Greeting Card Sales Declining Due to Lack of New Ideas: Study

STEVENS, Pa. -- Although greeting cards make up the largest share of industry sales in the burgeoning $36 billion stationery goods market, at $10.3 billion, sales have actually declined 3.9 percent since 2002, according to a new research study from Unity Marketing, based here.

The drop reflects a mature category suffering from a dearth of new ideas. As a result of this decline in greeting card sales, the study says, growth in the stationery goods market is being fueled instead by heightened consumer demand for other memory and paper expression products, among them gifting and party goods such as gift wrap, ribbons and partyware, social and computer stationery, and paper crafting supplies for scrapbooking and make-your-own cards.

Almost 80 percent of adult Americans bought a greeting card in the past year, with the typical consumer purchasing about 10 during that period, the study revealed.

The study's psychographic analysis of what drives greeting card purchases found that half of the total greeting card market buys cards mainly because that's what's expected of them, rather than because they're motivated by a deep-seated desire to communicate through a carefully selected greeting card. Greeting cards no longer as relevant to many consumers' lives as they were in the past, the study found.

Noted Unity Marketing president Pam Danziger, "Given these dynamics, it is virtually impossible for any marketer to figure out a way to sell more greeting cards to more people more often for more money under the existing greeting card marketing paradigm."

Referencing the results of the psychographic analysis, she said, "These consumers are ready, eager, and willing to accept a new alternative."

Even those shoppers who are fit into the traditional greeting card marketing paradigm are treating such cards more like commodities, according to the study. One key factor is that more greeting cards, even those from such premium marketers like Hallmark and American Greetings, are easily available in mass channels, the top shopping source for all categories of stationery goods in the Unity Marketing survey.

As cards grow less differentiated and are sold more like commodities, consumers increasingly seek out cards that will work for a specific occasion and are priced right. "When a shopper perceives virtually no meaningful difference between a $3.50 premium card and a 50-cent one, then they will inevitably go for the lowest price point," observed Danziger.

Further, the study found that consumer sensitivity to high card prices is growing in the greeting card market. More consumers view the price of the card and the wrapping paper as part of the overall cost of a gift, so $5 extra for the card and wrapping paper adds to the overall perceived price of the gift. And many people today would rather put that extra $5 toward the gift itself reduce any extras to the bare minimum.

Unity Marketing's study of the greeting card, stationery, gift wrap and party goods and paper crafting markets includes findings from qualitative/focus group research among serious category users and a survey among a representative sample of 1,644 U.S. consumers focused on their purchases of stationery goods and the motivations that drove those purchase. For more information visit
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds