New collections, designs drive success of greeting cards category
To paraphrase Mark Twain, the rumors of the death of the greeting cards category at retail have been greatly exaggerated.
To the contrary, greeting cards and the overall social expression segment continues to thrive at mass retail, helped by the desire of many consumers to, at least temporarily, push digital technology aside in favor of some old-fashioned written communication. In fact, industry sources said that more than six billion greeting cards are sold annually in the United States.
The result is a continued effort by retailers and suppliers to offer their customers a wide range of products, both seasonally and throughout the year. By doing so, the industry hopes that consumers will continue to flock to retail stores for their social expression needs, helping retailers make more money from the category and giving merchants the opportunity to use the category as a magnet to attract these shoppers.
New products, many said, are the lifeblood of the category, and several leading suppliers continue to place a huge emphasis on product introductions to entice consumers to buy more merchandise. “It is absolutely shocking the amount of money these companies spend to get new products on the shelf in a consistent manner,” said one greeting card buyer for a major East Coast supermarket chain. “They realize that innovation is the secret sauce to their short- and long-term success, and they must keep the lights going in research and development.”
Here is a look at what some of the leading greeting card publishers are offering to kick off the new decade.
The Cleveland-based social expressions company is offering an Easter collection that will feature new ways to celebrate at price points customers will appreciate, company officials said.
“We’re offering value-priced cards that will encourage shoppers to celebrate and recognize more recipients,” a company spokesperson said. “Our Easter and spring collections offer a balance of both traditional and modern interpretation, ensuring there is something for everyone. Additionally, we are offering boutique-style displays that will encourage shoppers to fill their kids’ Easter baskets with cute cards and stickers.”
The company’s value-priced cards will include Wonder Woman. “We are confident shoppers will be thrilled with this popular icon and emboldened even further by Papyrus’ stunning treatments and eye for detail,” the spokesman said, noting that other innovation is coming to stores soon. “The horizontal birthday card goes a step beyond with a large removable patch that adheres to everything from laptops to journals.”
According to Tom Kilcourse, senior vice president of North American sales for the company, “Cards Matter and remain a powerful tool to help people connect with each other. It takes time for a person to write a card, but it is the heartfelt feeling you get when you receive one. We are finding that in addition to sending cards in the mail, consumers are increasingly hand-delivering cards too.
“As shopper behavior evolves, its influence on retail categories like the greeting cards industry continues to change. As a result, American Greetings and its retail partners work together to build productivity and consumer engagement for the way consumers are shopping today — in-store, online and with click-and-collect,” Kilcourse said. “Additionally, greeting card shoppers still search for the opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge diversity.”
He said that connecting with consumers along their pre-shopper journey is another critical component to greeting card marketing. “While shoppers are making their lists, American Greetings is helping retailers leverage a wide range of vehicles and technologies to capture their attention and remind them that they need to add cards to the list,” he said. “Loyalty program emails, in-home mail, digital ads with load-to-card coupons, advertising within shopping list apps, social media, and targeted digital advertising are just a few of the options that we integrate into our marketing strategies.”
“At American Greetings, our purpose is to help people build and maintain meaningful connections … we just happen to make greeting cards.
The Kansas City, Mo.-based company is offering Signature Paper Wonder — premium 3-D pop-up greeting cards. For many years, Hallmark Signature, the fastest growing premium greeting card brand, has created beautiful and sophisticated cards, featuring intricate and dimensional details for the most special occasions, company officials said. During the 2019 holiday season, Hallmark took it one step further with Signature Paper Wonder.
When opened, the cards reveal a show-stopping laser-cut design that can be viewed from any angle. The cards lay flat, making them displayable and the perfect keepsake to preserve a special memory. In 2020, consumers will be able to find Signature Paper Wonder cards for more holidays, such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, as well as such everyday occasions as birthdays and weddings.
“Wellness is a key trend that our consumers, especially those in emerging generations, tell us is important to them,” said Amy McAnarney, Hallmark’s vice president and general manager of national accounts and business development. “As our increasingly digital world encourages more political, social and emotional awareness, young people are looking for ways to improve their relationships, emotional well-being, and surround themselves with positivity and good.
It’s no surprise that they are turning to greeting cards as a way to create genuine, authentic connections and put more good into the world. Hallmark Good Mail is a curated assortment of cards that feature diverse artists, trend-forward designs and an authentic voice that focus on unique, modern, real takes on life that reflect today’s relationships. With a focus on emotional well-being, Good Mail offers more captions for mental wellness and millennial life events, as well as more LGBTQ captions. The cards appeal to consumers who are optimistic, have an eye for design, and are looking for unexpected ways to connect and make the world a kinder place, one card at a time, McAnarney said.
Innovating the shopping experience remains a primary focus, McAnarney added. She said that consumers want and expect a seamless retail experience — whenever they shop and wherever they shop. “This is why Hallmark brings the same rigor and capabilities to category management online and in store,” she said. “We have a dedicated e-commerce team focused on developing innovative strategies, solutions and tools for our retail partners to seamlessly bring their greeting card aisles to their online markets. Flexibility is key in our operational approach and we can easily adapt to fit within a retailer’s existing capabilities and iterate alongside them as they grow.
Hallmark also is investing in capabilities that go beyond just creating a digital shopping experience to help change how consumers connect. “We’re making it so she never forgets another birthday; and we’re making the perfect card easy to find, every time. And best of all, we’re making sure finding and sending a card fits right into her already busy life,” McAnarney said. “We use what we know about her when she shops online, which is almost always more than we know about her when she shops in store, to create more personalized and relevant experiences.
The Edison, N.J.-based company has been aggressive making a statement with retailers and consumers that it can offer a difference in their greeting cards section.
CFO Dawn Garvey said that Designer Greetings is constantly looking to add to its collection. “Designer Greetings is refreshing many of our existing card lines with new eye-catching designs,” she said. “Popular card lines that have received an update include JG Studio, a boutique card line; A Little Salty, Designer Greetings’ newest humor line; Oh Snap, a photographic humor line; Premier Boutique, a high-end line, featuring many embellishments; and Intricate Die-Cut, a line that many consider to be a visual masterpiece. In addition, this year, Designer Greetings will introduce a line of journals, notebooks and planners.
Garvey said that the current trends in the greeting card industry indicate that younger shoppers — both millennials and Gen Z — are purchasing higher-value cards with a handmade, boutique style. “These cards bear higher price per unit, helping the retailer build on the average revenue per order, a key driver for a healthy retail business,” she said. “In addition, consumers have a thirst for humorous greetings that will provide a positive, light approach to many topical events. Designer Greetings has hit the mark on both of these current industry trends by developing a line of trendy, high-end, handmade looking cards and their humor lines.”