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Articles Home-&-Family Holidays

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A greeting card is an illustrated, folded card usually featuring a message of greeting or other sentiment. Although greeting cards are usually given on special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas or other holidays, they are also sent on "non-occasions" to say "hello" or "thank you." Greeting cards, usually packaged with an envelope, come in a variety of styles, are manufactured and/or hand-made by hundreds of companies big and small.

Cards are great to give and to receive. Children's eyes brighten, and wives and husbands feel a great warmth when a card is received for a special occasion or just for fun. Running down to the corner market or local gift shop to find that perfect card, you scan the racks for the card. You check your watch -- time is running out, because you've waited till the last minute. You pick one up and the saying is too syrupy or the card has an inappropriate picture but perfect saying. You scratch your head, thinking this isn't working, and then you notice the perfect card. You anticipate the verse inside, knowing it is going to be just what you wanted. You eagerly pick up the card. You just know it is the right one. Once opened, your anticipation is dealt a heavy blow. There isn't anything in the card. It's blank! Now you've got to work over time trying to think of the appropriate words. Usually you'll settle with something light and polite.

With a computer and computer crafting programs you can eliminate the rush, anticipation and the disappointment. There are plenty of ready-made cards to choose from with graphics and verses. You can even change them around if you like. Also, you can search the Internet for sayings and clip-art from clip-art sites. You can personalize your own card in the privacy of your own home, with the waste of gas, long lines and over-paying for a card that "just isn't right."

Cardmakers say the Internet hasn't been a significant force. "Despite what everybody anticipated in the beginning, e-cards haven't made that much difference," Miller said. "It's a very transient type of communication."

Her group says people tend to send e-greetings to acquaintances, but once they morph into true friends, "people seem to solidify that kind of relationship with paper cards."

As with other items, the bulk of card sales has shifted to mass-market merchandisers. That, in turn, has kept sales dollars flat as those stores increasingly discount products.

But cards are also growing into new venues. Bordow said Palm has found that its cards are carried by a range of nontraditional outlets: health clubs, coffee shops, delis, veterinarians, sporting-goods stores and even car washes.

The greeting card industry is fighting its way out of a long-term slump as card makers compete with deep discounts and a variety of new competitors. Major card makers have been forced to begin selling inexpensive lines in recent years as consumers began turning their backs on $4 cards.

The price of cards has increased in part because of the higher costs of paper and labor. Also, greeting cards have become more intricate during the past few years, Albertson said. Things such as specialty papers and computer chips have been employed by many card makers to enhance sales.

In 1999 Hallmark released its Warm Wishes line of cards, which sells for 99 cents. American Greetings soon followed with similar prices. Still, according to Hallmark, the less-expensive cards are not the biggest sellers.

"We did extensive research to find out what customers wanted, and we found that while customers wanted low-priced cards to be an option, they did not want the other cards to disappear," said Rachel Bolton of Hallmark.

Hallmark and American Greetings -- both companies sell 85 percent of the nation's greeting cards -- have launched advertising campaigns in newspapers and on television to lure customers to their retail stores.

Experts said most consumers don't value-shop during holidays such as Christmas, Valentine's Day and Mother's Day.

But price-conscious parents often find themselves shopping for more inexpensive cards or making their own for children who attend several birthday parties a month. Software programs and plain construction paper often help parents save money on such materials.

Today, there are cards for nearly every relationship, occasion, ethnicity, age group, gender and l interest.

The expanding Christmas card market includes cards for motorcycle enthusiasts, depicting Santa on a Harley, instead of a sleigh; dogs and cats with reindeer antlers to appeal to pet lovers; and even a meditating Santa for those who take a more holistic approach to the holidays.

But the fastest-growing segment of the Christmas card market are cards associated with Christmas but reflect cultural differences, such as cards for Ramadan, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, said Marianne McDermott, executive vice president of the Washington-based Greeting Card Association.
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