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Anti-Signal: Greeting cards are no longer welcome in physical retail


Source: IBISWorld

The Signal: Over the final week of January 2020, Tennessee-based Schurman Fine Papers — which sells artsy stationary and Papyrus-branded greeting cards — filed for bankruptcy with a stated intention to close all 254 of its stores and unload its inventory.

Specifically, it is the speciality store chains bearing the names that will be no more. The Papyrus brand will live on (via American Greeting) and cards can still be purchased at retailers such as Target and Whole Foods.

The stated reasons for Papyrus shuttering down its brick ‘n mortar stores — overexpansion and falling foot traffic — is consistent with other recent retail bankruptcy filings. However, the reality is that the entire greeting cards business is shifting away from the brick ‘n mortar retail model, with retailers like CVS looking to repurpose that precious real estate.

Email, text, Instagram posts, and all other manner of digital communication are swiftly replacing the humble old greeting card.

The industry’s most notable name, Hallmark, is aggressively re-orienting its business for the 2020s by:

  • Combining card and retail operations
  • Overhauling the Hallmark app to make it easier to buy and send personalized paper cards
  • Finding real estate within other highly trafficked places (hospitals, hardware stores)

The Opportunity: With the greeting business in flux, physical cards finding success in the space have spiced things up by: 1) doing irreverent, meme-y, fun, and playful cards targeted at millenials (Central 23, previously featured as a Hustle small business of the week); or 2) creating truly unique and highly designed cards (LovePop, which makes 3D pop-up cards and notably secured an investment from Shark Tank’s Kevin O’Leary).

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