January 2, 2021 • Debbie Eisele
Are Greeting Cards Essential?
An accurate reflection of any American market can be found in comparable markets in other countries. And when it comes to greeting cards, the British are interesting to consider since they send more cards than any other country, according to Ofcom. Let’s put our collective jealousy aside momentarily to check out their current situation, namely, one in which COVID-19 has been shutting card shops down. Note that the UK is also unlike the US in that “specialists,” as they call independent shops, are still the main locales for cards.
So, what is a letter-writing, locked-down country to do? Initiated by Rumit Shah, director of the Cards Galore chain of stores, The Greeting Cards Are Essential Campaign makes a push that card and gift shops be classified as ‘essential’ and are thus allowed to reopen. Other major players — retail shops Cardzone, Cards Galore, Scribbler and Card Factory and the independent buying group Cardgains — as well as the British Greeting Card Association (GCA) and the trade publication Progressive Greetings, joined the effort.
“It seems so wrong that our sector is being so unfairly penalized, especially given findings that ‘non-essential’ retailers have not contributed to the spread of the pandemic in the UK,” Amanda Fergusson, GCA CEO, was quoted in PG Buzz.net.
I so admire this concerted effort, and as such I’m watching this story unfold closely. Thank you George White, president of the American GCA for bringing this to my attention. He reached out to me in early November, and by November 10, Shah had created a petition that not just card shops, but all specialty shops remain open as long as they adhere to safety measures. Once 10,000 signatures are collected, the government will respond; if 100,000 are collected, the matter will be considered for debate in Parliament.
While wishing them all the luck in the world, I can’t help but wrestle with the main question here: Are greeting cards essential? Perhaps not in the same way as food and clothing, but for me the issue evokes the early 20th century suffragette slogan demanding “bread and roses” — that is, sustenance, but something sweet as well.
In Britain’s case, that “something sweet” is human contact and connection, something we’re all sorely missing — and that’s absolutely essential. So it’s fitting that in this, our inaugural Lifestyle Issue, I am kicking off with the idea that cards and stationery elevate our lives and summon our best selves. Without them, the world would definitely lack dimension and spirit — and to me, that’s most essential!