With the growth of online communication, one might think that the greeting card industry is all but dead. The truth is that the industry is alive and well, thriving in an age of immediate communication.
The custom of sending a greeting card to someone can be traced to the societies of Ancient China, who used to exchange messages of goodwill to celebrate special holidays. The Egyptians used to send greetings to one another using papyrus scrolls. It wouldn’t be until the 15th century, however, that paper greeting cards began to be exchanged in Europe.
By the 19th century, the greeting card industry moved from a mass-produced product to one that was handmade, hand-delivered, and considered more as a gift than a means of communication. It wouldn’t be until the 1930s, when printing advances made mass-production possible again, that greeting cards return to a means of communication.
They have also managed to retain their idea of a gift, often being given during special events, holidays, or occasions.
Important Greeting Card Industry Statistics
#1. In the United States, Americans purchase an average of 6.5 billion greeting cards every year. The annual retail sales of these purchases fall between $7 billion and $8 billion at the retail level. (Greeting Card Association)
#2. Birthday cards are the most popular greeting cards that are purchased each year in the United States. This is followed by other occasion-based cards, such as thank you cards, wedding cards, or sympathy cards. (Greeting Card Association)
#3. More than 1.6 billion cards that are purchased each year are Christmas cards, making it the most popular seasonal greeting card. About 145 million Valentine’s day cards are purchased each year – though that figure excludes classroom tear-apart valentines. Mother’s Day comes in third, with 133 million cards sold. (Greeting Card Association)
#4. About 7 million greeting cards are purchased each year to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. (Greeting Card Association)
#5. Women are responsible for about 80% of the overall sales that occur at the retail level for the greeting card industry. Women are also more likely to purchase more than one card at a time and they spend more time looking for the “right” card to purchase. (Greeting Card Association)
#6. The average price of a greeting card is highly variable, ranging from $0.50 to $10. Most greeting cards are priced between $2 to $4 at the counter. Items that increase the price of a card include LED lights, sound chips, and handmade features. (Greeting Card Association)
#7. 70% of people who purchase greeting cards say they are essential to their lifestyle. 80% of greeting card buyers say that they expect their purchasing habits to remain the same in the coming year. (Greeting Card Association)
#8. Greeting card buyers say that they will increase their purchases for cards in the next year at a 2:1 ratio compared to buyers who expect to spend less. (Greeting Card Association)
#9. 90% of households in the United States purchase greeting cards at least once per year. The average household will purchase 30 individual cards over the course of 12 months. (The Spruce Crafts)
#10. Online greeting cards are a growing segment of the overall industry. In 2016, online greeting cards generated $393 million in revenues. (IBIS World)
#11. From 2012-2017, online greeting cards saw an annual growth rate of 4%. (IBIS World)
#12. Just 1,000 businesses are involved in the creation of online greeting cards, with most businesses having a single employee associated with the company (IBIS World)
#13. About GBP 1 billion is spent on greeting cards in the United Kingdom each year. The average person in the U.K. will send about 55 cards out each year. (BBC News)
#14. Hallmark is the most dominant force in the greeting card industry right now. In 2014, they had retail sales of $3.8 billion. American Greetings averages about $2 billion each year in sales. (Inc.)
#15. From 2010 to 2014, Hallmark reduced their workforce from 22,000 FTEs to about 10,500 FTEs to cope with the changing industry. Some of its divisions are still profitable, though revenue has been declining at a 2% rate each year. (National Public Radio)
#16. 45 million people send birthday wishes to someone they know on Facebook every day. (Slate)
#17. The “Everyday” greeting card category is the largest in the U.K., with a value of GBP 1.008 billion. Birthday cards are the largest segment of this category, responsible for 75% of total sales. (Greeting Card Association)
#18. There are currently 800 card publishers operating in the U.K right now, offering more types of outlet than any other product sold within the country. (Greeting Card Association)
#19. 1 out of every 6 retailers in the United Kingdom offers a selection of greeting cards for sale. (Greeting Card Association)
#20. In the United States, there are an estimated 3,000 greeting card publishers which are offering units for sale each year. (Greeting Card Association)
#21. Although the average household purchases around 30 greeting cards each year, the average person only receives 20 cards per year, with most of them arriving around Christmas. (Greeting Card Association)
#22. 1 out of every 3 cards that people receive each year is a birthday card. (Greeting Card Association)
#23. Birthday cards in the United Kingdom account for 58% of total industry sales each year. More cards are purchased in the U.K. than any other country in the world today. (Greeting Card Association)
#24. Hallmark had a 51.2% share of the greeting card market in 2016. America Greetings had a 23.4% share of the market. (CNBC)
#25. There are still 2,000 Hallmark Crown Gold stores operating in the United States, with a mix of individually-operated and company-owned locations available. (CNBC)
#26. Online greeting cards in the U.K. generated GBP 122 million in revenues annually. Since 2013, the online segment of the industry has been growing at an average rate of 6.2% each year. (IBIS World)
#27. About 244 businesses are currently creating online greeting cards in the U.K., providing direct employment opportunities for about 1,000 people. (IBIS World)
#28. American Greetings is worth 65% less today as a company than its peak value, which was achieved in 1998. (The Wall Street Journal)
#29. Since 2008, digital card website someecards.com has had 3.2 million registered visitors and became profitable as a private company in 2010. (Huffington Post)
#30. Papyrus, a greeting card producer which owns Carlton Cards, Recycled Paper Greetings, and Gibson, was purchased by American Greetings in 2009. In 2012, the Papyrus segment of the company generated $1.6 billion in revenue. (Huffington Post)
Greeting Card Industry Trends and Analysis
Although greeting cards have long been part of the way we communicate with one another, the industry is seeing fewer repetitive customers stop by to purchase a card. It is an industry that is within its declining life-cycle stage because there are more digital options for communication today than ever before.
That doesn’t mean the industry is dead. Far from it. There are still many dedicated consumers who will purchase between 30-60 greeting cards each year for distribution.
Over the next 5-year period, expect the industry to see an average decline of around 5%. By 2023, industry revenues will likely drop to around the $5 billion mark in the United States. At the same time, GDP is expected to grow at 2% each year, which shows the trouble the industry is currently in right now.
The one variable which is difficult to predict for the industry is the Millennial shopper. Young Millennials especially, coming from homes that have incorporated high levels of technology, are sometimes placing more emphasis on handwritten messages than previous generations. In some geographic regions, such as the U.S. East Coast, Millennials spend an average of $6 per card instead of the $2 to $4 of the average consumer.
If more Millennials embrace this trend, the greeting card industry may do more than survive. It will begin to thrive once again.