Whimsical wishes

From humor and words of appreciation to pop-up cards and licensed content, find out what’s popular in greeting cards.
a smyth greeting cards

In an increasingly digital world, finding and gifting the right greeting card is an opportunity to deliver a friend or loved one the perfect, heartfelt message paired with charming art and texture. And customers aren’t only sending greeting cards for holidays and birthdays anymore, but sometimes to show others that they are thinking of them. 

Here, we caught up with greeting card producers and distributors to get up to date on the latest trends in the marketplace.

Conveying the best sentiment

The little amount of space that cards take up is a gigantic selling point for retailing them in drug stores, said Jenny Shoaf, co-principal of Biely & Shoaf Co., a publisher of stationery and gift products. “We can be a huge profit center because the markup is so big,” Shoaf said.

Biely and Shoaf’s business includes the Biely & Shoaf Collection, which produces an array of art styles and messaging for various holidays and occasions; Shannon Martin Design, a line of humorous cards with retro photos; and Oatmeal Studios, a humorous card company that artist Helene Lehler founded in 1978 and named after her pet rabbit Oatmeal.

“Funny really resonates with people, and it makes them happy,” Shoaf said, citing one trend that has remained constant over the years. Oatmeal Studios cards retail for less than $4, Shoaf said. “We want our cards to be affordable to Middle America because that is really whom we are reaching out to.” Biely & Shoaf also distributes cards from A Smyth Co., which has the mission “to help you connect with the people you love the most,” and Black Joy Paper, a collective featuring the work of Black artists.

[Read more: Brooklinen continues to evolve the DTC model]

hallmark + venmo

Meanwhile, at Hallmark, the team is driven by cultural and creative trends, said Amy McAnarney, vice president and general manager, strategic accounts and business development. 

“We aim to create cards that get to the heart of what shoppers want to say, while authentically reflecting their lives and relationships,” McAnarney said. Hallmark’s cards include messages surrounding faith, family and the home that are relevant to customers from multiple cultures, McAnarney said. The company also creates cards that resonate with early adopters of trends, particularly African Americans and Hispanic Americans, who expect timely and topical content.

Younger generations look for cards that convey positive messages of generosity, kindness and inclusiveness, and McAnarney said Hallmark incorporates this type of content into its cards.

In addition, McAnarney said younger card purchasers and recipients are enthusiasts of pop culture. To that end, Hallmark has incorporated licensed content from hit TV shows, such as “Ted Lasso,” “Schitt’s Creek,” “The Office,” “Friends” and “Golden Girls.”

Hallmark recently brought the physical and digital gifting spheres together via a collaboration with Venmo. The partnership, announced in August 2023, allows customers to send money through Venmo and hand-write a message in a physical greeting card. 

“Gifting trends are constantly evolving, and we want to stay at the forefront of what consumers need to share thoughtful and unique gifts with the ones they love,” said Darren Abbott, Hallmark’s senior vice president of global product development and innovation.

[Read more: American Greetings debuts child-friendly Creatacard app]

up with paper hooray

Engineering included

When you open some cards, they are so intricately constructed that on first glance, they resemble skyscrapers—or mountains, or animals—more so than pieces of paper.

Up With Paper, founded in 1978 as PopShots, is the original American pop-up greeting card company. Monika Brandrup, who leads Up With Paper as executive vice president and creative director, said many customers purchase pop-up cards as gifts. And when the populace’s purse strings are tight, such as in an economic downturn, these types of cards still sell well.

“Often, when people buy greeting cards, they like to display them and enjoy them for a little bit, and then they usually put them away,” Brandrup said.

When Brandrup began working at Up With Paper in the early 1990s, the company put out about 20 new cards per year. The team was innovative with paper engineering, Brandrup said, but the card-creation process was far more tedious than it is in the 21st century with newer technologies. Up With Paper places about 500 to 600 SKUs on the market each year. 

As holiday and birthday cards pop-up cards remain popular, Brandrup said friendship and “just because” cards are trending more now. Many of Up With Paper’s cards are blank, and the business will include different message tags.

Hallmark also offers pop-up cards in its Hallmark Paper Wonder and Signature Paper Wonder lines. “Each intricately crafted card unfolds, pops, and expands to reveal a distinctive surprise,” McAnarney said.

[Read more: Designer Greetings talks about evolution and revolution in the card market]

lovepop sushi card

John Wise and Wombi Rose co-founded pop-up card company Lovepop while attending Harvard Business School in 2014, after graduating from Webb Institute, where they studied naval architecture. The partners began creating cards inspired by kirigami paper art that they saw on a trip to Vietnam. Then in 2015, they joined the ABC show “Shark Tank” and brought on investor Kevin O’Leary as a shareholder. Wise, Rose and their team have since expanded, including in retail drug stores. 

Lovepop’s mission is “to create one billion magical moments,” the company said. “We make sure that every time, we are delivering that magical experience,” Wise said. “When the customer opens it, they get that moment of awe. And they get that moment of connection when they see the sculpture and understand the content and the message that was being conveyed by the sender.”

About five years ago, Lovepop began creating cards with licensed content from Disney, Wise said. In Lovepop offerings, pharmacy retailers will find pop-up Marvel and “Star Wars” content, which are properties of Disney, as well as licensed content from “Harry Potter,” “Friends” and more.

“One trend that we’ve seen in maybe the last five years is that customers are migrating out of the middle price points,” Wise said. “They either want it to be really special, or if it’s going to be just a flat, folded piece of paper, then they don’t want to spend a lot for it.”

Echoing Brandrup, Wise said: “The fact that these cards don’t get thrown away—they get held on to, they get cherished, and they get shared further—is something that makes them really, really special.”

Product Picks 

Get Well Dogs
Up With Paper
Up With Paper’s Treasures greeting cards combine colorful artwork with pop-ups for a variety of sending occasions. All Treasures cards are 5.25” x 5.25” and are paired with a white envelope. Here, a pack of pups arrive bearing a sweet bouquet and healing wishes. This card was printed in full color and finished with clear acetate.

Sisterhood Friendship by Amy Slaughter; Another Year Birthday by Tiffany McGraw
Black Joy Paper
Black Joy Paper was created to amplify the voices of a group of talented Black artists—Lauren-Ashley Barnes, Natalie Charles, Tiffany Grimes, Tiffany McGraw, Andrea Williams, Amy Slaughter, and Cherrymae Golston—and to add diversity and inclusion in an industry that has lacked that presence in past. These cards measure 4.5” x 6.25” and are printed in the USA on post-consumer recycled paper.

Hallmark + Venmo Cards
More than three quarters (78%) of Venmo customers regularly use Venmo to send money as a gift to their friends and family. Hallmark + Venmo Cards make it possible for customers to give a physical card with money through Venmo, providing customers with a singular option for their gifting needs. Hallmark + Venmo Cards also add extra peace of mind and convenience for customers.

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