Byko: If you send greeting cards, are you hopelessly old-school?

About 90 percent of Americans still buy greeting cards, according to the Greeting Card Association. I'm in the majority here - but 80 percent of the purchasers are women, so I am in the minority there.

I am a greeting card guy, just as I'm a newspaper guy. Electronic greetings and digital news are not how I like to receive info.

By today, all the holiday cards I mailed out have been received. Each, I imagine, generated one of two responses:

Stu sent a card! How nice, how thoughtful!

Stu sent a card! Who does that anymore? What a waste of money.

My cards went out later than usual this year because I was laid up after surgery and couldn't get out to buy the cards as early as usual.

After they were in the mail, I did begin to wonder why I do it, why I bother, when I thought so many Americans had abandoned greeting cards, just as they have VCR tapes and even checking accounts.

Could I be behind yet another curve that is transforming society?

Not so much, it turns out.

About 90 percent of Americans still buy greeting cards, according to the Greeting Card Association. I'm in the majority here — but 80 percent of the purchasers are women, so I am in the minority there. Who knew that greeting-card stores are a better place to meet women than a singles bar or a waxing salon?

Let's run some stats.

Americans spend more than $7 billion annually on greeting cards and buy about 6.5 billion cards a year, a number that is holding steady. That surprised me, given the rise of e-cards and passionless birthday greetings on Facebook. The average person receives about 20 cards a year, and I'm sure older people get far more than young adults.

Online greeting cards, usually free, are growing at about 7 percent a year. Between 2010 and 2015, Hallmark cut its full-time workforce from 22,000 to 10,500. Those are jobs that are not coming back.

The best-selling genre of card is birthday, not surprisingly, and the best-selling seasonal card is Christmas — 1.6 billion, way ahead of No. 2, Valentine's Day, 145 million.

Greeting card prices range from 50 cents to $10, with most falling in the $2-to-$4 range. Women spend a lot more time choosing the precisely right card than men, who tend to be grab-and-go shoppers.

The Greeting Card Association reports that seven of 10 buyers considered cards essential, but that's a measure of people committed to them.

Why are people committed to them?

Some of them enjoy the shopping process, looking through many cards to select the perfect one. Others believe that personal involvement makes the card more valuable because they picked it out themselves, addressed it, stamped it, and usually included a brief message. That's far more personal than typing "Happy Birthday" on Facebook.

I believe that recipients — even when they feel the card might be a waste of money — feel special knowing the card was selected especially for them.

At least that's how I feel, and that's probably why I will continue to "waste money" on cards, because I know they make people feel good and maybe a little special.

And, if you didn't get a card from me, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year.

stubyko@phillynews.com

215-854-5977 @StuBykofsky

Blog: ph.ly/Byko

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