A chicken soup recipe for more greeting card sales

A chicken soup recipe for more greeting card sales – Gibson Greetings Inc., Hallmark Cards Inc., American Greetings Corp. to introduce greeting card lines

Allene Symons

Once upon a time, there were about a dozen predictable segments of greeting cards for specific occasions like birthdays, weddings and graduations, along with get-well and sympathy cards.

That was before the alternative card movement came along, swept into the mainstream around the time Hallmark’s Shoebox line was launched a decade ago. Since then, alternative card sales have climbed to about 34 percent of the category.

Part of that explosion is caused by multiple purchases, as manufacturers identify social trends and create cards for new occasions and “non-occasions,” whether it is a woman-to-woman relationship card or a birthday card for a friend’s pet.

Three new lines soon to hit stores target emerging social trends in an aging society:

* Gibson’s Chicken Soup for the Soul line, shipping in April.

* The Wellness Center line from Hallmark, which will begin to ship this month.

* Positively! from American Greetings, arriving in stores next month.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: This line from Gibson, which will debut this spring, includes about 50 designs, and is a license based on the best-selling book series by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Even for those not familiar with the books, the name of the line conveys that it is about comfort and encouragement. The cards have quotes, excerpts and condensed versions of the stories from the books.

This line features photographs combined with other treatments such as special borders and torn paper looks. It’s targeted mainly to baby boomers and older consumers.

Wellness Center: As the drug chain channel knows, and is banking on, an aging generation of 76 million baby boomers is increasingly concerned about health.

The numbers promise that this huge demographic group will be touched by serious and long-term illness, and odds are that they will want to reach out to, and be comforted by, others.

Hallmark has addressed this social inevitability with its Wellness Center line, a 12-foot program which will include cards for people in an extended illness situation, in recovery or rehabilitation. It will include cards of encouragement and hope, not only for the ill person but also the caregiver.

The selections reflect the seriousness of the situation. They will be offered in-line but are also being tested in the pharmacy area in Genovese and Osco.

The extended illness cards address long-term situations ranging from chronic illnesses that are not necessarily life threatening, such as asthma or high blood pressure, to terminal illnesses such as cancer or AIDS-related illnesses.

An example of a caption is “Just me…checking in on you again, wondering how you’re doing…and wanting you to know you’re still very much in my thoughts.” Among the caregiver cards, a caption example is, “Please don’t forget–while you’re taking care of everyone else, take care of yourself, too.”

There is room for humor, too, as in this caption in the treatment and recovery segment: “Heard you’ve undergone some recent renovations.” Other cards range from sports injury to alcohol recovery.

Positively!: This line from AG draws on several social trends for its editorial and graphic content. One is the growing interest in spiritual or celestial matters as seen in a spate of recent best-selling books, movies such as “Michael” and television programming like “Touched by an Angel.”

Another social trend is strong consumer response to products with motivational messages for business and personal encouragement.

Another is the “simplifying” trend. A 1996 Merck Family Fund survey showed that 82 percent of respondents agreed that we consume more than we need, and they also agreed that they are tired of the stress caused by materially keeping up with the Joneses.

Add these together and you have the components of AG’s Positively! line, which has direct, focused graphics, both in photographs and various artistic styles, and messages like, “The more I believe in angels, the more I see them all around me.” An example of a personal encouragement caption is, “If you can’t make waves, make ripples.”

This line also offers non-card items such as bookmarks, scrolls and refrigerator magnets featuring the same images and captions to reinforce encouraging messages in different places at home or in the office, and to give as gifts.

Another feature of the Positively! line is pocket cards, small laminated cards with thoughtful and encouraging captions. Pocket cards are small enough to fit in a pocket or wallet. Introduced about a year ago (they were first launched in AG’s La Flor line of Hispanic cards), these cards have become so popular that AG is expanding them into its Emily Mathews inspirational line.

A common theme in these three new lines, even more than most other card lines on the market, is to give both the card giver and the recipient a healthy dose of feeling better–and drug chains can also expect a good outcome.

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