Card makers cheer as US shoppers cut back

Card makers cheer as US shoppers cut back

Bangalore: This holiday season, Santa and Rudolph are likely to face unusually stiff competition from the US Postal Service.

As costs balloon and unemployment rises, many more shoppers are planning to send out greeting cards in lieu of gifts, minimizing the hit the card industry will take in a down economy. Gift buying is expected to be limited to immediate family, children and close friends only, market research firm IBISWorld said in a recent report.

The firm expects around 20 billion mail items to be delivered by the US Postal Service between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

“Card companies may not see the same decline that retailers in general might see," Britt Beemer, chairman of American Research Group, said, given “the probability that if you do not visit your family this time, you would send out more greeting cards than you would normally do."

Visits home are expected to be down as cash-strapped consumers cut down travel plans.

Greeting-card market leader Hallmark Cards Inc. expects industry-wide Christmas card sales to be down marginally to 2.1 billion from 2.2 billion last year. American Greetings Inc., the No. 2 US card company, believes that evidence of the trend can be seen at greeting card aisles—where it has stocked cards carrying messages of “hope and appreciation", to go with current sentiments.

From what shoppers have to say, the companies are reading their customers well.

Boston-based Ajita Perera, who lost her job as marketing head of an IT services company in a recent downsizing, says,“I will definitely send out cards, internationally and locally, but on gifts, I will have to cut down this year."