When one enters the office to find articles on their keyboard, it's fairly safe to assume that whatever it is, it's going to be important . . . or funny or timely.
In this case, it was a slim, stapled packet of printed papers. Not sure what aforementioned category this keyboard surprise would bring, I rushed through my get-into-the-office-routine and sat down to investigate.
I picked up the papers. It was a newspaper article from the January 29, 2020, Business section of the Wall Street Journal. The headline read: Hallmark Cards to Revamp Operations as Greeting Cards Fade: Century-old company plans to cut cost and refocus on digital efforts. To summarize, the article described the financial current events befalling the greeting card industry. It paints a bleak future for paper greeting cards: "Blame the emoji. Millenials and Gen Z just aren't sending greeting cards, and even their parents have moved to digital salutations."
Mr. Alan Horvitz, owner of a Hallmark store in Orleans, Massachusetts, is quoted as saying, "the broader shift to online shopping and younger consumers' disinterest in greeting cards has made the business unsustainable. They'll send a text, 'Sorry for your loss,' and that's how things get done. You can't sell a horse and buggy when cars are moving off the line."
"We tackle issues of grief, anxiety, depression, discouragement, infertility, cancer... nothing is taboo for us."
I'm not arguing that Hallmark, Papyrus and American Greetings aren't losing money - the balance sheets don't lie. I would, however, like to offer a counterpoint that greeting cards are going extinct. Immediately I thought of Sara McNally, a businessperson with skin in the greeting card game. McNally is the owner of Constellation & Co., a Seattle-based letterpress greeting card company, and the author of The Year I Became Snail Mail Superstar.
"As the owner of both a greeting card company and a brick and mortar shop, I have a lot of thoughts about the article. I agree that times are tough for the giants of the greeting card industry, but I think those issues are wholly separate from the health of written correspondence.
"For Constellation & Co., we've built a business on the back of one 'dead' craft (letterpress), selling products in a 'dying' industry (greeting cards), and we're continuing to grow year after year. Our customers are increasingly younger, and willing to spend increasingly more money, because they value the real relationships they're building through the mail. Our best selling product category every year are cards to 'show support.' We tackle issues of grief, anxiety, depression, discouragement, infertility, cancer ... nothing is taboo for us.
"My YouTube channel exists to inspire people to try writing a letter–and I receive those first attempts at letter writing from strangers on the internet often! I receive letters from kids, college students, fellow business owners, and people my parents' age."
"I don't believe that greetings cards are 'fading.' What's fading is a motivation to send cards based in obligation. People are weary of sending and receiving cards with words like 'deepest sympathies' that check the obligatory box but don't offer any real comfort or support. People have recognized that a birthday "e-card" sent out of technological ease really isn't any more meaningful than a text message. But when it comes to the real human connection that can come through the mail–a handwritten letter, a card chosen with care specifically for that person, a beautiful postcard from far away–anything that arrives in person with a stamp, there is still great love and meaning there."
If you're vested in philately, if sending thank you cards was instilled in you from a young age, if you're familiar, if only in passing, with Emily Post, then this notion of the correspondence industry going belly-up is an overgeneralization that lacks input from "snail mail lovers and stamp collectors, fountain pen enthusiasts, typewriter operators, and mail artists," writes McNally. "The greeting card industry may have seen some changes these last several years, but believe me, it's a phoenix. It will always rise again, and with more heart, honesty, and authenticity."
In light of the fact that I am [probably] preaching to the choir, I'd love to hear your thoughts about greeting cards and whether you continue to send and receive them and why (contact information below). Personally, letters, sending and receiving them, connect me to people near and far and across time and space. Right now, as a matter of fact, I have two worn and tattered cards in my purse and one (less battered), pinned to the bulletin board on the wall in my office. If my kitchen drawer is ever bereft of cards, that is an indicator that things have gone seriously amok.
In addition to being a writer and entrepreneur, Sara McNally produces a YouTube channel dubbed "Snail Mail Superstar." Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
PS: The American Philatelic Society is based in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. We all enjoyed a an ironic chuckle at Mr. Horvitz's comment, "You can't sell a horse and buggy," as we would invite anyone unfamiliar with the great state of Pennsylvania to come visit [us] and see for themselves that in fact the selling of horses and buggies is still "big business" in these parts.