When email became a prominent form of communication, many predicted that greeting cards would become extinct.  And while it is true that there has been a decline in card sales since the heyday, the Greeting Card Association reports that card sales have actually held steady in recent years. This is in part due to independent card companies that are finding a way to be relevant in today’s market. Big businesses like Hallmark, on the other hand, are suffering. According to a recent NPR story, Hallmark has closed numerous stores and slashed its workforce from almost 22,000 full timers to about 10,500 worldwide in the past five years.

We have carried greeting cards for many years, and at one point we bought from as many as 50 small vendors. That number has definitely decreased, but we still find that customers are buying cards. And they like the fact that our cards are as unique as the other merchandise that we carry — instead of the more standard designs that are (pardon the pun) the hallmark of Hallmark.  If you carry gifts, you should consider stocking some cards. They’re a great add-on sale, and are inexpensive enough to be an impulse purchase.  

Can you guess what card sells the best? That’s an easy one, since many people still send actual cards for birthdays. Most studies put the percentage of cards purchased for birthdays at slightly over 60% of total sales, despite the ease of sending an e-card. This is undoubtedly in part due to the fact that people often give a card with their gift.

But what about the second best seller? For us, it’s sympathy cards. Think about — you wouldn’t send an email with an expression of sympathy (or click “like” when someone mentions on Facebook that a dear one just passed away).  And you might send several: one to the bereaved spouse, another to a son and even grandchild. 

One of our card suppliers ranks encouragement and friendship above sympathy, although I think that’s in part because sympathy cards are not what they do well. Still, it seems to be true that fewer people send get well cards than the “sorry you’re seriously ill” cards that fall into the encouragement category. With shorter hospital stays and quicker recoveries from most illnesses, get well cards are not as important as they once were.   Thank you, on the other hand, is an important category for most card mixes. We even do well with boxed thank you notes, because a written message sent by mail is still considered more polite than an email version.

If you decide to add cards to your merchandise selection, it can be useful to work with an experienced sales rep who can help you create an adequate assortment of titles and styles.  Younger customers seem to prefer smaller cards (“we don’t want to write much,” one millennial confided) and don’t mind if they are blank inside. We find that most adult shoppers prefer a short message on the inside, and that everyone loves cards with a local angle or by a local artist.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder 

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