Sending Meaningful Messages

Greeting card suppliers are finding new ways to keep consumers engaged in the category.

Social networking has brought people from across the globe together. However, when celebrating special occasions and personal moments, rarely does an email, Facebook wall post or tweet carry the same meaning as a greeting card.

Despite the decline in paper greeting card sales over the past decade, manufacturers remain positive on the category’s potential—even in the struggling grocery channel. Industry observers say the decline in the category has resulted in a condensing of the retail greeting card market. This has provided opportunity for retailers that still carry greeting cards to actually grow share.

“The important trend for our grocery retail partners is the continued migration we are seeing from specialty stores,” says Frank Cirillo, spokesperson for American Greetings. “Consumers are looking for the optimal combination of selection and convenience in meeting their greeting card needs. Retailers can win the loyalty of these important shoppers with the right blend of authentic content, exciting innovation and great value.”

Observers say that driving much of greeting card sales are alternative-type products such as humor cards, pop-up cards and sound and musical cards, to name a few. To meet this growing need, Cleveland-based American Greetings recently introduced three everyday collections. Hot Buttons are greeting cards featuring a large round push button on the front that delivers one of five funny audio clips each time it is pressed. Grandstands is an interactive line of cards with displayable characters and push button sound and Picture Perfect is a whimsical line of heart felt cards that feature a special fold that pops open to create a mini-shadowbox.

“In the months ahead consumers will find new innovations for birthday and every day occasions as well as those for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween and Christmas,” says Cirillo. “Along with the new innovations, some of the most popular collections will be re-released with all new content.”

Officials at Hallmark contend that greeting cards serve an important and meaningful purpose in today’s busy world and want to make card sending easy for customers. One of the Kansas City, Mo.-based company’s latest innovations is postage-paid greetings. Julie Brookings, Hallmark spokesperson, says that as the name implies, the price of each card includes the postage to send it. The postage is treated like a Forever stamp and its value will always be equal to the price of a standard First-Class stamp, regardless of when it is mailed. Brookings says postage-paid greetings are available for a wide range of everyday occasions. Beyond postage-paid, Brookings says licensed favorites provide appeal as well. Some of Hallmarks’ licensees include the Peanuts, as well as box-office favorites such as Happy Feet, Cars and The Twilight Saga, which has an assortment of up to 20 Twilight greeting cards available for birthdays and several other any day occasions. Many cards include music from The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 movie and some have attachments like bookmarks, tattoos, magnets, stickers and door hangers.

“We recognize that reading the books and seeing the films are something moms and daughters are bonding over,” says Christine Taylor, Hallmark Licensing. “We see our product as an opportunity to extend the experience by offering greeting cards and products for various occasions.”

Many people also bond over humor, which is the focus of cards from Avanti Press. Marc Trobman, vice president business development for the Detroit-based company, says the humor area is one in which grocers can really capitalize. “If you look at grocery, there is very little branded humor. They might mix in some funny cards, but in a sea of cards, that can be hard to shop.

“It is important for grocery retailers to realize that paper greeting cards are not going away,” he adds. “They may be flat in sales, but that is more related to the content they put on the shelf than the customer. Grocers that are devoted to greeting cards are doing fine.”
Humor crosses over all demographics says Trobman. Although women purchase 90% of greeting cards, Avanti’s cards take anonymous characters and put them in exaggerated situations, transcending, sex, age and race. Avanti offers two brands, the Avanti line, which Trobman say features humorous photography and the A*press line featuring graphic illustrations with simple and funny prose.

“With our cards we can offer grocers what we call a complimentary greeting card program,” says Trobman. “Because our cards are high-color and impactful, when put on an endcap, adjacent or at an outpost situation we have the ability to pull the customer to our display.”

Officials at Design Design say providing a strong alternative greeting card brand and program, provides retailers the opportunity to drive increased greeting cards sales. The Grand Rapids, Mich.-based company offers the Design Design brand as a alternative for retailers to differentiate themselves, and to drive greeting cards and related products to meet the entire celebration needs of their customers.

“We have created a destination for our customer so that the consumer sees us as the destination for all of their celebration needs,” says Colin Littler, Design Design’s director of marketing. He says that can start with greeting cards. “We offer a full line of greeting cards that can draw the consumer, but the extra opportunity is that we also have those other key categories like gift bags and wrap, paper tableware, and other personal expression products. We can transform that area into a huge profit center for retailers where the consumer will come to know the Design Design brand, seek it out and find our other unique products.”

With an eye toward attracting female consumers, Designer Greetings, based in Edison N.J., offers its Exposé and Chitchat lines. According to Suzanne Haines, vice president of marketing, the Exposé line features hilarious or provocative pictures and a clever combination of photos and verse to tickle the funny bone or touch the heart.

“Women understand women perfectly, so Chitchat, our woman to woman line, is trendy stylish and colorful, much like today’s modern woman,” says Haines. “Soft pastels lightly touched with foil and glitter belie the bold and witty banter inside this collection celebrating the ‘inner diva.’”

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