A greeting card is an illustrated, folded card featuring an expression of friendship or other sentiment. Although greeting cards are usually given on special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas or other holidays, they are also sent to convey thanks or express other feeling. Greeting cards, usually packaged with an envelope, come in a variety of styles. There are both mass-produced as well as handmade versions that are distributed by hundreds of companies large and small. While typically inexpensive, more elaborate cards with die-cuts or glued-on decorations may be more expensive.
Hallmark Cards and American Greetings are the largest producers of greeting cards in the world. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that one billion pounds are spent on greeting cards every year, with the average person sending 55 cards per year.
In western countries and increasingly in other societies, many people traditionally mail seasonally themed cards to their friends and relatives in December. Many service businesses also send cards to their customers in this season, usually with a universally acceptable non-religious message such as "happy holidays" or "seasons's greetings".
The Greeting Card Association is an international trade organization representing the interests of greeting card and stationery manufacturers. John Beeder, former president of the Greeting Card Association, says greeting cards are effective tools to communicate important feelings to people you care about: "Anyone feels great when they receive an unexpected card in the mail. For me, there’s nothing like a greeting card to send a special message. I’m proud to be a part of an industry that not only keeps people connected, but uses both imagery and the power of words to help us express our emotions.”
History of greeting cards;
The custom of sending greeting cards can be traced back to the ancient Chinese, who exchanged messages of good will to celebrate the New Year, and to the early Egyptians, who conveyed their greetings on papyrus scrolls. By the early 15th century, handmade paper greeting cards were being exchanged in Europe. The Germans are known to have printed New Year's greetings from woodcuts as early as 1400, and handmade paper Valentines were being exchanged in various parts of Europe in the early to mid-15th century, with the oldest Valentine in existence being in the British Museum.
By the 1850s, the greeting card had been transformed from a relatively expensive, handmade and hand-delivered gift to a popular and affordable means of personal communication, due largely to advances in printing, mechanization, and a reduction in postal rates with the introduction of the postage stamp. This was followed by new trends like Christmas cards, the first of which appeared in published form in London in 1843 when Sir Henry Cole hired artist John Calcott Horsley to design a holiday card that he could send to his friends and acquaintances. In the 1860s, companies like Marcus Ward & Co, Goodall and Charles Bennett began the mass production of greeting cards. They employed well known artists such as Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane as illustrators and card designers.
Technical developments like color lithography in 1930 propelled the manufactured greeting card industry forward. Humorous greeting cards, known as studio cards, became popular in the late 1940s and 1950s.
In the 1970s Recycled Paper Greetings, a small company needing to establish a competing identity against the large companies like Hallmark Cards, began publishing humorous "whimsical" card designs with the artist's name credited on the back. This was away from what was known as the standard look (sometimes called the Hallmark look.) By the 1980s there was a thriving market for what were now called "alternative" greeting cards, and the name stuck even though these "alternative" cards changed the look of the entire industry.
The largest recorded number of greeting cards sent to a single person went to Craig Shergold, a beneficiary/victim of chain letters and later chain emails.
|First ever valentines card|
"Since on this ever Happy day,
All Nature's full of Love and Play
Yet harmless still if my design,
'Tis but to be your Valentine."
The card was sent by Catherine Mossday to Mr Brown of Dover Place, Kent Road, London. Inside a handwritten message reads intriguingly:
As I have repeatedly requested you to come I think you must have some reason for not complying with my request, but as I have something particular to say to you I could wish you make it all agreeable to come on Sunday next without fail and in doing you will oblige your well wisher.
Today over 2 billion greeting cards are sold annually in the UK covering all manner of occasions from birthdays to Bar Mitzvah's, new home to new job, good luck to graduation and much more besides. It is estimated that the size of the UK market is around Â£1.7 billion per annum. People in the UK send more cards per capita than any other nation.
The tradition of sending good wishes goes back many centuries, probably beginning with the Chinese and Egyptians who exchanged goodwill messages at the start of a new year to ward off evil spirits. However, these tokens were not sent at other times of year and didn't bear any resemblance to cards we recognise today.
There is evidence of printed cards from the 14th Century in Germany where images were carved onto wood blocks, which then be covered in ink and used to print onto paper. These forms of cards were very expensive since they were handmade so were only accessible to well to do and wealthy individuals.
Sir Henry Cole has been credited with establishing the first printed cards that has developed into the mass-production industry we know today. Cole asked his friend and artist John Calcott Horsely to create a painting that could be printed in quantity for him to give to all his friends. Sir Henry Cole was an enterprising man with interests in a number of areas. He quickly recognised the opportunity this printed greeting card could offer, even selling off the remaining stock of cards from this first print run in central London.
The introduction of the Penny Post service combined with improvements to print technologies and paper production quickly increased the popularity, availability and affordability of printed Christmas cards and by the early 1900's the Royal Mail was dealing with an extra 11 million cards during the festive season.
Card manufacturers began to recognise other events and occasions for which cards could be given, moving from Christmas cards to Valentines cards. The oldest example of a printed Valentine card is held in the British Museum.
Today cards are sent to celebrate all kinds of events, such as a child's first day at school, birthdays, congratulations, good luck, well done and even to acknowledge divorce. There are a large number of major card publishers producing cards to suit all tastes and pockets, including irreverent funny cards, traditional cards and detailed handmade cards.
The record for the largest number of cards sent to a single person is held by Craig Shergold, who was the victim of an early Internet chain letter. Craig was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer at the age of 9 and his family sent a request via email asking people to send him greeting cards so he could get into the Guinness Book of World records. Unfortunately they didn't put a time limit on the request and, by the end of 1991, he had been sent 35 million cards. American businessman, John Kluge, heard about Craig's condition and offered to pay for a life saving operation for him. The operation was successful and Craig recovered from the cancer, but cards continued to be sent to the Shergold's address. The family was allocated their own postcode and even moved house to escape from the deluge of mail that continued to arrive. The chain letter continued to weave its way across the globe and despite the record being retired by the Guinness Book of Records, cards are still being received. To date, over 350 million at the last count.
Postcards are another type of greeting cards, which are single-sided without the fold, can function in a manner somewhat similar to greeting cards. Postcards appeared fairly early on in the history of the postal service as a cheaper way of sending messages, especially those of a tourist nature.
Latest figures about greetings cards;
- The total single card market value is fairly static at £1.38bn with the Everyday category worth £1.008bn, showing a small increase.
- The total single card market volume shows a smal decrease from 997m to 952m.
- The average retail price (ARP) of a card is now £1.44, up from £1.39.
- Christmas single card value has dropped slightly to £148m - the ARP has risen slightly to £1.52.
- Spring Seasons volume remains the same at 87m.
- Mother’s Day remains the largest Spring Seasons card sending event, showing a rise to £57.2m in 2011 from £56.4m in 2010, the ARP is slightly down to £1.87 from £1.91.
- And the UK public continues to show its romantic side with Valentine's Day sales also increasing to £41.5m in 2011, up from £40.7m in 2010, with the highest ARP of all the categories tracked at £1.95.
Facts about greetings cards;
- The greeting card industry is directly and indirectly responsible for the jobs of 100,000 people in the UK including: publishers; artists, photographers and image suppliers; verse and prose writers; printers; paper and board companies; envelope and cello wrap suppliers; specialist finishers; warehousing and distribution companies; trade fair organisers and retailers.
- No other country has such a tradition of card sending or card display in the home - the sending and receiving of cards is an important part of our culture. 85% of all cards are bought by women!
- The UK card industry is acknowledged to be ten years ahead of the rest of the world in terms of design.
- There are approximately 800 publishers in the UK, most of which are small businesses with fewer than five employees. Out of the 460 members of the GCA over 350 are small/micro businesses.
- It’s a creative industry with strong bases in London, Nottinghamshire and the North, especially Yorkshire and Lancashire, where it has replaced many of the heavy manufacturing industries as a major employers.
- Charities estimate that £50m is raised for good causes through the sales of charity Christmas cards each year.
- Greeting cards are stocked in more types of outlet than any other product – with one in six retailers stocking greeting cards.
- The commercial Christmas card was invented in 1846 by Sir Henry Cole, the chief organiser of the Great Exhibition, pioneer of the penny post and founder of the V&A Museum.
- One of Sir Henry’s first Christmas cards, sent to his Grandmother was recently sold at auction for £22,500.
- Greeting card making is also the number one craft hobby, according to Crafts Beautiful, the top consumer craft magazine, which receives more enquiries about greeting cards than any other subject.
Target audience for greeting cards;
According to the Greeting Card Association, women account for 80 percent of greeting card sales. This means that four out of five purchases is going to be by a woman. Therefore regardless of who the end recipient of the card is, your key customer target is female. When you are preparing cards for sale, remember that even male themed cards are likely to be purchased my a female.
When men buy cards they are likely to buy cards for special occasions and generally only for their partner and family. Therefore planning products and marketing campaigns to target male shoppers and help them with their purchase decision should help to generate sales.
Categories for greetings cards;
There are two categories of greeting cards. These are every day cards and seasonal cards. The top selling every day card is the birthday card which accounts for over half of the total sold. This is followed by wedding and anniversary, get well and sympathy, and friendship and encouragement cards. Top selling seasonal cards are Christmas and holidays cards. These account for more than 60 percent of all seasonal card sales. These are followed by Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Graduation cards. Again, these are average figures, therefore this might not reflect your range of handmade cards based on your customer requirements. This does, however, provide a good base to plan from when you are starting a handmade card business.
Different types of greeting cards;
- Standard greeting cards
- Photo greeting cards
- Personalised greeting cards
- Re-useable greeting cards
- Risque greeting cards
- Musical greeting cards
- Electronic greeting cards
- Pop up cards
There is a significant trend towards combing high technology with greeting cards, for instance musical cards or greeting cards that contain LED lights. People are now familiar with e-cards and these are becoming increasingly accepted. However as more greeting cards feature high-tech wizardry, so there is a growing appreciation for handmade cards. The Greeting Card Association refers to a special combination of card, artwork, and gift. This is a useful niche for the handmade card maker. If you are making quality handmade cards with lots of special details then these will be highly appreciated. This type of card will continue to grow in popularity as a balance to high-tech cards.