The Greeting Card Association (GCA) expects approximately 1.6 billion Christmas cards (both boxed and individual cards) to be purchased in the U.S. this year – reflecting the continued strength of the Christmas card category and the cultural significance of this important holiday tradition among consumers.
Sales for individual Christmas cards, which are generally selected for just one recipient, are increasing year-over-year. Nearly 160 million individual Christmas cards are anticipated to be purchased this year, generating some $427 million in sales from individual cards alone (not including boxed card assortments). As people’s busy holiday schedules sometimes cause them to miss the window for boxed-card buying and sending, they still may want to send cards to close family members and friends, so they hand-pick individual designs for a smaller group of recipients.
Boxed holiday card assortments continue to have very strong sales as well. The combination of the “billboard” packaging and value pricing that typically equates to less than $1 per card makes boxed cards very attractive for the value-oriented consumer. Decorative packaging that helps “romance” the holiday occasion and differentiates the product from look-alike boxed cards may be contributing to sales as well.
Christmas is the number-one card-sending holiday in the U.S. (followed, in order, by Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Easter). Seasonal cards account for approximately half of all greeting cards purchased in America. About half of all card buyers purchase at least one individual Christmas card – with a 50/50 split between male and female buyers, and about one in four being from the Gen Y/Millennial demographic. Among card buyers who sent holiday cards in 2011, slightly more than half gave a card to someone whom they did not give one to in 2010, namely friends.
According to GCA member American Greetings, based in Cleveland, OH, upcoming holiday card designs focus on the warmth and happiness of the Christmas season, incorporating techniques and technology that make them festive, fun and eye-catching, with plenty of sparkle and shine. American Greetings says that red is red hot this year – evoking a universal feeling of nostalgia during the holiday season. Some cards include symbolic elements, such as Christmas trees and Santas, that clearly announce the presence of Christmas and evoke happy memories. Verses center on the nostalgic, warm and positive nature of the season, with messages that send wishes of love, peace and joy for the season.
GCA member Hallmark Cards of Kansas City, MO, sees design directions ranging from familiar traditions expressed through authentic photography or silver and gold burnished metals in exquisite patterns with hand-lettered calligraphy, to reinterpretations of holiday icons in “techno-dazzle”-inspired futuristic palettes and finishes. Many cards this year serve multiple purposes as well: mantle-worthy designs so intricate they are part of the home’s holiday décor or double as ornaments to hang on the tree; recordable keepsakes to keep a loved one’s voice and cherish year after year; magnet cards to display on the refrigerator; even “countdown” features to entertain the little ones eager to mark the days until Santa’s arrival.
Other Christmas card trends for 2012, shared by GCA member Leanin’ Tree of Boulder, CO, include elements of personalization – from adding a photo to creating a personalized message; symbols and messages of peace; inspirational and encouraging verses; value-added embellishments such as glitter, foil, die-cuts, three-dimensional shapes, music or sound chips; decorative and keepsake boxes; and the addition of a more contemporary palette using turquoise, bright green and purple, as well as shades of pink or magenta.
Christmas cards made in the USA will be a top trend sought by consumers this year, according to GCA member Masterpiece Studios of North Mankato, MN. Regional greetings – depicting images highlighting the sender’s geographic location – will also be more prominent, as will the usage of the “Merry Christmas” sentiment, although there is still a need for “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” messaging as well.
Images: top, Masterpiece Studios, right, Leanin Tree