The Greeting Card Dilemma

Has sending greeting cards become passe?  I can’t help but notice that we just don’t send greeting cards like we used to. In the days of old (um..just a few years ago), it was part of the holiday ritual to pick up a box of greeting cards to send across the miles or across town conveying our best wishes for a Happy Holiday Season. We dutifully addressed and stamped our cheerfully signed greetings making sure they were mailed in time to arrive before Christmas.  Nowadays many greeting cards have been replaced by electronic messages that announce their arrival onto the screens of smart phones, iPads and other media devices starting in the wee hours of the morning on Christmas Day .  These greetings from friends and family begin even earlier on social media like Twitter and Facebook with enthusiastic and heartfelt tweets and postings of Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

What does this all mean for greeting cards?  Are they on the seeming path to extinction like book stores and DVDs? According to an article in the Chicago Tribune last December, the fading practice of sending Christmas cards is collateral damage of the digital age.  Christmas card sales have slowed since 2005 and declined even more between 2009-2010.  A study of the 20-30- something Y generation revealed that they are not too keen on sending things like thank you notes and RSVPs.  In the minds of researchers this doesn’t bode well for the future of  Christmas card greetings.  Younger generations have simply grown up in an environment where communications are electronic and instant, making older ways of communicating seem inefficient and generally a waste of time.

The number of Christmas cards sent by Americans in 2009 was approximately 1.8 billion and that number fell to about 1.5 billion in 2010.  It is unlikely that a miraculous recovery will take place anytime soon with further declines expected in the number of greeting cards sold and mailed in 2011 and in upcoming years.  However, the tradition of sending holiday greeting cards will surely be around for some time to come.  According to the Greeting Card Association, More than 2 billion boxed and individual Christmas cards were sold in the U.S. in 2010, this is very good news for the greeting card industry.

The range of options available for communicating our wishes for Happy Holidays and Seasons Greetings continue to expand giving consumers many choices.  Sending greeting cards with lengthy family updates have given way to e-cards, collages, streaming video and many other e-options.  With so many options to choose from, we should never underestimate the pure delight of receiving a beautiful signed Christmas card followed by a text on Christmas morning with wishes for a Merry Christmas!  This just might be the best of both worlds.

Best Holiday Greetings!


Greeting Card Facts

  • Americans purchase 7 billion greeting cards every year. Annual retail sales of greeting cards are estimated at more than $7.5 billion.
  • The average person receives more than 20 greeting cards in a year, about one-third of which are birthday cards.
  • The exchange of greeting cards is one of the most popular and widely accepted customs in the United States. There are cards for virtually any occasion or relationship.
  • Nine out of 10 U.S. households buy greeting cards, with the average household purchasing 30 individual cards in a year.
  • Women purchase an estimated 80% of all greeting cards. Women spend more time choosing a card than men, and are more likely to buy several cards at once and to pay attention to the price. Men generally focus on buying one card for a specific occasion, and are unlikely to consider cost a key purchasing factor.
  • Greeting card prices can vary from 50 cents to $10. The cost of a typical counter card, however, is between $2 and $4. Cards featuring special techniques, intricate designs and new technologies are at the top of the price scale.
  • There are more than 3,000 greeting card publishers in the United States, ranging from individual studios and small family-run companies to major corporations.
  • There are two categories of greeting cards – Seasonal and Everyday.
  • Total card sales are split approximately 50-50 between the Seasonal and Everyday categories.
  • The most popular Everyday cards are birthday cards, which account for more than half of all Everyday card sales, followed by wedding/anniversary, get well/sympathy, and friendship/encouragement cards.
  • The most popular Seasonal cards are Christmas and holiday cards, which account for more than 60% of all Seasonal card sales, followed by Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation cards.
  • Electronic greeting cards (e-cards) are popular with Americans of all ages because they are casual, fun and spontaneous. Worldwide, an estimated 500 million e-cards are sent each year.
  • More than 2 billion boxed and individual Christmas cards were sold in the U.S. last year.
  • The card publishers belonging to the Greeting Card Association account for nearly 95 percent of U.S. industry sales.
  • Greeting cards can be purchased almost anywhere. Approximately 100,000 retail outlets around the country sell greeting cards.
  • Giving a greeting card creates a lasting impression and emotional bond between sender and receiver. In a national survey for the Greeting Card Association, nearly one-third of respondents said they keep the special cards they receive “forever.”
  • E-cards often supplement traditional card sending, and are frequently sent as a spur-of-the-moment gesture or for an occasion too informal for a traditional card. Because consumers rarely send e-cards in place of a traditional card, the availability of e-cards has expanded overall card-sending.

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