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Published: Tuesday, 12/11/2001

Area firms assess role of cards

BY JANE SCHMUCKER
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Christmas cards are as big a deal as ever at Hart Associates in Maumee, where president Mike Hart gave his staff 100 hours to design the company's Christmas card this year and plans to mail the cards to 750 clients, prospective clients, and friends.

But at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, which typically has sent out thousands of cards featuring its own carousel horses, holiday greeting cards were one of the budget cuts about a month ago, a spokesman said.

It's still too early to say which scenario will be more common in this season of recession, war against terrorism, and anthrax scares in the U.S. mail. This weekend is usually the biggest for Christmas-card buying, according to American Greetings Corp. of Cleveland.

Surveys by American Greetings and Hallmark, the giants of the card industry, predict holiday sales will be similar to the last several years' - about 2 billion cards across the industry. Gen's Hallmark in Spring Meadows shopping center sold out of the four new patriotic cards early, much to the dismay of many customers, and has had an increase in individual card purchases, manager Suzan Johnson said.

Postage stamp sales have been up recently too, a spokesman for the local post office said. But mail volume is down about 5 percent, and many businesses said they haven't received as many cards to hang up as they had at the same time last year.

“I've noticed a dramatic decrease in the number of cards I've gotten so far,” said Cedar Point spokesman Janice Witherow.

Mr. Hart said record warm temperatures haven't put area residents in the mood to send Christmas cards.

The weather hasn't stopped Roman/Peshoff, Inc., a downtown Toledo public relations and marketing company, which spends 25 to 30 hours designing its own card. It sends out 350 to 400 cards, which translates to $10 to $12 a card if it billed itself.

In contrast, prices for boxed cards off the shelf start at less than 40 cents each.

The cards, however, provide a way for the company to market itself.

“We kind of like it as a way to show off our creativity without restrictions,” said Stan Massey, vice president of creative services.

However, Communica, another downtown marketing firm that designs its own cards, is, for the first time, sending only an e-mail greeting.

The move is partly a cost-cutting measure. The company's cocktail party for up to 700 people was axed, too.

“Economically it's been a little bit of a tough year for us,” president Debbie Monagan said.

But the 20 hours the agency is spending on designing its e-mail card is a way to showcase its abilities with such technology. Ms. Monagan said some people on her card list of up to 500 might be worried about anthrax in the mail.

The national Greeting Card Association said 86 percent of those who responded to separate surveys by Hallmark and American Greetings are not concerned about handling or opening cards or other personal mail. Fewer than 10 percent will reduce because of the anthrax scare the number of cards sent, the surveys found.

The terrorist scares might even help card sales because more people are expected to stay home and take more time for family traditions, according to the trade group.

The custom of sending Christmas cards started about 150 years ago in England, boosted by the Penny Postage Act of 1846 that enabled the British to send a letter anywhere in the country for a penny.



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