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Limited options for greeting card lovers

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Customers select greeting cards at a store in Chennai recently.
Customers select greeting cards at a store in Chennai recently.

Liffy Thomas

CHENNAI: If you are one of those who pays attention to the brand of greeting cards, then the selection should be relatively easy as the number of players is less this festive season. For some, this could mean choosing from a limited range.

Blame it on umpteen choices offered by e-card sites and mobile phones, retail outlets are increasingly finding it difficult to attract reputed greeting card makers and ensure that their existing stock is cleared.

More and more card makers are finding direct sales a cheaper option as counter sales means sharing their profits with the retailers.

Last year, ITC exited from the business of greeting cards. Similarly, WWF-India did not retail cards last year. This year, WWF-India is only supplying the cards based on request and does not have a salesperson, said an official.

Archies is perhaps the only prominent brand on retail shelves, whereas in the ‘Cards for a Cause’ category HelpAge India, CRY and SOS Children’s Villages of India vie for attention with sets of their assorted cards coming at discounted rates.

For non-governmental organisations, selling greeting cards is an ideal way to campaign the social cause they are working for as well as raise money. But, with the practice of sending good old greeting card itself taking a beating, new ways have to be identified to promote sales, said NGOs.

Most of the NGOs depend heavily on corporate orders.

This year Concern India Foundation has printed fewer cards than 2008. It is also selling the cards leftover last year and stopped retailing cards to retail outlets as they insist on discounts.

During good times, Reachout, an NGO, received around Rs.1.5 lakh through sale of greeting cards. This year, however, it did not undertake any new printing. “Every year it is getting tough to raise funds through sale of cards, so we did not make any attempt this time,” said a representative of the seven-year-old NGO.

Retail shop executives also agree that demand for season cards is declining. Mandir Singh Bhatia, Branch Manager, Greetwell, which retails and distributes cards for SOS Children’s Village, said business is down by 30 per cent.

R. Shankar, branch head of Archies (Tamil Nadu), however, disagreed.

“There is demand for greeting cards. We have already done over Rs.60 lakh business in Chennai alone this season,” he said.

Milind Sathe, director, Art India Foundation, said the NGOs incur significant expense on marketing of cards. “Paper greeting cards may not grow but they are here to stay,” he said.

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