The future is in the cards
By Mike Phelan
Who doesn’t love receiving a handwritten card in the post? Whether full of personal sentiments or life updates, greeting cards evoke all kinds of emotions, happy, sad or touching.
When to send greeting cards
It makes no difference if it’s news of a newborn baby, a birthday, a wedding, an anniversary, or any other significant occasion. A greeting card is like no other medium in the way it enables one person to convey their wishes and feelings to another. The combination of illustrations and highly personal hand-written words is an undisputed, all-powerful means of expression.
Why greeting cards are important
Despite fierce competition from online alternatives, we still cherish the thought of receiving tangible, physical sentiments expressed in loving writing on greeting cards.
It’s why the humble greeting card, a seemingly highly traditional method of communication is undergoing a modern revolution. Creative people of all ages understand the power of a simple greeting card in this modern age of technology. They continue to apply their imagination and skill to bring us cards that touch both psyche and soul, in a way online expression cannot.
Are greeting cards still popular?
In its 2017 report, The Greeting Card Association, the trade body representing the UK greeting card industry, reported that the industry ‘is worth more than it has ever been before in its history. The public spent an incredible £1.75 billion on greeting cards in the last calendar year, up £500,000 on the year previous’.
Samantha Dover, retail analyst for Mintel Academic, the world’s leading marketing intelligence agency states: “Resistant to the growing threat of digital alternatives, the UK greetings card and personal stationery market has continued to grow. Growth in consumer spending on greetings cards has outpaced stationery. However, a number of trend-driven retailers have proven that demand for both well-made and well-designed stationery remains robust. Looking forward, the major trends that will drive growth in the market will be product personalisation and in-store experience.”
Pemberly Fox affirms this on their greeting cards pages: “The pleasure of writing a thank you note on a piece of lovingly designed and beautifully crafted card will always outweigh the sending of a text or an email and bring enjoyment to sender and recipient alike.
“The letters, cards and notelets that we send today are the keepsakes of tomorrow. They provide a record of our lives and our thoughts, mementos of our own past for future generations, just like Granny’s letters and photos were for us."
Sharon Little, CEO of the Greeting Card Association, writes: “The findings in this report prove that the British appetite for buying and sending greeting cards continues unabated, with cards remaining the preferred choice when it comes to expressing a personal message.
“As scientific research has shown, texts, social media messages or emails will just not do when it comes to making someone feel special. And long may it continue.”
A brief history of the greeting card
The custom of sending greeting cards is thought to have been introduced by the ancient Chinese. They exchanged messages of goodwill to celebrate the New Year. The early Egyptians are said to have sent greetings on papyrus scrolls. By the early 15th century, handmade paper greeting cards, including Valentines, were being exchanged in Europe.
By the 1850s, the greeting card had been transformed from a relatively expensive, handmade and hand-delivered gift to a popular and affordable means of personal communication. The Victorians truly took greetings cards to heart. They made them into an art form, albeit the art of the chocolate box with their flourishing blooms, entwined hearts and cherubic, bonneted children!
Although slightly less sentimental - and in some cases downright cheeky -greeting cards are just as popular today as they were with the Victorian public. Across the pond, according to the Boston Globe, millennials are buying more greeting cards than the baby boomers. This is perhaps as an antidote to the digital age. Thousands of letterpress and other paper card businesses have sprouted up across the US and UK, offering a unique look that also commands a higher price. In some cases, cards have become so elaborate, with glitter, pop-ups and other embellishments that the card has become the gift itself.
Is the future bright for the greeting cards industry?
Looking further into 2018, printed.com reports on its website blog: “Our increasingly digital world means that the personal touch can make all the difference. It can show you’ve thought beyond email, beyond social media, beyond digital – and put an extra layer of effort into your greetings.
“Alongside personalisation, calligraphy and handwriting also look set to take the stationery world by storm, for similar reasons. A handwritten note with the same content as a typed one feels so much more personal, so much more considered.
Pemberly Fox couldn’t agree more. Receiving a hand written card really can brighten the recipient’s day and reassure them that someone cares.
Printed.com continues: “The UK public are spending more on greeting cards than ever before. £1.75 billion is spent each year on greeting cards, and that figure is growing. On average, each person will buy 33 greeting cards per year, that’s more than any other nation”. Clearly, we are a nation of thoughtful friends and lovers.
“The UK card industry is acknowledged to be ten years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of design. Greeting cards are stocked in more types of outlet than any other product – one in six retailers stock greeting cards!”
I have looked at a considerable number of websites and reference sources for this article. I can confidently conclude that the enchanting appeal of the greeting card is undeniable. It is clear that the public’s desire for paper greetings cards is continuing unabated. The growth of online retail is leading to a flourishing marriage between creatives and the independent greeting card industry. This in turn is seeing an exciting surge in the choice of greetings cards now offered to consumers.
It would seem that the future is most certainly written in the cards.