Greeting card giant Hallmark heads for 2nd century

Online age a hurdle

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While Facebook recently reached its 500-million-member mark, “an estimated 6 billion paper greeting cards were exchanged last year in the U.S.,” says Hallmark spokeswoman Linda Odell.

Overall greeting cards sales in the U.S. account for about $7.5 billion in business, according to the Greeting Card Association, a national trade group based in White Plains, N.Y. The GCA said in comparison, an estimated 500 million e-cards were sent each year. American Greetings, Hallmark’s chief rival, said its sales remain strong.

Jim Sinclair, who owns 31 Hallmark stores mostly in Indiana, said Hallmark’s sound cards, recordable greeting cards and other innovative cards have attracted younger people.

“I think we’re making inroads there. But that’s certainly the opportunity we need to seize to drive our business in the years to come, to get that younger clientele in the door,” Mr. Sinclair said.

Pam Danziger, who analyzes the greeting card industry as president of Stevens, Pa.-based Unity Marketing, said Hallmark will likely have to change some aspects of how it does business to stay viable. One move could involve cutting down on its manufacturing investments and large art staff, she said.

Hallmark’s 700 artists include writers, photographers, and more at the company’s Kansas City headquarters and make up one of the country’s largest in-house creative staffs.

“The whole model of today’s greeting card industry is really a 20th-century model where there’s mass printing and writers and poets,” Miss Danziger said.

Miss West, of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, said while social-networking sites could be eroding card usage, it has yet to be determined how young people will “age into card sending.”

The constancy of electronic communication could actually be the impetus behind what Miss West sees as a “new romance with tangible media.”

“Even if you don’t like the card that much, you know the person left their house, went to the store and had to select the card and mail it,” she said. “Now that seems like a lot of work.”

Tanya Adams, 38, was visiting Kansas City recently from her home in San Diego and had just bought a pop-up 40th birthday card at a Hallmark store. She said she prefers paper cards to e-mail or other electronic greetings.

“I’d much rather get a Christmas card that I’ll look at 50 times,” she said. “Otherwise, an e-mail or whatever, I’d just forget about it.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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