What’s to come of the Greeting Card?

Blurred image of a greeting card display.

While cordial forms of digital messaging are growing ever more powerful in today’s era, it seems there is still a consistent need for physical greeting cards, and a seven to eight billion-dollar-a-year industry (just in America) is pretty definitive proof. Europe actually represents the largest greeting card market worldwide, with most of the credit going to the staggering amount of purchases made by the United Kingdom. And Asia-Pacific is sure to be a contender in the years ahead. But, for this report, we will be examining the runner-up, the second highest purchaser of this hot commodity, the good ole’ US of A.

Commanding categories

Over six billion cards are sold annually in the United States, 50% of these being seasonal occasions and the other 50% spread out among personal or “everyday” occasions. At the top of the seasonal list is, of course, Christmas and other holiday cards (accounting for more than 60% of seasonal sales). Trailing behind are Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day. Graduation cards also fall under the seasonal category and still command a pretty steady market. Additional seasonal occasions include, but are not limited to, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and St. Patrick’s Day – in order from the greatest number of units purchased to the least.  The majority of everyday sales go to birthdays, followed by sympathy cards and ‘thank you’ cards, with many other categories following in their wake, like wedding-based cards, ‘get well’ cards, new baby, and congratulations.

The consumer decides

Though greeting card sales have only increased for online retailers selling classic messages once found solely in storefronts, the global market is projected to decline by 2020. Contradictory to this research, a significant portion of card buyers say they will actually increase their purchasing habits in upcoming years. Only time will tell. Many attribute their thoughts on a potential decline in the greeting card market to ever-increasing digital technologies, higher postage costs, do-it-yourself software, and e-cards, which are still lagging far behind actual greeting cards, with about 500,000 million sent each year. Still, a good portion of the population has reported that they consider traditional greeting cards a pretty essential aspect of their lives, especially women, who are responsible for an estimated 80% of the purchases.

In the United States, approximately nine out of every ten households purchase greeting cards, with the number typically ringing in at 30 or more cards per home. And with over 3,000 greeting card distributors dealing their own versions of this traditional token of goodwill, Americans have a lot of choices.

Industry hipsters

While you might think that much of the greeting card market goes to more traditional and seasoned adults, it is actually the younger adult generations that are showing the most interest. Tired of an era dominated by high-tech correspondences, it is the aim of these newer generations to establish more personal and lasting connections. While social media tools like Facebook have allowed us to recognize the important occasions of others in vast numbers quickly, it still hasn’t come close to replacing physical greeting cards.

The greeting card industry fights back

To combat the continued emergence of new digital trends, greeting card companies initiate their own counter-attacks, pushing the financial advantages and convenient uses of boxed card sets, the benefits of greeting cards as a promotional business tool, and the personability of personalized photo cards. These stances have posed as valid arguments for purchase, and continue to gain acceptance among consumers.

Another trend that seems to be catching on more and more is luxury handmade greeting cards. One company, Gilded Age Greetings, uses in-house artisans to craft exclusive greeting cards that sell for hundreds of dollars apiece, utilizing precious stones, metals, and superior quality inks. The company Lovepop is gaining popularity with their intricate three-dimensional card designs sold at a much lower price point of about $13. Though, as a relatively new company, their selection is rather limited.

For some money is no object, but for others increased greeting card costs, caused by factors such as rising wood pulp prices, may be enough reason to replace certain occasions with a digital salutation. Once again, only time will tell. That is why many greeting card companies choose to take the middle ground, offering a bit of everything at a price most can afford. And while the top greeting card companies are still associated with names like Hallmark and American Greetings, which also produces brands like Papyrus, new companies continue to emerge, creating some interesting competition. Moo, Minted, and CardsDirect are all businesses that place high importance on customization, offering customers highly personal cards that they help design themselves. For a more eco-friendly card, you can go with Recycled Paper Greetings. For a more artistic card try Galison. It all depends on what you are looking for. Some greeting card companies cater to customers looking to reach out to family and friends, while other companies are geared more toward businesses. But one thing is sure, for all these companies, as the years advance, fluctuations in the market will be a continual motivator for their unceasing adaptation to the wants and needs of the consumer. From new materials, new products, and expanded content to craftier creation, marketing techniques, and product implementation, greeting card companies will continue to fight for their existence, because if the industry is going down, it will not go down without a fight. Though odds are, neither you nor I will be around to see the extinction of the greeting card, in the slight chance that it does happen.