By: Steve Markenson, Director of Research, Food Marketing Institute
Valentines Day Card

My wife’s birthday is on February 13th. Yes, the day before Valentine’s Day.

Since we first started dating in college, at a time before Facebook or ecards, I have always taken the time to pick out just the right card for her. I pore over the card section of our local grocery store reading every card – often multiple times – in order to pick just the right one. In fact, there have always been two: a Valentine and a birthday wish. And, continuing with tradition, I’ve always given paper cards.

There is something meaningful about giving or receiving a thoughtful paper card, as opposed to an ecard or a Facebook post. As I have stood in the greeting card aisle in recent years, I have often pondered the future of the greeting card in this digital age. As a Gen X’er, will my generation be the last to appreciate the paper greeting card? Am going to eventually be converted? What are Millennials perceptions of this old-school method of expression?

So this year, in my role as Research Director of FMI, I decided to do some of my own research. And, I am happy to report that the traditional greeting card industry is surviving and thriving in the digital age. The industry has maintained its traditional offerings while expanding into more innovative approaches for its card offerings. The Greeting Card Association (GCA) has acknowledged the “resiliency” of the industry, as it reports annual sales of almost $8 billion. GCA reports that most buyers consider greeting cards “absolutely” or “almost” essential to them and similarly high proportions expect their purchases to remain the same in the future.  

Additionally, millennials are showing signs of embracing this old-school method of expression. In fact, American Greetings reported that “more than 80 percent of millennials bought a paper greeting card in the past year, which is consistent with other generations of older consumers.” Millennials are using paper cards for many purposes, from the basic thank you to the more innovative, new offerings. Greeting card companies, like Hallmark, are pushing the innovative approaches along with more personalization and customization to the shopper.          

The greeting card companies are also getting savvier in working with retailers. Along with new product offerings, many have developed innovative displays and have an individualized approach to offering in-store marketing capabilities. This customization includes matching product offerings with the demographics of each store.

All this effort has resulted in a resilient greeting card industry that continues to attract shoppers – although they all arguably don’t spend as much time in the card aisle in February as I do!    

Photo credit: Joe Haupt