In this industry, the central focus is pen to paper. For birthdays, holidays and beyond, we showcase products and collections that offer a loving touch when dropped in the mail. But what about the everyday? The for-no-reason-at-all communication we have with people we admire, miss or may not see that often? If a quick email or text message is a good-enough way to check in, imagine what dropping a card in a mailbox could do. Plenty of us actively search for or stumble upon a miscellaneous category of cards that are perfect to send as a quick hello. And the pool of those searching is exponentially growing. “Greeting cards are a wonderful form of personal communication in our otherwise impersonal, transactional digital world,” said Patti Stracher, vice president and show director for National Stationery Show (NSS). “Millennials and Gen Z are particularly attracted to greeting cards and the written word because they crave authenticity and real connection in addition to — and to a certain degree as a result of — their digital centricity.”
So, who are these customers and what are they looking for? It doesn’t necessarily boil down to a short list. “The bar has really been raised for greeting card companies,” said Peter Doherty, executive director for the Greeting Card Association (GCA). “They’re looking to appeal to all demographics. So, you’ll find cards that are geared toward the male audience or the early consumer, and even social media is appealing more and more to the older demographic. Having a uniqueness to their brand and each of their card lines, and making innovative use of new media to appeal to millennials and others, those are all targets for a variety of our companies now.” Birthday, Christmas and Valentine’s Day cards still top the sales lists, but there is a constant increase in card varieties, with so many of them falling somewhere in the just-because category.
Publishers seem to be in tune with the American consumer. With product lines that focus on LGBT couples, millennials or the local consumer, these companies are responding to the needs of today’s shoppers. Additionally, the GCA has noticed quite a few lines coming out acknowledging that even the English language has changed. “There are emojis here there and everywhere, and the trend in copy has gotten much younger,” Doherty said. “It’s reflecting the consumer and not only what they’re feeling, but how they’re conveying messages to others. The paper and the e-cards are even more reflective of where social media is right now, so that trend has not been lost on the publishers.”
Where the retailers go
Last year, Great American Media Services — parent company of Stationery Trends — provided results for a greeting card survey that was published in the spring issue. In it, we shared data showing how many different card manufacturers retailers purchased from. Nearly half (46 percent) buy from more than 10 companies. With the number of smaller vendors steadily increasing, that percentage, too, is expected to increase. (Look for even more greeting card industry data in an upcoming issue of Stationery Trends.)
To delve even deeper, the National Stationery Show has a dedicated section for new companies, #fresh. When #fresh was implemented three years ago, roughly 90 exhibitors filled the space. This year, the number of applicants is more than double that of the average 100 accepted into the juried section, which is even more of an increase when you consider that several of those companies have transitioned out of the category with the five-years-in-business mark bestowed upon them.
“You will find card lines coming up from many companies, including a variety of new ones. We have hundreds of brand-new greeting card companies getting in touch with us each year looking for tips and new techniques,” Doherty said.
The point is this: with the amount of companies catering to the various demographics, everyday greeting cards are evergreen — and always a top seller.