Paper greeting cards are making a comeback in 2020

During a holiday season when family gatherings are banned and office parties have taken the coal road downstairs, people are returning to an ancient tradition to share joy and good wishes. Folded pieces of Oaktag are decorated with pictures or designs and often smudged with an overzealous ballpoint pen. A dusting of glitter, a reference to a shared memory, a hint of perfume, all attempting to bridge the physical and emotional divides torn by an unrelenting pandemic.

These are, of course, greeting cards. Long the domain of grandparents, dental offices and work clients, these physical displays of affection are making a comeback in the age of COVID-19.

[Photo: The Card Bureau]

The roughly $8 billion industry trade association had predicted a strong season, and that’s exactly what happened. From the greeting card giants that dominate display shelves to small craft shops, business is booming.

“People can’t have the face-to-face contact and relationships they’re used to, so they crave those meaningful relationships,” says Lindsey Roy, CMO of Hallmark. “People discover or remember maps.”

The card titan reported triple-digit growth in online sales over the holiday season. Consumers are gobbling up ‘wish I was there’ and ‘through the miles’ cards, plus a new range of appreciation cards for the people who helped us through this crazy year, like childcare workers, hairdressers and the elderly. care workers.

“It’s an artifact of your relationship that really captures what’s in your heart in a meaningful way,” Roy says. “It’s a physical manifestation that someone loves you. It shows thought and effort and it’s something I can keep.

And many card buyers are looking beyond the traditional. Etsy noticed a 74% increase in searches for greeting cards, a 101% increase in searches for greeting cards, and a 46% increase in searches for custom or personalized cards from March to this month, compared to the same period last year.

Return of senders

According to an Ipsos poll conducted for Shutterfly in October, 34% of Americans plan to send greeting cards and 17% are sending greeting cards for the very first time. In addition, 23% of people think it is important to receive greeting cards.

“The card is a gift,” says Jim Hilt, president of Shutterfly. “When you personalize it with photos, pandemic puppies, the haircuts you’ve given yourself, the experiences your kids have had at school this year and share them with people you love and people that you haven’t seen in a while, you are effectively giving them a small part of your life. A card is a super personal expression of who you are.

Cincinnati’s Colette Paperie, which wholesales its greeting card lines to 500 stores and sells direct to consumers, reports a 300% increase in sales in November and December. And Culture Greetings, an Atlanta-based company that specializes in cards for people of color, has seen a 1,200% increase in sales since the pandemic began. (The female-run business lets you choose a card online, use a handwriting font to write a personal message, then send it directly to your loved one, so you don’t have to. buy cards in physical stores.)

[Photo: Shutterfly]

Chris Hernandez, director of communications from Kansas City, Missouri, estimates that he and his husband have sent about 60 greeting cards this year, double the number they sent in 2019. He’s unsure if he’ll keep the volume as high once the pandemic is over, however.

The couple bought a bunch of new cards and salvaged unused ones from years past; the biggest challenge they faced was tracking down people’s mailing addresses without letting them expect something in the mail. Each card is hand-addressed with little Magic Marker designs and a personal message inside (ranging from “Best wishes for 2021, because we all know 2020 sucks” for sneaky friends to “Wishing we could be together ” for more formal parents).

“We felt like we hadn’t seen our friends and loved ones in so long, at least we can send some sort of tactile greeting to let them know we’re thinking of them,” Hernandez says. “We’ve had a few text messages and also people sending us cards back, which is good. At the moment, they are at the buffet in our dining room.

Greeting cards are both an inexpensive keepsake and a loud expression of effort. You can reread them at your leisure or even save them. They show the sender having to go to a store, sift through a bunch of options, select one for you, write a message, find a stamp, address the envelope and put it in the mailbox – this is not the same as an abbreviation – laced text message sent from a couch.

A card is a super personal expression of who you are.

Jim Hilt, President, Shutterfly

The Card Bureau, headquartered in Springfield, Va., has seen online sales skyrocket 2,000%, even though its designs are high-end, like the $5 seeded paper ones the recipient can plant to grow flowers. The cards also tend to provide comic relief to a decidedly unfunny year; for example, one of the holiday bestsellers says, “Baby, it’s COVID outside” above a photo of a masked snowman.

“We’re posting sentiments on cards that are very relevant right now,” says founder Janie Velencia. “What else can we do? It’s a hard line to toe. It’s not really funny. People are dying from it. We don’t really want to make a joke out of it, but we want to add a bit of fun to it. light humour. We are all going through this very dark period together.

The Ancient Art of Wishes

The tradition of exchanging written greetings or holiday wishes dates back to ancient China and Egypt. What we think of as greeting cards today has its roots in the early 19th century, notably Valentine’s Day, followed by Christmas cards in the mid-1800s. The early 1900s saw a great boom in this called greeting postcards.

[Photo: Colette Paperie]

Today’s greeting cards telegraph additional meaning, not only by what’s written inside, but also by the image on the front, whether it’s bucolic country scenes, cartoons or photos of senders.

“It all feeds into the idea of ​​strengthening community and family bonds and using maps as a tool to do this work for us,” says Daniel Gifford, an affiliate history professor at the University of Louisville, specializing in popular culture. “When you look at a time like 2020, with that in mind, you can see why people would gravitate towards them.”

Mika R. Pyle