too greedy and
too impersonal; high streets, particularly
in smaller towns, are the lifeblood
of the community. Independents by
their very nature reflect in their wares
Interior of shop
A greeting
card received
through the
post can bring
so much joy
and pleasure
to so many
the idiosyncrasies and personal taste
of their owners, evoking the true
character of the community
To save
something so important, landlords
must be reined in and a policy of rent
restriction needs to be implemented
Some landlords seem more content
to see businesses close rather than to
accept reduced minimum rental fees.
To lose the independent shops is to
lose the individuality of a town; of
course, multinational companies have
their place, but so many of these are
now closing branches without paying
any regard – as has happened here in
Felixstowe – to local opinion and needs.
Profit alone has become many
organisations’ sole reason for being, and
this has been fuelled by the sensationalist
British media which creates its own
news. Obviously, profit is essential for a
business to survive, but it cannot really
be realistic or necessary to keep on
increasing it year-on-year just for the
benefit of directors and shareholders.
A business should be there to provide
a service, and it must be an intrinsic
part of its local community to truly
add value. This is now something
sadly lacking from many British high
streets; we believe that independent
shops and a thriving high street are
vital components to any great British
town. There needs to be a radical new
approach to these problems.
We find it very worrying that the
younger generation continue buying on
the internet and communicating through
social media; many of them have
seemingly lost the art of conversation
– a vital element of the health of the
human psyche. This does not bode
well for their future mental state, and
the isolation which it generates is
perhaps the start of a decline in the
social wellbeing of the country.
The high street is a noted social leveller,
and it is with grave concern that
we witness the growing number of
homeless in our town centres, even in
the provinces. We are the fifth-richest
country in the world, and 14 per cent
of our population live on or below the
poverty line – this is scandalous.
It would be wonderful to think that
Ruskin’s maxim of “wealth is life” could
be followed in his bicentenary year.
High streets,
particularly in
smaller towns,
are the
lifeblood of
Current members of

This article was sponsored by The Card Centre. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Michael Gove.

Rt Hon Michael Gove's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Michael Gove

This year's Parliamentary Review comes at a momentous time for parliament, as we collectively determine the destiny of the United Kingdom. 

On October 31, the UK will leave the European Union. The successful implementation of this process is this government's number-one priority.

Three years after a historic referendum vote, we will deliver on the decisive mandate from the British people. Trust in our democracy depends on it. Until that final hour, we will work determinedly and diligently to negotiate a deal, one that abolishes the backstop and upholds the warm and close relationship we share with our friends, allies and neighbours in the EU. But in the event that the EU refuses to meet us at the table, we must be prepared to leave without a deal.

As the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, it is my job to lead on this government's approach, should that scenario happen. Preparing for Brexit is my department's driving mission. But while I am leading this turbocharged effort, the whole of government is committed to this endeavour.

Ministers across Whitehall are working together to ensure that every possibility is considered, every plan is scrutinised and every provision is made. A daily drumbeat of meetings means that we are holding departments accountable, so that preparations are completed on time.

The chancellor has confirmed that all necessary funding will be made available. And we have mobilised thecivil service, assigning 15,000 of our most talented civil servants to manage our exit from the EU.

We will make sure that on November 1, there is as little disruption to national life as possible. Our trade relationships will continue to thrive, thanks to agreements with countries around the world worth £70 billion. Our country will remain secure, thanks to nearly 1,000 new officers posted at our borders. And the 3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us can remain confident, with absolute certainty, of their right to remain in the UK.

Above all, our goal is to be transparent. Soon, we will launch a public information campaign so that citizens, communities and businesses are ready and reassured about what will happen in the event of “no deal”.

In my first few weeks in this role, I have travelled to ports and tarmacs, borders and bridges, all across the UK –from the seaside of Dover to the rolling green hills of County Armagh. I have heard from business owners and border officials, farmers and hauliers. They are ready to put an end to uncertainty. And they are ready to embrace the opportunities ahead.

Our departure from the EU will be a once in a lifetime chance to chart a new course for the United Kingdom. Preparing for that new course will be a herculean effort. But this country has made astounding efforts before. We can do it again.
Rt Hon Michael Gove
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster