Valentine's day e-cards: Are they putting card publishers out of business?

Valentine's Day e-cards are getting the attention of big name greeting card manufacturers. But even if they're more convenient than physical cards, Valentine's Day e-cards don't come close to evoking emotion as their card stock cousins.

Associated Press
Valentine's Day e-cards putting printed card publishers out of business? Not in the slightest. Here, Roman Flores puts together arrangements of red roses in The Woodlands, Texas, Feb. 12.

Searching for the best Valentine's Day e-cards? Here's a preview of what you'll find and it’s very… whimsical. 

On e-card site Bluemountain.com, one of the featured interactive cards begins with the following illustration: a little leaf dangling by its stem underneath a tree canopy. 

Clicking and tugging the leaf snaps the stem and the leaf glides whimsically through the air toward a picnic table below. In the background is whimsical piano music. On the table, two birds and a squirrel lovingly adorn the fallen leaf with whimsical twigs, wildflowers, and berries. A butterfly lays across the leaf and a click of its wings makes them fold up, only to pop open with a message: 

"Wishing you a happy Valentine's Day that’s as special as you are!" 

Whimsy. Whimsy. Whimsy. Would you send that to your significant other? Your parent? Your grandparent? No. No you would not. 

E-versions of books may be driving brick and mortar bookstores out of business, but e-cards aren’t replacing printed greeting cards, says Kathy Krassner, spokesperson for the Greeting Card Association, which represents more than 200 greeting card publishers. 

"We find most people send e-cards to someone they've already sent a real card to or to an acquaintance who you wouldn't have sent a real card to anyway.” Ms. Krassner says. "You won't send your girlfriend or wife an e-card and they'd be annoyed if you did." 

Krassner says she expects consumers to purchase 145 million Valentine’s Day cards this year, which is down from 150 million last year. The number is based on estimates from card manufacturers like Hallmark and American Greetings, and Krassner believes it will increase as the numbers get readjusted after the holiday. 

In comparison, e-card site 123greetings.com said in a statement that 2.5 million people used their website for Valentine's Day last year.

Americans purchase more approximately 6.5 billion greeting cards each year. Valentine's Day is the second largest card-sending holiday behind Christmas, Krassner says. 

Estimates do not include the Valentine's Day cards children purchase and hand out at school or cards that consumers buy online at sites like Cardstore.com and through smart phone applications like Apple's Cards. 

Those online industries are growing, too, Krassner says. 

But e-cards have attracted enough attention that one of the Big 2 card manufacturers began scooping up the most notable e-greetings websites. American Greetings, the only card manufacturing company larger than Hallmark, owns Egreetings.com, BlueMountain.com, and Cardstore.com.

Hallmark and American Greetings offer e-cards on their main website.

But e-cards do not concern Alan Friedman, president of Great Arrow Graphics, a small screen printed card producer whose cards are delivered via a courier in uniform.

"As a specialty publisher, we have been able to remain viable in our smaller independent accounts — though the numbers of these stores has declined as well," Friedman said. "It's tough out there, but some things are worth the effort to maintain."

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