News Commentary

Will the Christmas greeting card become a thing of the past?

Marian Lizan and Darlene Falceso - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Technology has made it easier and cheaper to send holiday greetings but 35-year old Teresa Lopez still prefers to receive them the old fashioned way.

"I still prefer letters because it’s more personal and more special. Their senders exerted more effort unlike e-mails. Sometimes, people just forward e-mail messages without reading their entire context," Lopez said.

"I prefer to receive cards from people who are special to me. Cards allow them to write what they want to say," she added.

Some consumers, however, have embraced the Internet and are no longer sending greeting cards.

"I prefer e-mail because it allows me to respond faster. I am always online," said 38-year old Jenna Valdez.

"Sometimes, letters do not reach their intended recipients," she added.

The question of whether personal touch is more important than convenience will continue to be the subject of lengthy discussions. But one thing is for sure – technology is offering less expensive alternatives to consumers, putting pressure on greeting card makers to find ways to keep their market and even to stay afloat.

Feeling the pinch

Small players had to shift their focus to cope with the changes in consumers’ tastes.

A check at establishments along Recto Avenue in Manila revealed that some printing businesses have stopped printing Christmas cards due to low demand.

Workers told The STAR that their establishments are now focused on printing invitations, calendars and tarpaulins.

Even established industry players like Hallmark are making some adjustments.

"Sadly, yes, we have been affected (by technology). Texting started five years ago and it was the first to affect us. Texting is cheap, just P1 as opposed to a greeting card that costs P35" said Malou Posadas, a Hallmark supervisor.

Posadas noted that one just needs a mobile phone to send a text message while a greeting card had to be bought from a bookstore before it can be sent via mail. She said new mobile applications like Viber have also made it easier to send Christmas greetings.

Posadas claimed Hallmark did not cut jobs but had to make some changes in production.

"We continue to produce cards but we have to cut down on production, on quantity. We also shifted the focus of our business to non-card items like wrappers and bags," she said.

Hallmark also attached accessories like necklace and bracelets in some of its cards to make them more special.

"That’s something you can’t send through e-mail. It’s a gift and a card," Posadas said.

Hallmark has also introduced innovations like recordable cards, big cards, three-dimensional cards and even e-cards. The company is also offering mass cards and cards for specific persons and occasions.

Lower mail volumes

Aside from technology, greeting card manufacturers are also facing decreasing mail volumes.

In its annual report for 2013, state-run Philippine Postal Corp. admitted that the mail volume posted and delivered in the country "follow a decreasing trend just as the world mail volume does."

A total of 61.2 million items were posted in 2013, lower than the 93.4 million in 2012 and 125.8 million in 2011. The number of delivered mails also went down to 118.2 million in 2013 from 146.5 million in 2012 and 156.2 million in 2011.

The government, however, is doing something to keep the written word alive. The Education department and the Philippine Postal Corp. recently held the National Letter Writing Day to encourage students to use letters as a means of communication despite the widespread use of the Internet.

The future of greeting cards

Despite the discouraging trends, Hallmark remains optimistic about the industry.

"Many people still want to send cards so I think it won’t disappear totally. It might even enjoy a revival," Posadas said. "It still feels different when you write a personal note on a card as opposed to texting that does not seem to have feelings."

Posadas said one can relive pleasant memories by simply rereading the greeting cards sent to him.

Interestingly, Lala Ponce de Leon, also a supervisor of Hallmark, believes the Internet had a hand in the revival of interest on greeting cards.

"Lately, it is picking up. Maybe it’s because of the Internet. Many are posting do-it-yourself cards," she said.

For Hallmark supervisor Rhea Victoria, greeting cards would stay alive due to sentimental reasons.

"It’s about the drama.  It’s like a guy courting a girl by giving her flowers and cards," Victoria said.










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