Our History

CCA Occasions is one of Britain’s Largest producers of printed personalised products.

Its title comes from the initials of the Christmas Card Association which began trading in the early years of the of the 20th century.

The move to its present premises in 1985 was regarded as ‘ a confident investment in the future’. Just how that confidence was justified is seen in the two major expansions, carried out during the first five years, which have increased the working area by over 50%.

The investment continues -  in technology, in new products and, above all, in people who will take CCA Stationery confidently into the 21st century.

Christmas cards as we know them today date from around the mid-19th century, coinciding with advances in printing machinery and techniques. By the 1900s they had become very big business and Preston was something of a centre for the greeting card industry; it has remained so to the present day.

In 1906 a group of manufactures of personalised Christmas cards set up a marketing venture and on the 18th December the Christmas Card Association Limited was incorporated; in the following year, John Walmsley, grandfather of the present Managing director, joined as a company secretary.

By 1911 the company was supplying its own personal Christmas cards and the brand name POPULAR was established. The collection was sold, as it is today, through retail outlets where the customer chooses from a sample album distributed by the company; it was also offered by household agents who, like mail order agents today, visited customers in their homes and work places of work.

John Walmsley acquired control of the Christmas Card Association in 1917 and it has remained a family business ever since. As the years went by he was joined by his sons, Charles, Harold and eventually John; sadly Harold died in 1939 and John was not be a victim of World War 11.

John Walmsley continued as managing director until 1942- a quarter of a century of steady growth and consolidation.

In 1943 Charles Herbert Walmsley became Managing Director. Like his father before him, he took over a company during the dark and difficult period of a wartime Britain. Many of the skilled workforce were serving in the armed forces and, with much of the paper still produced being required for more essential use, this was a period for holding on – to ensure a sound footing for the company in the expansion that would follow after the war.

During the 1950s there were many changes in production and marketing, leading to what are now established company practices. Amongst these changes was a major development in the introduction of full colour on almost all Christmas cards. Previously, colour pictures were printed separately by outside printers and tipped on to the cards with glue. With the rapid growth of colour printing by offset-litho, the company installed it’s own colour presses and no longer had to buy in ‘tip-ons’. With freedom from restrictions of the separate illustrations, colour could now be integrated into the design of the card.

During this period there was a decline in the practice of selling through household agents and all efforts were concentrated on the promotion of the POPULAR range through retail outlets, to whom full company support was given.

Probably the most important development since the war was the induction of personalised wedding stationery in 1956. It grew out of personalised wedding stationery in 1956. It grew out of need to offset the seasonal nature of the Christmas card business and, with the peak season for weddings occurring in the Spring and early Summer, the ideal solution was found. Production could be maintained at more or less full capacity throughout the year.

Taking for its title the long established and well known name POPULAR, the new range was launched and a POPULAR collection of wedding stationary continues to the present day.

In 1958 Charles Herbert Walmsley became seriously ill and could no longer continue the running of the company. His son David, having just completed his university studies, was faced with the formidable task of taking over as managing director. He was fortunate in having a nucleus of wise and experienced people to help and guide him. The continuation of the Christmas Card Association was assured.

During the 1960s changing fashion led to a decline in the demand for personalised Christmas cards, with several competitors being forced to leave the business. Fortunately for the company, demand for wedding stationery was increasing steadily. Also a selection of personalised notepaper, later to become a major product range, was introduced during this period. For a short time trade with the Commonwealth was revived but the imposition of strict controls soon made this uneconomical.

In 1972 the Christmas Card Association became CCA Stationery Limited, reflecting the change of emphasis in its expanding range of products. The expansion has continued with further collections of wedding stationery introduced to appeal to a wider and growing market. In addition to the selection of personal notepapers, the company has introduced a wide range of business cards and a further range of stationery for special occasions and social functions.

The personalised Christmas card is back in demand and another five collections have been added to the original POPULAR range, including HELP charity cards. An important area for growth has been in the production of ‘Own Brand’ collections – contributing to the company’s pre-eminent position as leading supplier of personalised stationery to the major retail chain outlets. We are going through another revolution in communication and information technology and, wherever it takes us in the immediate future. CCA Stationery will be in the forefront.

Location and Communications

For much of it’s history the town of Preston has enjoyed good communications with the rest of the country. Roughly half way between London and Glasgow, Preston was once a main staging post on the road to Scotland. It is now connected to a network of motorways linking the major cities and towns in the north of England. Birmingham and the midlands are only a little further down the M6.

As the administrative headquarters for the County of Lancashire, with all it’s associated services, Preston has always been more than just another northern mill town. It’s prosperity has been based upon a wide diversity of industries.


Preston is within easy reach of the Fylde Coast, the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Wales coast. On the doorstep are the Bowland Fells and the so far unspoilt charms of the Ribble Valley. All types of sporting activities – from wind surfing to pot – holing, fishing to parachuting are within a 90 minute drive.

Central Lancashire New Town

In 1971 the area bounded by Preston in the north, Chorley in the south, Leyland to the west and by the M6 and M61 motorways to the east, was designated a new town. The Central Lancashire Development Corporation was formed and an extensive program of house building, urban renewal and creation of new employment areas was started. That program is now complete and it is on one of the designated industrial areas that CCA Stationery has its factory.

CCA Stationery, Eastway, Preston

In 1966 the company moved from Nelson Street, where it had been since the 1920s, to a larger premises in Stanley Street and in 1973 a further local move had taken it to Maitland street. Ten years later shortage of space was again a problem and a decision to build a new factory was taken in the autumn of 1983.

A site was chosen on the north east edge of the town, well situated close to the motorway yet with good access to the town centre. It also satisfied the first and main requirement – space to build and land for future expansion. In keeping with the family tradition, it was essential to create a comfortable working environment. airy, well-lit, warm in winter and cool in summer, with first class canteen facilities and leisure areas for off duty periods.

Production layout, from the delivery of raw materials to the collection of the finished article by the Post Office, was planned on one floor.

The factory came into use in January 1985 and it was not long before the next extension was considered. Growth in business required an increase in the  production area and by 1987 a further 30,000 sq. ft were added.

Before long the next phase was being put into action. A new packing and despatch department was to be built, the office and administration area was to be enlarged and a new canteen, welfare and off-duty facilities created. Two new staff training rooms, an enlarged design studio and conference room were planned as well as a visitors’ dining room and a nursery for children of two years and upwards. This would be run by qualified staff for the use of CCA employees and by arrangement those of neighbouring firms.

The new premises would release much needed space for expansion in the production area, the general office, computer and marketing departments.

All has been completed as we enter the 1990s with the building approximately 150,000 sq. ft or some 50% larger than at the time of the company move in 1985.

Today’s Products

In the anonymous world of mass production the demand for the personal touch is greater than ever. CCA products offer a wide choice of designs, wording and type styles in which each individual message is unique to the sender. In co-operation with companies in Europe and the United State, CCA is able to bring to it’s own collections some of the best from overseas.

Wedding Stationery

As the market for wedding stationery has grown, so has the choice of material offered. A wide variety of decorative papers and boards are used to produce everything from the wedding invitation, to the evening celebration, reply and acknowledgement cards. Other items include order of service, serviettes, cake boxes, bridal notepaper and books of matches.

There are seven collections of wedding stationery to chose from, each with its own distinctive style and personality. Offering the widest range of styles for the widest taste.

HARMONY - as the name suggests, comprises matching sets of all the requirements for the wedding. Each set is displayed on a double page of the album and includes invitations, orders of service, place cards, serviette rings and bridal note paper.

PRELUDE - with its distinctive image, features more unusual designs and materials- also in sets. The collection will appeal particularly to the younger modern bride.

SERENADE - offers co-ordinated sets with quite a different personality. It is a delightfully romantic and informal collection with a choice of exclusive designs from the best in American wedding stationery.

POPULAR - The Popular collection was the first wedding stationery, introduced in 1956. It now offers a comprehensive list of items with a wide selection of essentially traditional designs.

SONATA - is a more recent addition to the range, featuring delicate Italian designs with unusually subtle papers and boards. The romantic theme of the invitations is echoed in fully matching envelopes, place cards and orders of service.

MARRIAGE LINES - has been created to offer a range of simple but impeccably designed wedding stationery based upon fine printing and materials of the highest quality.

Finally, for the budget conscious customer, CCA created the SERIES SIX collection: attractive modern designs for the less elaborate ceremony.

Christmas Cards

At present CCA produces six collections of personalised Christmas Cards.

The POPULAR range has been in continuous production since 1911 and offers a large collection of cards printed from designs chosen to suit a wide variety of tastes.

From the earliest times artists have found inspiration in the festival of Christmas. CCA has chosen some of the best- loved examples for its ARTISTS AT CHRISTMAS collection.

REALMS OF GOLD is a glittering collection of personalised Christmas cards richly decorated, with extensive use of gold and silver and supplied with foil lined envelopes.

The HELP collection of charity cards is entirely produced by CCA and combines the appeal of personalised Christmas cards with the opportunity of giving to 33 different charities.

The ROYLE collection represents a selection of cards of the highest quality featuring reproductions from the work of leading contemporary artists the cards are produced by another respected publisher and personalised by CCA.

Finally, the LING collection represents the latest co-operation with another distinguished publisher and offers a fascinating range of decorative Christmas cards.

Personalised Stationery

The SIGNATURE range of personalised stationery provides for various personal and business requirements and is presented in three separate albums. The first offers a selection of fine quality personal notepapers with a wide choice of typestyles and matching envelopes. A large number of different styles of business card, including foil printing and photographic cards, are displayed in the second volume whilst the third includes all kinds of items for special occasions and social functions.

Preparation of the sample books is of vital importance to the presentation of the collection to the customer. Wedding stationery, Christmas card and personalised stationery collections are constantly being up-dated.


Management is simply structured for the most efficient running of the company with Board members responsible for specific areas of control. Managing Director Davis Walmsley and Managing Director Designate Bill Cockcroft work closely together to control the overall strategy of the of the company together with its administration and finance.

Design Director Christine Walmsley is responsible for the selection of designs to be included in the collections, compilation of the albums and contact outside artists and designers.

Derek Moorhouse as Sales and Marketing Director is in constant contact with retail outlets throughout the country and controls a busy marketing department servicing the requirements of customers; he is also very much concerned with the development of new markets.

Works director Roy Grant has ultimate responsibility for the company’s technical development programme and for the production of its hundreds of items for Christmas cards and stationery; he also  has responsibility for the provision of an efficient and safe working environment.

Operations director Roger Preston plans and controls the execution of the thousands of orders which come to the company each week; it is his role to ensure that they are printed accurately and returned to the customer as quickly as possible.

Each director is aided in his task by a team of able enthusiastic managers devoted to seeing that each department runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible in its all important role of service to the customer.

For the average person the amount of time spent at work is such that the physical conditions and general atmosphere will play an important part in determining the quality of that person’s life. CCA is known locally – and in the trade – as a good place to work. A clean and friendly environment with a fair reward for work done, has always been a strongly - held principle. A tour of the new premises quickly confirms that this principle has been followed and reinforced.

Design and Planning

What determines the popularity of a particular design? Why should one Christmas card sell in the hundreds of thousands and another merely a tenth of that figure or, for that matter, a wedding invitation card designed more than a decade ago continue to be among the best sellers?

Such questions are considered as new collections are prepared and new designs included. It is the job of the design committee to review creative policy and to approve proposed items. Much of the design and artwork originates in the studio and is the responsibility of Design Director Christine Walmsley with Product Manager Helyn Kenyon, Studio Manager Nick Cook and four artists.

Additional work comes from various sources including established artists and their agents and from transparency libraries. Overseas designs and materials are regularly reviewed with the possibility of inclusion in the collections.

Albums presenting the collection at the point of sale are designed in the studio and prepared in the factory. Some 80,000 of these sample books are produced each year for the service of more than 10,000 retail outlets. The studio is also responsible for all material that presents the company’s image - from display units and posters to recruitment advertising in the local paper.


A glance through CCA range quickly gives an indication of the very wide variety of materials and processes employed in production. Paper and boards of different weights, textures and colours, gold and silver foil, metallic and standard printing inks, all must be calculated according to projected print runs and sufficient stocks held to allow for additional manufacturing.

Stock Manufacture

A stock of every card and item in the entire range is kept in sufficient quantities, ready for personalising as the orders are received. However, demand sometimes exceeds expectations and the stock production department, which thrives on this sort of situation, may be faced with the challenge of producing a Christmas Card reprint run within three or four days.

A range of such diversity calls for an equally impressive variety of printing skills. Many items incorporate more than one skill in the production, for example, of embossing and foil printing.

A new dark room with computerised camera and automatic film processor ensures the quality of platemaking on the premises. In addition to a range of ‘Solna’ offset litho presses, a larger format Heidelberg Speedmaster is able to print five colours, or four colours plus a varnish, in one pass at a rate of up to 11,000 sheets per hour. The Speedmaster features sophisticated electronic control including a cassette facility for storing ink settings, reducing make – ready time.

Other material may be printed on a single or two- colour litho press. Many cards include cutout shapes and embossing where dies and cutters are made from artwork. The combination of foil printing and embossing has become very much a CCA speciality and is featured on many of the most successful designs.

The introduction of the REALMS OF GOLD selection has added considerably to the demand for this type of card and printing capacity has been increased to cope. To an already enlarged section of the specially adapted Heidelberg letterpress machines, the latest Swiss – made Gietz foil blocking and embossing press has been added. It has the advantage of being compatible with the five colour Speedmaster in paper sheet size, as well as working at high speeds.

Processing the order

The order starts with the retailer where the customer, having made a choice from the wide selection shown in the sample books, decides on appropriate wording and style. Details of the order are noted on the CCA order pads and forwarded to the company.

It has entered a system that has been perfected over millions of orders and is designed to ensure that, on the countdown to the wedding or Christmas or simply arranging for new stationery, there is one less thing to worry about.  

The order arrives by post, or increasingly by FAX, and is passed to scrutineers for checking. All the information, together with the retailers accounts details, is entered onto the computer which classifies the order according to subject, style and typesetting and ultimately produces the invoice and delivery label. From the computer the copy may take two routes depending on printing requirements; it may be transferred electronically to highly sophisticated typesetters producing film for plate making or direct to  plate material; alternatively perforated tape for automatic ‘hot metal’ setting may be produced.

Readers check the proofs for literal errors and for style and layout before printing, by one of several processes, directly on to the stock material or on to inserts.

The contrast between the two printing departments is striking; in one there is the long-run printing, usually well in advance, of the stock material – in the other a large number of small runs of personalised copy to be processed immediately. The investment in new technology is equally important in both departments.

In the finishing department cards are folded and inserts are added by hand or by machine. Again, company investment policy is well illustrated with the new folding machines and three rows of inserting machines.

The printed material, together with the envelopes, is carefully checked against the order before passing into the new packing area and collection by the GPO.

The whole process, from receipt of the order to mailing the finished product, will take on average no more than five working days.

Customer Services

An experienced team of customer Service personnel, each handling and in direct contact with a given number of accounts, is responsible to the sales and marketing Director Derek Moorhouse. With all the information on each order keyed into the computer, any query can be referred to on a visual display screen, copy changes dealt with, delivery confirmed and any other enquires answered immediately.


No matter how efficient the system, the future prosperity of the company must come from the quality of the service provided and involvement of every member of the staff at each stage of the production. The involvement has made CCA Stationery the foremost manufacturer of personalised Wedding stationery in the country, the leading supplier of personalised stationery to major retail outlets and one of the top three producers of personalised Christmas cards and notepapers.


            Designed and produced by Dennis McGrath.

                 Photography by Anthony Price

                  Printed by CCA Stationery Ltd.