How much for a ‘hello’?

How much for a ‘hello’?

A straightforward way to send condolences, congratulations, or plain old hellos was the greeting card. Those have been replaced by something even more straightforward: the text message.

The result has been the steady decline of an entire market. Printed greeting cards sales have dropped nearly 13% over the last five years, according to market research company IBISWorld. Papyrus, a small retail chain specializing in stationery, filed for bankruptcy protection last week and announced it would close all of its locations. Hallmark’s brick-and-mortar stores have been closing too, and to prevent further loss, Hallmark Cards Inc. has chosen to adapt.

The company introduced plans to cut costs and completely overhaul its retail business to boost sales, according to the Wall Street Journal. Hallmark will combine its card operations with its independent retail stores and create new online products to remain competitive.

One of the online alternatives Hallmark is developing is an e-card, or a greeting card delivered and opened online. The e-card, however, isn’t a perfect solution. James Hirschfeld, the co-founder of e-card startup Paperless Post, said he’s found that “people younger than 30 years old … are not even engaging with digital greeting cards.”

Instead, “they’ll send a text,” explained Alan Horvitz, owner of a Hallmark store in Massachusetts that is closing after 30 years. “‘Sorry for your loss,’ and that’s how things get done. You can’t sell a horse-and-buggy when cars are moving off the line.”

Social media, too, serves as a platform for basic greetings that once required a trip to Hallmark. Facebook reminds users of friends’ birthdays while other important events typically make their debut on Instagram. It’s no mystery why: An online comment takes only a few seconds, and it’s also free.

As social media grows, so too does our need for meaningful interactions. The ability to communicate via pen and paper is all but a lost art, but perhaps it could help restore much of what we’ve lost online. Greeting cards might seem outdated, even trivial. But they require time and thought. Surely, we can spare a little of both every so often.

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