A national need to express emotion in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks has led to a surge in U.S. greeting card sales. Patriotic and sentimental themes are especially popular.
Consumers order about 500 million electronic cards a year from American Greetings Online, the largest Internet greeting card site. The greetings are free. The web site is supported primarily by advertising.
Since September 11, American Greetings' president, Charlie Fink, says orders have increased and there has been a change in subject matter. He explains: "We have always had patriotic greetings on our web site but the need for Americans to connect with those feelings was heightened by the events last month, and we have sent millions of those greetings in the last 30 days."
Most popular, according to Mr. Fink, is a card that was designed specifically to help people cope after the terrorist attack. "It provides images of ordinary Americans and of fire fighters and emergency workers, and this is presented with classical music in the background, and the sequence ends with a view of the World Trade Center, as seen through the mist with winter trees in the foreground," he says. "That fades out to an image of a stone statue of an angel weeping. And then it says "In remembrance of those we loved and lost on September 11."
For John Mavrakis, marketing director for Sunrise Greetings, a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, the strength of the card industry is its ability to help the public translate feelings into words and pictures. His company has an employee whose job it is to travel around the country monitoring the national mood. "It is critical for us to understand what the consumer's lifestyle is like and what she needs to really express the feelings she's feeling to her friends and relatives," he said.
The mood of the consumer today, Mr. Mavrakis notes, is somber, emotional, and extremely patriotic. "We had a card that showed a heart broken and talked about re-mending ourselves," he said. "We had an artist that talked about pulling together as a community of man. They are looking at ways of healing. We called the line 'United We Stand' because of the sense of hope and love we thought those cards would bring to people."
Greeting cards are a $7.5 billion a year business in the United States. Historically, card makers say, sales increase during times of war and national stress.