Nobody sends Christmas cards any more, right? Too old-fashioned.
Emails, texts, and rising stamp prices collapsed the number of items carried by the U.S. Postal Service from 212.1 billion in 2006 to 154.2 billion in 2016. Newspapers, another paper product, are in a tailspin. You might think the number of physical Christmas cards also has tanked.
Actually, no, says the Greeting Card Association, the trade group that keeps track. Americans bought more than 6.5 billion cards last year, down from 7 billion in 2011, says executive director Peter Doherty, but the value remained the same at around $7 billion.
The ability of greeting cards to hang in there surprises me. The industry has adapted by offering really low-cost cards and some that are so expensive they almost count as a gift.
The best-selling card in the "everyday" category is birthday, accounting for almost half of all sales. In the "seasonal" category, it's Christmas, with about 1.6 billion purchases, including boxed cards. Valentine's Day is a distant second, with 145 million units.
I am a card person, and at this time of year I send out cards – Christmas and Hanukkah – but figured I am among a, um, dying breed.
Not so. The Greeting Card Association says 90 percent of families send cards, and the tradition seems to be sticking with millennials.
"I appreciate things on paper that you can keep," says Stephanie Friedman, 31, of Chestnut Hill, whose parents taught her to send thank-you cards. "There's something nostalgic about receiving a card."
I completely agree, as does Chris Carroll, 28, of Fairmount. "When you take time out of your day to think about a person by writing a card," he says, it means so much more than just hitting a keystroke to send an email.
Eight of 10 greeting cards are bought by women, who buy several cards at once and spend more time making decisions about them than men. I usually employ the NBA's three-second rule when shopping: Spending more time doesn't guarantee a better result.
Thanks to Facebook, more people are aware of birthdays, but that doesn't mean people use Facebook greetings instead of buying cards, the association says. I seem to be getting fewer cards, but that may be – not to be macabre – because more of my friends are dead.
I like receiving cards, and I don't know anyone who doesn't. But I do know a lot of people who don't want to be bothered sending them. Sorry, I think that's selfish.
To maximize the likelihood of getting a card in return at the holidays, send most of your cards to folks between 35 and 54 years old. They are the ones most likely to send cards, according to 2012 data from the U.S. Postal Service.
Younger card buyers and the tech savvy, according to the association, are the ones most likely to go online to purchase paper cards.
Millennials seem to be attracted by cards that play music, use LED lights, or appear to be handcrafted rather than mass produced.
I like the idea that millennials, who like to go their own way, find something of value from the generations before theirs.