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Friday, August 22, 2008

Hallmark's New Cards

Hallmark Cards Inc., which has built its $4.2 billion empire on sentiments for life's happier times, is releasing a new line of cards that will speak to those and other situations that the company says have either been ignored by greeting card companies or received only a smattering of attention from niche players.

For illness: ''Cancer is a villain who doesn't play fair...but it can't dim your spirit, and it can't silence prayer.''

For eating disorders: ''All I want is for you to be healthy—healthy and happy with yourself. Please take it one day at a time until you are.''

For depression: ''When the world gets heavy, remember, I'm here to help carry it with you.''

The 176-card collection, called Journeys, went on sale Thursday at Hallmark's 3,800 Gold Crown stores. Cynthia Musick, the editorial director who oversaw Journeys, said the cards' writing provides more personal messages of support, encouragement, and hope, for which the company's research showed there was a demand.Theresa Steffens, an assistant product manager at Hallmark, said a majority of online and focus group respondents said they couldn't find what they were looking for when needing an encouragement card. ''

Either the consumer said they were walking away from the display or they were just unhappy with the card that they purchased, so we saw this as a huge opportunity,'' Steffens said.

Customers said they wanted cards dealing with more real-life situations. ''They said, 'I don't know what to say during a difficult time, so I don't say anything at all,''' Steffens said. "So again there's an opportunity there to help them talk through these tough situations that they're dealing with and to foster that communication.''

The $7 billion greeting card industry already brims with tiny niche players who make and sell cards dealing with such things as serious illness or thanking caregivers, said Barbara Miller, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.–based Greeting Card Association. But she said none of them have the ability to reach customers searching for those types of cards across the country. ''My guess is, it's a breakthrough for a large company like a Hallmark,'' she said.

The new line includes cards tackling cancer diagnoses, quitting smoking, caring for an aged parent, miscarriage, anniversaries of loss, loved ones in the military, and traumatic loss, such as someone dying in an accident or homicide. Others are more happy and even humorous, celebrating a year being cancer-free, nearing the end of chemotherapy or general encouragement for teenagers. There are even a few birthday cards encouraging the recipient to celebrate even though they've had a rough year.

No topics were off-limits, said company spokeswoman Rachel Bolton, noting two cards that could be sent to gay people who have disclosed their sexuality. The cards don't directly refer to homosexuality, only extolling the person to ''Be You'' or ''This is who I am'' or featuring a rainbow, a symbol of gay pride.

Read it all at Advocate.com (GLBT news site)

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