April 17, 2024 • Sarah Schwartz
The Urge to Splurge: When luxury spending slides, details and experiences assume center stage

Hawaii Fine Stationers

The personal luxury market’s wild ride, rising almost 30% between 2019 and 2023, is apparently over. Bain and Company reported that while its $301 billion 2019 size dramatically dropped in 2020, it recovered and climbed 20% to a gargantuan $373 billion in 2022. Unfortunately, it sputtered in 2023 to grow just 4%, settling at $387 billion.

While affluent luxury customers are most shielded from inflation and other economic swings, Pam Danziger of Unity Marketing predicted luxury market growth will slow, even contract, in 2024. Furthermore, she cites a perception among post-pandemic consumers that some luxury brands have failed to deliver high quality commensurate with price increases, tarnishing the reputation of the entire category.

Why am I referring to stationery and gifts as a luxury? To many inflation- weary consumers, $8 for a letterpress card or $25 for a candle feels like a luxury, even if the item in question is fairly priced at a straight keystone.

So, what’s a humble card and gift shop to do? Engage and entertain by telling brand stories, both your own as well as those you stock, urged Danziger. Keep heightened customer service and personalization front and center. Make sure the price/value equation of every last SKU remains elevated, and start framing digital marketing as a tool to interact with your clientele in meaningful ways. As other types of stores realize the value of in-person experiences, use your existing savvy to fill your shop calendar with can’t- miss events.

But store visits can’t be special without plenty of spellbinding merchandise. For that, enjoy this style update across the baby, bridal, gift/ home and holiday categories.


What’s Hot: “The baby market is full of so much beauty right now,” enthused Traci Bixby of Mossy Blue Paper Studio. “Celestial and outdoor themes are huge, as are woodland and forest creatures. [There’s a] sense of slowing down and celebrating the natural world, of staying in the moment. Deep, bold and moody colors are at the forefront with dreamy highlight colors. Mountains, trees, moons and stars bring a sense of wonder and magic.”

Tried & True: “Florals and greenery are still very popular,” pointed out Lynn Lundberg, creative director, Carlson Craft. “We especially love all the vintage floral motifs and soft watercolors currently in the market. They’re perfect for baby shower invites or birth announcements. We’re watching a new minimalist trend where the focus is on the baby’s photo(s), and the baby’s name is displayed prominently in modern typography formats on a white background. [This echoes] minimalist-inspired open floor plans for the nursery as well as furniture with arching lines or edges that blend seamlessly with other areas of the home.”

“Sweet and dreamy colors like soft blues, greens and rose tones are always tried and true,” added Bixby. “[So are] elements that inspire a sense of wonder and magic and comforting, serene colors that make the nursery a calm and cozy space.”

Also Look for: Gender-neutral earth tones and warm, soft palettes like rust, beige and shades of green. For design themes, think woodland animals, bears, mushrooms, Western elements and of course safari animals. “We’re also noticing that arches — either as a die cut or within the art itself, for example, florals forming an arch — have remained quite popular in baby as well as other occasions,” noted Lundberg.

Designer Quote: “New baby gifting, whether for a shower or the announcement of a baby on the way, is the second highest spend next to wedding gifts. There is a wide consumer range that will purchase baby gifts, from coworkers to friends and family. This presents a fantastic opportunity for retailers to fill this need with awesome gifts and a great personal shopping experience.” — Joni Nickrent, C.R.Gibson

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What’s Hot: Anything that reflects those getting married, emphasized Kat Krassner, senior editor, NobleWorks. “Our wedding cards that celebrate the diversity of couples are selling well. We have cards that acknowledge same-sex couples as well as interracial couples. We strive to provide fun, unique cards to customers and markets that are typically underserved, including the LGBTQI+ community. We’ve recently introduced Spanish-language wedding cards. Also popular are our cards featuring images of a dog paw or cat paw with the couple’s hands, since many couples consider their pet an important part of their family and are including their animals in their wedding ceremonies.”

Julie Ley, founder and creative director, Vanilla Print, filled her new wedding collection with dynamic design trends including stacked invitation suites, modern typography, foil, arch and wave die-cut shapes, monograms as well as the ability to incorporate photos. In a market that’s anything but one-size- fits-all, “any and all colors are popular,” she described.

Blake Houser of Envelopments cited a palette shift toward light greens, yellows and lavenders, as well as a move away from minimalist invitation design.

Tried & True: Design motifs like florals, watercolor treatments, natural motifs, elaborate wedding cakes, blended script and serif fonts, printed envelope liners, and ecru and soft pastel papers always feel fresh when presented well.

Also Look for: “Vintage looks offer both ‘something old and something new,’” detailed Krassner.

Designer Quote: “In crafting our offerings, I find myself deeply inspired by the stories and individuality of the people we create for. Invitations are personal narratives and should reflect the richness and individuality of each story. Nowadays, it’s not just about making something that looks good. It’s about making something that tells a story that resonates personally with each client. People are drawn to the craftsmanship and the human element in designs — it’s why techniques like letterpress and engraving are so important to us. This desire for authenticity in life’s big events drives our work.” — Blake Houser, Envelopments

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What’s Hot: Right now, it’s all about smart, multifunctional sustainability, shared Libby Llanso of Seedlings. “Think reduce, reuse, upcycle [and] products that have a long life and/or are multipurpose. Our essential oil lotion candles fit this vibe. [They’re] in a recycled glass container, have a crystal that corresponds with its scent, turn into lotion after each burn and come with a trivet that doubles as a coaster!”

Lauren Brekke, vice president of merchandise at Mud Pie, sees the use of natural stone, like marble and travertine, as well the ever-versatile black and white trending up. “Our collection of black-and-white checked serveware doesn’t lean too modern or too traditional — it fits within many design aesthetics.”

Value and meaning are more important than ever, underlined Annie McCall, national sales manager for Papersalt & Salty, by Papersalt. “That can still lead to ‘impulse buys’ on items like ours — when they make you laugh or smile and follow the trend patterns the end consumer is already surrounded with. That’s where Salty comes in. Trend, humor, sass, sparkle and consumable giftables. Take items we know turn over quickly for our retailers — and fill them with bold, eye-catching designs and phrases or quotes that fit every personality type and age.”

Tried & True: Foil and neutrals endure, underscored Brekke. “Fresh interpretations of classic tones evolve from season-to- season, but a neutral color story will always be in vogue.”

Also Look for: Conversely, more color! While acknowledging that neutrals remain strong, Llanso sees more people being bold and daring by adding color into their lives. “People are using wallpaper again, painting their bathrooms cobalt blue and adorning their couches with red accent pillows.”

Designer Quote: “Though I may not have ‘liked it’ at first, I am inspired by the power of social media and the control both Gen Z and millennials have on our industry. And while you can never count out Gen X or baby boomers (they’re huge drivers of our industry as well), it’s easy to see most of us are adapting to social media, especially TikTok.” — Annie McCall, Papersalt & Salty, by Papersalt

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What’s Hot: “Nostalgia is running deep for holiday!” exclaimed Emily King of 2021 Co. “New takes on classic holiday themes like Santa motifs, the nutcracker and plaids will be going strong.”

E. Frances Paper has received a “phenomenal response” to its mission of phasing out plastic entirely, shared Ali Flippin, creative director. “Our holiday boxed card sets in luxe paper boxes that are not just recyclable but 100% plastic-free are a huge hit.”

Juliana “Juju” Kissick, CEO and creative director of Good Juju Ink, characterized her holiday release as “elevated cottage core,” with illustrations encompassing festive toiles, a forest fairy house, a brass snow globe and moody, meticulously drawn winter mushrooms.

Tried & True: The floral will never go away, added 2021’s Nicole Couto. “Making them original is always a fun challenge! Also, relatable messaging that’s a quick read and supports the design elements on the card is a winning combination that consumers seem to love.”

“Metallics will always reign supreme,” agreed Kissick. “A dazzling sheen of almost any hue is festive and special on basically any product category; it’s ‘holiday’ without trying too hard. Metallics can be fun and spunky, or elegant and timeless. And when it comes to illustration, sticking to heartfelt sentiment never goes out of style.”

Also Look for: “The winter holidays will forever be one of the most sentimental times of the year,” finished Kissick, “and people will continue to crave designs that reflect hope and togetherness, that reflect family and love.”

Designer Quote: “We’ve really been inspired by the stories and needs of our customers. We love offering a card that’s not out there on the market — one that reaches an audience that’s not being supported and communicated to. We love to sprinkle those into our more broad base message styles.” — Emily King, 2021 Co.

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Featured image: The Lokelani rose, aka the official flower of Maui, is foiled to exquisite perfection on Hawaii Fine Stationers’ versatile 5-by-7-inch menu card on cotton paper featuring multilayer embossing and foil stamping.

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