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Have Greeting Cards Lost Their Luster?

Published March 20, 2013        by Sarah

Image by lindsay.dee.bunny on FlickrGreeting cards are nearly as old as history itself. They date back as far as the ancient Chinese, and each year, people send more than 5 billion greeting cards for various occasions. Thanks to a variety of other factors, though, greeting cards are nowhere near as important as they once were, leading many to believe that the greeting card industry may see its end in the near future.

A Long Road

The greeting card industry didn’t wake up with a sudden problem one day. The road toward today’s suffering numbers has been a long one. Nearly two decades ago, people sent 2.7 billion holiday cards. Those numbers have since dropped to less than half of that. The culprits include not only the e-cards most people find so convenient to send these days, but also the change in the way society seems to work these days.

People are far less willing to drop the money on greeting cards that they once did. They have trouble justifying three or four dollars on a piece of paper that may just end up getting thrown away when they could be spending that money elsewhere like a birthday gift basket instead of that birthday card. Couple that with the fact that virtually no one exchanges physical addresses anymore or even bothers to keep an actual address book, and you have a perfect storm for greeting cards. Instead of trading addresses these days, people offer up a cell phone number, Facebook friendship, a Twitter handle, or even an old-fashioned email address. Few people even bother to fill out all of the contact details in their phone’s address book, so finding the right information to help drop a greeting card in the mail is next to impossible.

Unintended Consequences

With the decline in the world of greeting cards, though, other industries and sectors suffer as well. Naturally without greeting cards, the paper they’re printed on is no longer needed, taking those jobs with it. The same is true for the postal industry. While Christmas greeting cards once carried the postal service through the year on profits, these days, it’s become more of a struggle than ever to stay afloat. So few people leave their computer for anything, greeting cards included.

While the greeting card industry certainly hasn’t met its end, the chances are good that the decline in the number of cards sent each year will only continue. With the younger generations living much of their lives online in one way or another, greeting cards may finally bottom out in the next two decades.

Wondering if you can save the industry? The chances certainly aren’t good, but keeping the tradition alive is a worthwhile effort. Encourage those you know to send holiday cards, birthday cards, and more. Let people know how much you appreciate real greeting cards, not just clickable links in your email. More than anything else, though, make sure that you’re willing to send those greeting cards yourself or even add it along with candy birthday grams for a special surprise. Carefully penned notes inside each one you drop in the mail could truly make a difference in someone else’s day, causing them to rethink their own decision to purchase a greeting card in the near future.