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Published: Thursday, 12/15/2005

Postage costs, tight schedules hurt area sales of boxed cards

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
Vicki Lennex, of Lambertville, makes a selection at Carol's Hallmark in Bedford Township, where sales of boxed Yule cards have declined. Vicki Lennex, of Lambertville, makes a selection at Carol's Hallmark in Bedford Township, where sales of boxed Yule cards have declined.
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At Carol's Hallmark Shop in Bedford Township, sales of boxed Christmas cards have declined 20 to 25 percent the last couple of years, although single-card sales for the holiday have gone up a bit.

Sales for the two categories combined have dropped in half in the last five years at the Card Box in Whitehouse, where owner Larry Reed stocks boxes of 10 Christmas cards for 99 cents to appeal to budget shoppers.

He had so many left over from last year that he cut this year's order in half, he said.

"Sales are way down," Mr. Reed said. " It's a funny thing. It really is."

Although Americans are expected to exchange 1.9 billion holiday cards this year, that number is down 14 percent from just a decade ago, according to the Greeting Card Association.

The Internet does not appear to have played a part in the decline of Christmas cards, as e-cards have not replaced paper versions, said Barbara Miller, spokesman for the Greeting Card Association.

But Londy Fielder, manager of the Carol's Hallmark in Bedford Township, said some elderly people aren't buying Christmas cards because of higher postage costs, and younger people don't have time and instead make telephone calls and exchange photos.

Her store is selling more Christmas photo cards and more computer paper with holiday designs, but not enough to make up for the loss in boxed cards, Ms. Fielder said.

Still, sales of paper Christmas cards nationwide have remained fairly steady the last few years and may be increasing slightly, said Ms. Miller, of the trade group.

Indeed, boxed Christmas card sales are up 20 percent from last year at the area's eight Gen's Hallmark stores and are back to 2001 levels after falling every year since, said Christine Humphries, district manager.

"Almost all of the stores are low already, which is amazing," she said.

Kerri Brimmer, a partner in Naptime Products LLC, said sales of photo Christmas cards have remained level for the nine-year-old Rossford business.

Naptime, which specializes in photo birth announcements, is getting orders this year for a variety of holiday cards, such as one featuring grandparents on one Christmas tree bulb and grandchildren on others, she said.

The Toledo Post Office has consistently handled about a million holiday cards annually the last few years and is on track to do the same this year, said Craig Cummings, customer relations coordinator.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at:

jmckinnon@theblade.com

or 419-724-6087.



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