April 28, 2015 • Sarah Schwartz
The Write Stuff

Back in January, our staff posed a question on the Stationery Trends Facebook page: “What’s the biggest issue facing retailers that no one is talking about?” I found the response we got most interesting: “The death of handwritten cards and letters.”

This is a complaint that I hear quite often. It’s an issue I am very concerned about — but while I would argue that handwritten correspondence is far from dead, it can undoubtedly use some TLC.

Since this TLC is not going to miraculously materialize from an outside source, it needs to come from — you guessed it! — every single person reading this. So, I’m proposing one simple way to aid this most noble cause. I have tried to do this myself over the past year, so I feel confident saying that it’s not so much time-consuming as it is a matter of changing ingrained habits.

Simply put, send thank-yous. I mean physical thank-yous — no emails allowed! I can’t even relate how many times I’ve profiled a big name in stationery and later received an emailed thank-you. While the sentiments were undoubtedly sincere and very welcome, this practice will not sustain us. While it may take an extra few minutes so to write something out and dig up a mailing address, in the end it positively benefits us all.

No matter your role in the industry, thank-yous always make you look better. If you have a store, send one to every customer that spends $100, or $50 — see it as a chance to remind them how classic correspondence is done. If you are a designer or stationery vendor, every single new client (or even prospective client) should be pleasantly surprised to receive a missive from you in the mail. Or, just resolve to send a certain amount a week to those people who make your life sweet.

National Stationery Show presents a huge opportunity in this regard. Every order written invites a quick note of gratitude. Or maybe you stumbled onto a chance meeting with that prospect you’d been dying to meet, or forged a connection that may lead to something big? All these situations cry out for a follow-up in thank-you form — and every recipient will appreciate your appreciation.

I believe the timing for this is actually pretty good — the digital age, while revolutionary, can be exhausting and even dehumanizing. Between the screens that dominate the workplace to the smart phones that engage us as we ignore those sitting beside us, human contact and human connections have grown more precious — and more and more of us are realizing that.

A heartfelt thank-you travels across time and space, hand to hand, to authentically connect with others offline. Moreso, every single mailed note benefits the industry — a table at which we all sit. That is a true gift that is within all of our reaches.

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