n June 2016, the IBISWorld report Greeting
Cards & Other Publishing in the U.S. painted
a rather uninspiring picture of the greeting
cards category in today’s digital age.
“Over the past five years, the proliferation of paperless
substitutes has dampened revenue for the greeting cards
and other publishing [industries]. … Moreover, as many
downstream markets have consolidated, such as brick-
and-mortar book store retailers, the industry has grappled
with fewer retailers including industry products on their
Does that signal a death knell for the greeting card mar-
ket? Not so fast, industry experts say.
Mark Twain’s comment when the New York Journal
ran his obituary prematurely is applicable to the greeting
card category today: “The reports of my death are greatly
Stable Market, Room for Growth
According to Peter Doherty, executive director of the
Greeting Card Association (GCA), the greeting card category remains relatively stable across all age groups; even
members of Gen Y are active card senders, Doherty says.
“Greeting cards continue to be a really meaningful way
for people of all ages to connect. At the GCA, we continue
to see new members—many small, niche publishers—join
the association, so we continue to be very positive about
the category,” he says.
Manufacturers are similarly optimistic. Stacey Howe,
VP/GM of national accounts for Hallmark Cards,
describes the category as “a stable, yet vibrant business
with opportunities for growth.”
Citing GCA research, Howe points to the 6. 5 billion
cards American purchase annually, or nearly 18 million
cards a day.
Supporting the findings is Hallmark research showing
millennials “are growing their spending in this category
faster than any other generation,” as proof of the category’s potential.
“Contrary to popular belief, the surge in social media
is actually supporting our business,” Howe says. “What
we’re finding is in this increasingly digital world, con-
sumers crave the tactile experience that greeting cards
provide. Sending a friend a greeting card on her birthday
breaks through the clutter and makes a bigger impact
than a simple [happy birthday] sent through text or
In fact, the silver lining in the IBISWorld report is the
prediction that a rise in consumer spending “may lead
to more consumers purchasing high-cost greeting cards,
such as interactive greeting cards.”
That is just what some manufacturers are already
“While greeting card sales as a category have not grown
in unit sales for many years, the category has grown due
to higher end product, continued growth in the humor
category, and more specialized sentiments that appeal to
a wider range of senders,” says Paul Griffler, director of
sales and marketing for Sellers Publishing, manufacturer
of the RSVP greeting card line.
Great for Grocers
The fact that many card-focused stores are no longer part
of the retail landscape has created a stellar opportunity
for grocery retailers to compete in the category.
“There is a channel shift from card stores—places like
Borders Books are not around anymore—and mass merchandisers have benefited,” says Marc Trobman, VP of
development at Avanti Press, makers of the humor-based
greeting card brands Avanti, A*Press and America.
As Doherty notes, the category’s profit potential is a big
Are in the Cards
Greeting cards offer a high-margin revenue stream
for grocery retailers. By Kathleen Furore
households in North
America that still
buy paper cards.