Greeting card companies think inside the envelope

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Greeting card companies think inside the envelope

05/18/2018
With Mother’s Day gone, the greeting card industry is bullish. Encouraged by a strong Valentine’s Day — often looked to as a bellwether for the category’s future performance — greeting card executives said that stable sales and constant innovation are key factors driving consumers to the category.

From a focus on innovative multimedia offerings to expansion beyond stationery, and digital marketing and commerce efforts, card makers are working to help retailers boost sales and keep up with constantly changing shopper desires.

Innovation is key
Staleness in any category can be the kiss of death, and greeting cards are no exception. Knowing the importance innovation brings to the category, Avanti Press — which focuses on creating humorous cards across its Avanti, a*Press and America brands — creates hundreds of original concepts every year and delivers never-before-seen pretested cards to the market monthly, company officials said, emphasizing the company’s focus on replenishment, according to Marc Trobman, vice president of business development for the Detroit-based company.

The second quarter is historically a slow time for the category, which manufacturers said makes it an ideal time for retailers to focus on birthdays and cross selling. Hallmark’s Amy McAnarney, vice president and general manage cross-selling units, said every year, birthday cards outsell individual cards for all holidays combined.

With this in mind, Kansas City, Mo.-based Hallmark has innovated around its birthday cards. Among the new birthday offerings are Ripcord Pinatas, cards that not only look and feel like piñatas, but act like them. McAnarney said that when the recipient pulls the cord, paper confetti spills out. Also bringing a new element is Hallmark’s Rollout Wishes card, which McAnarney said includes a banner that recipients pull out of the card. “These will be especially fun for the young and young at heart,” she said.

The company also is bringing multimedia to its lineup of birthday offerings. Its Vinyl Record cards — which come with a 45-rpm record with two songs from such artists as Bruno Mars, Tina Turner and the Cars — rolled out on Valentine’s day and will be brought back for birthdays this summer. For tech-savvy children, Hallmark is introducing augmented reality cards with stickers that come to life when viewed through a mobile device. Also, the company’s Confetti Shaker cards will play sounds and sparkle with confetti when the recipient shakes them.

Later this year, Hallmark will introduce a new line called Paper Wonders, which features intricately crafted cards that unfold or expand to reveal a surprise. “These cards are works of art that consumers will want to display in their homes and enjoy throughout the entire holiday season,” McAnarney said.

Designer Greetings has developed a line of cards using 3-D imaging that is not only innovative, but also eye-catching. The company’s CFO Dawn Garvey said that this line of interactive imagery uses a flat card to portray movement that would otherwise be achieved through use of technology. “Such use of this technique is a perfect way to attract consumers of any age,” she said.

Garvey also highlighted the Edison, N.J.-based company’s efforts to align its offerings to market changes. “One area that we continuously develop is our boutique-style line of cards,” she said. “This line has the specialized embellishments and trendy imagery that is on par with the premier card companies, yet does not have a corresponding burdensome price that would detract the price-savvy shopper.”

Papyrus star warsAs other companies focus on birthdays and multimedia, American Greetings’ premium card brand Papyrus is launching fully coordinated desk accessories and “Star Wars” greeting cards from both Papyrus and its other brand Bird & Quill, as well as two new collections of Papyrus Entertaining products.

The trend-inspired collections for the home office or workspace include notebooks with gilded edges, gem-embellished pens and pencils, sticky patches with proprietary sparkle mix beads and sequins, and much more, officials said.

Bird & Quill desk accessories offer a quirky sensibility with the kind of authenticity and humor that company officials said connect with millennials, but appeals to a wider audience of all ages. American Greetings senior vice president of North American sales Steve Laserson said these products are hitting the market 10 years into the Cleveland-based company’s Pipeline of Innovation, which he said has brought 180 new concepts to market, generating more than $600 million in sales.

“These are not simply new products — they are experiences, offering consumers unexpected, never-before-seen ways to connect and celebrate,” Laserson said.

Front and center
For manufacturers, innovation doesn’t only apply to the products on the shelves. It also means working with retailers to implement solutions to drive sales and increase profits.

Hallmark is working with its retail partners on its new click-and-collect initiative. McAnarney said consumers are buying greeting cards and gift wrap online at a rapid pace, noting Hallmark has seen consistent month-over-month growth across e-commerce channels.

“Using the knowledge we have in the space, we are building custom, flexible, best-in-class programs to help our retailers bring the greeting card aisle to their online marketplace,” McAnarney said. “Greeting cards are high-margin, nonperishable and low weight, so they increase the total purchase without adding complexity.” Hallmark said it works with the retailer’s e-commerce team to develop a customized fulfillment process, so the process of adding a card to an online order is simple and easy.

Hallmark also encourages retailers to consider endcaps, outposts and grocery checkout displays to keep greeting cards top of mind. The company introduced grocery-check stand displays in 2017 and has seen an increase in impulse purchases. “Placing a curated selection of cards at the checkout, where there is a captive audience, reminds the shopper of her greeting card needs,” McAnarney said, noting that the company also is looking to encourage impulse purchases near flowers, balloons and even spirits.

Officials at Designer Greetings point out that during the second quarter, retailers can maximize revenue by working with suppliers to create merchandising programs showcasing companion products. “For example, teacher and coach gifts with lower price per item can be bundled together in a manner that, when in total, not only has a nice price range for a variety of purchasers, but also helps drive higher revenue per order,” Designer Greeting’s Garvey said.

Since the summer months see a spike in non-birthday festivities, as well as a solid birthday performance, American Greetings officials said retailers that create a celebration destination will have the most potential for success in the second quarter. The company’s P.S. Hello brand offers cards at a $2.99 price point, Laserson said.

And, given that merchandising no longer starts when shoppers set foot in the store, American Greetings is reaching consumers pre-shop — and encouraging its retailer partners to do the same — when they are looking for inspiration, answers, promotions, etc. He said that coupons and promotions also represent key marketing opportunities to connect with younger consumers, as in-store social media and store websites are influencing them on mobile.

“We know shoppers are turning to their digital devices more than ever to find information during this pre-shop phase,” Laserson said. “And research shows that if we can inspire shoppers with relevant content, we have a much better chance of getting cards and gift wrap added to their shopping