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Testing the Resilience of Greeting Card Sales

Here in Canada we’ve faced three specific threats to sales of everyday greeting cards.

The first threat was well entrenched almost 20 years ago: The rise of dollar stores and dollar store cards. At first, people gravitated to the bargain cards, but over time people — both senders and receivers — noticed a marked difference in quality and returned to purchasing a “proper” card.

Next, over a decade ago, was the inception of e-cards. They threatened to annihilate sales of physical cards — or so some people said — but the fad waned.  It’s been a year since anyone last sent me an e-card, though you can still get them online.

The third threat appeared in 2008 when the Canadian dollar reached par and consumers refused to pay $4.49 CDN for a card marked $2.79 U.S.  Dayspring’s Canadian distributor, David C. Cook Canada quickly responded with an extra discount for retailers; but other card suppliers couldn’t or wouldn’t and quickly got dumped by individual stores.

We’ve survived those three crises, but are we still surviving?

Certainly e-mail is a viable substitute for licking envelopes and stamps, but even among those not internet-connected, we’ve noticed a drop in card sales; though churches keep buying boxed birthday and anniversary cards.

A discussion two weeks ago concluded that perhaps the dollar store threat still exists, and in a tighter economy people can’t justify paying $5.49 or $6.49 for a Dayspring card, even if they are owned by Hallmark.  An ongoing rant at this blog is that Dayspring is hopelessly out of touch with the average Christian consumer, so that explanation would suit me fine.

But I think what we’re really seeing is a loss of what I would call “greeting card culture.” Keeping in touch by mail has been replaced by Facebook and Twitter, and even if you aren’t online or don’t have a Facebook account, you’re being affected by their inroads into the social communications landscape. Receiving a card subconsciously reminds you to send cards, and when the volume of personal physical mail decreases, it has a snowball effect.

Farther down the road, I believe stores will have to re-evaluate the floor space currently devoted to greeting cards. I don’t see them totally disappearing in the next decade; but take a picture of your card section, because in two decades you might find yourself explaining to your grandchildren this facet of life we currently take for granted.

  1. Mel Zachary
    March 17, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Two other factors:
    1. Canada Post in their wise ways think that the higher they raise postage, the more mail people will send.
    2. Marketplace saturation. Not only are the dollar stores and gift stores selling cards but our grocers have added cards in a huge way. All 3 major grocers in our town have between 48 and 96 feet of cards. And, our local Canadian Tire has added several spinners of greeting cards equivalent to about 12 feet.

  2. April 17, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    I saw this and had to smile because of its similarity to a recent post of mine. How funny.

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