Think no one but your grandmother sends cards anymore? Turns out greeting cards are still popular -- but maybe not in the way you think.
Angelica Berrie, the owner of Kate's Paperie, an upscale card and paper store in New York City, says her greeting card sales -- which make up 30 percent of her revenue -- have increased every year for the past five years as shoppers are buying more luxurious cards.
The cards at her store cost between $6 and $8 per card. In contrast, a mass-produced card you can pick up at a local drugstore costs anywhere from $1 to $5 per card.
"With my handmade cards, [they] are becoming the gift itself," Berrie said. "The old-fashioned way of mailing can only be done as a luxury."
American Greetings -- the largest publicly traded maker of greeting cards in the country -- announced this week that it was pulling out of the stock market to return to life as a private company. The Cleveland-based card company closed many of its retail store locations over the last few years and is worth almost 65 percent less today than it was at its peak in 1998, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The latest news prompted some to declare that the old-fashioned mass-market greeting card industry was dead. But that's only part of the story. Over the past decade, small, high-end boutique card-makers, custom-design printers and online card companies have grown in the shadow of the giant paper card industry, including the massive -- but struggling -- Hallmark Card company.
Even as American Greetings recedes from public view, different companies are having a coming-out party as the new face of an old industry.
Digital card producers and social media companies like Facebook have been angling to get bigger slices of the greeting card pie in recent years. Facebook recently revamped its birthday alert tool and gifts program -- even analyzing words in status updates to prompt gift-giving -- to help the social media company make money.
Duncan Mitchell, founder of digital card website someecards.com, said his website has seen more than 3.2 million registered visitors since 2008 and has been profitable for the last three years as a private company. To make money, his cards are often part of content partnerships with established brands looking to advertise.
Traditional drugstore cards "are saccharine and overly sincere, and that's not the tone that people are that excited about now," Mitchell said. Instead of the slapstick humor that characterizes many of the cards sold in the supermarket aisle, his cards -- which can be sent for free -- strike an edgier tone, with birthday greetings like “May you live twice as long as Michael Jackson and be half as creepy.”
Meanwhile, the popularity of high-end cards, like the ones sold at Kate's Paperie, has not been lost on American Greetings either; it purchased the Papyrus chain, which sells pricey cards, in 2009. Papyrus, which had $1.6 billion in revenue last year according to the company website, also owns greeting card producers Carlton Cards, Gibson, and Recycled Paper Greetings.
American Greetings did not return a call for comment from The Huffington Post.
But even high-end cards cannot stop rising rents and growing competition from online vendors for boutique card-sellers -- Kate's Paperie, like many mom-and-pop card shops, has had to close some of its stores in the last few years.
And even if American Greetings successfully returns to private life and reinvents itself as something more than a traditional producer of dime-store paper cards, it could still face another hurdle: the post office.
"People don't like to go to the extra effort of a stamp," Kate's Paperie owner Berrie said. "Those days have passed."
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8. Bloomin’ Brands Inc.
Product: high-end and upscale restaurants 12 month sales: $3.95 billion 1-year stock performance: 38.0 percent Market cap.: $2.25 billion Bloomin’ Brands owns a number of upscale and fine dining restaurants, including Bonefish Grill, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, and Roy’s. With 246 company-owned locations for higher-end customers, Bloomin’ is likely to appeal to the 33 percent of customers Technomic reports plan on visiting an upscale casual restaurant, or the 24 percent planning to choose fine dining, for Valentine’s Day. According to the NRF, 36.2 percent of customers are expected to spend money on an evening out this year, more than in any year since 2009. Bloomin’ has had a strong run since going public in August 2012, its stock rising 37.8 percent in that time, versus 8.36 percent for the S&P 500. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/02/12/companies-that-love-valentines-day/#ixzz2KoPT23fP">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>
Product: online dating 12 month sales: $771 million 1-year stock performance: -4.9 percent Market cap.: $3.79 billion IAC is an digital media company that owns search engines, news media sites and online dating sites. Among the properties owned by the company are Match.com and OkCupid. In the most recent quarter, IAC’s profits from its dating site operations totaled $62.4 million — a 71 percent increase from the year before. More than 1.8 million subscribers pay to use the company’s core dating sites, such as Match.com and Chemistry.com. IAC expects its online dating business to continue to grow as the “stigma against online dating [continues] to decline.” The company now offers singles’ events through its dating websites, as well as mobile dating apps such as Tinder. Amarnath Thombre, chief strategy officer for IAC’s Match.com, explained that the period between New Year’s and Valentine’s Day is the busiest business period the site has all year. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/02/12/companies-that-love-valentines-day/#ixzz2KoPT23fP">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>
6. Church & Dwight Co. Inc.
Product: prophylactics and personal intimacy 12 month sales: $2.92 billion 1-year stock performance: 26.5% Market cap.: $8.38 billion Church & Dwight is a consumer goods producer based in Ewing, N.J. In addition to selling household brands such as Oxyclean and Arm & Hammer, the company also manufactures Trojan condoms — the market-leading brand in the United States. On a February 5 earnings call, CFO Matthew Ferrell said, “We are increasing pretty significantly amount of money we are spending on Trojan this year and that will help the entire franchise.” Valentine’s Day, when condom sales are usually at their best, may be one of the first tests of the company’s aggressive approach. Church & Dwight will market its products in New York City by offering free taxi rides during which passengers take a sexual health quiz. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/02/12/companies-that-love-valentines-day/#ixzz2KoPT23fP">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>
5. Limited Brands Inc.
Product: lingerie, personal care 12 month sales: $10.12 billion 1-year stock performance: -0.3 percent Market cap.: $12.93 billion Limited Brands owns Victoria’s Secret, one of the nation’s leading lingerie stores, and Bath & Body Works, a personal care retailer, two the company’s most important brands. Income from core operations for the two brands totaled $215.7 million — $158 million for Victoria’s Secret and $57.7 million for Bath & Body Works — in the most recently announced quarter. The remainder of Limited Brands’ businesses were unprofitable. As of October, there were 1,046 Victoria’s Secret stores in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, and a total of 1,650 Bath & Body Works stores. According to the NRF, among Valentine’s Day shoppers, 22.9 percent will visit a specialty store such as Bath & Body Works, and 7.5 percent will buy a gift at a specialty clothing store such as Victoria’s Secret for the holiday. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/02/12/companies-that-love-valentines-day/#ixzz2KoPT23fP">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>
4. Tiffany & Co.
Product: jewelry 12 month sales: $3.75 billion 1-year stock performance: -0.4% Market cap.: $8.06 billion Founded in 1837, Tiffany is known for its blue boxes, silver, engagement ring settings and the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” But some industry observers believe the company has lost appeal with consumers. Tiffany & Co. has struggled with other high-end retailers to attract new customers, and lowered earnings expectations as a result. The company lowered earnings per share guidance from between $3.55 and $3.70 to between $3.20 and $3.40 after adjusting for potential changes in the number of shares. The company also struggled to attract consumers during the holiday season. Valentine’s Day could mark a turning point, with 19.7 percent of American consumers expected buy jewelry for the holiday, spending more than $4.4 billion overall, according to the NRF. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/02/12/companies-that-love-valentines-day/#ixzz2KoPT23fP">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>
3. The Hershey Co.
Product: candy 12 month sales: $6.64 billion 1-year stock performance: 35.6 percent Market cap.: $18.03 billion The Hershey Company is a manufacturer of a number of well-known chocolate and candy brands, including Hershey’s, Reese’s, Twizzlers and Kit Kat. For Valentine’s Day, Hershey produces heart-shaped boxes in a number of its major brands, as well as heart-shaped versions of its Bliss brand of chocolate. The company has had an especially strong year in 2012 with net sales rising 9.3 percent. The company also told investors it was expecting sales to grow between 5 percent and 7 percent in the 2013 fiscal year and that earnings per share would rise between 10 percent and 12 percent. The company’s expansion of core parts of its business and its recent acquisition of Brookside Farms for $13.4 million are expected to drive the company’s growth. Brookside’s main product is fruit dipped in chocolate — perfect for Valentine’s Day. More than half of those surveyed by the NRF expect to buy candy this year for the holiday, with total expected sales on candy at $1.66 billion. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/02/12/companies-that-love-valentines-day/#ixzz2KoPT23fP">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>
2. 1-800-Flowers.com Inc.
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1. American Greetings Corp.
Product: greeting cards 12 month sales: $1.75 billion 1-year stock performance: 8.1 percent Market cap.: $514 million Valentine’s Day is the second biggest day for greeting card sales, behind only Christmas, with 145 million cards sent around the country. According to a survey by the National Retail Foundation, more than 54 percent of people celebrating the holiday plan on buying cards for their sweethearts. American Greetings, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, is one of the nation’s leading makers of greeting cards. Among its brands are American Greetings and Papyrus. The company’s inventories are typically largest right before major holidays such as Valentine’s Day, and seasonal cards make up 25 percent of the company’s sales. American Greetings remains considerably smaller than its privately held competitor, Hallmark Cards. The company is in the midst of a buyout bid from its CEO and chief operating officer, who have offered $17.50 per share. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2013/02/12/companies-that-love-valentines-day/#ixzz2KoPT23fP">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>