What kind of Greeting Cards do People Buy?

I  asked Meryl Hooker some questions about the retail scene and what artists should know about greeting card trends.

She has worked with many independent card designers as a greeting card sales rep, won several awards for her sales skills and has a special talent of pinpointing what people want. When I worked with her, she was often my top selling rep.

She is now the card and gift buyer at Pulp, a trendy store in Washington DC. (more bio below).

What do customers want these days?

One thing I see every day is that people still want, and actively seek out contemporary items that reflect who they are. We have a national drugstore chain one block away from the store and people could choose to get their cards there, but they come to Pulp instead. That says something to me about the quality of product and aesthetic our customer base is willing to pay for.

Going from a manufacturer's sales reps to a greeting card buyer at a store, my plot point has moved and I'm closer to the customer than I was. I am exposed to vast amounts of raw, uncensored data every day in terms of what customers want, think, and are willing to spend.

For the independent card designer, what do you think they should pay attention to? What should they stay away from?

My best advice for independent card designers is:

  • Build the strongest, most cohesive, sellable line you can. 
  • Create a strong collection of birthday, thank you, sympathy, wedding and baby cards. 
  • Blank cards still have legs provided the designs are strong. 
  • Learn how to run a business and understand it is, first and foremost, a business. 
  • Learn about the industry from both the creative and retail side. 
  • Ship on time. 
  • Be professional and easy to work with.
  • Stick with a traditional 5x7 size and stay away from square cards.

I recently interviewed six stores who sell handmade cards and they all said card sales have increased over the last 2 years What do you attribute this to?

People have an innate need to connect with other people. As sexy and convenient as social platforms are, ultimately, they lack human warmth. You can't send a text to the birthday boy at the party when you hand him the gift and even in our practically etiquetteless society, you still can't email your condolences.

At the end of the day, each of us wants to feel connected to other people and just the right card can express how we feel. No matter how tech savvy any of us is or becomes, we can't get away from that basic need.
The primary thing I've noticed is how much paper we still sell at Pulp. Cards have always been a key category and I'm really happy to say it continues to be true. I've seen so many independently owned stores move away from greeting cards as a major category in favor of gift items so I was pleasantly surprised to see that cards are still cranking at our registers.

As a buyer, what are the important things you look for, when selecting cards for the store?

I am primarily looking for a solid lines that will meet the needs of my customers in terms of purpose, price and design. Every card on my shelves must pass the "why would someone send this card?" test. The price has to be consistent with the type and quality of the card and, most importantly, the design has to fit in with the Pulp brand. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of card lines that I personally love but will not bring into the store because they aren't the right fit. Believe me, it's hard to turn so many brilliant companies away, but the business manager side of my job has the final say over the creative, artistic buying side.


Meryl Hooker is an independent business development expert dedicated to helping locally owned businesses thrive in a big box world. She is an internationally recognized speaker, consultant and writer currently serving as the General Manager & Buyer at PULP in Washington, DC. In 2012, Meryl retired after nearly 15 years of serving as a Mid-Atlantic sales representative for greeting card and gift companies.

She was a partner at Center Aisle Group and co-authored a book for the greeting card industry  "Pushing the Envelope: the Small Greeting Card Manufacturer’s Guide to Working With Sales Reps" and"Showtime! The Greeting Card and Gift Company’s Guide to Trade Show Success".

A self-described sales nerd, Meryl takes great pride in the fact she’s seen the legendary rock band, KISS, 19 times – and counting—and openly credits KISS, Inc., as the model and inspiration for her business structure and success.

The Greeting Card Business

Get Your Greeting Cards Into Stores: How to Find and Work With Sales Reps (Updated 2017 paperback) If you like to make greeting cards, this book explains how to get your cards into stores and sell them nationwide.  Learn about changing trends in the indie card market and niche opportunities available for artists. Book includes detailed guidelines on pricing cards for a profit, getting professional feedback on your designs, finding sales representatives, pitching your card line to them, approaching stores, and the industry standards you should follow. Information is also applicable to gift items, such as magnets, journals and calendars.

Start and Run a Greeting Card Business From a British author, whose country has a long history of greeting card design, she takes you step-by-step through the process of starting and running your business with lots of useful practical advice to help you, including: - Deciding what type of cards to produce - Finding your market - Dealing with printers - Copyright and licensing - Pricing and profit. Kate's note: Some specs are different (card sizes) since it is UK standards.

Greeting Card Design This volume features a vast array of fun, elegant, simple and imaginative greeting cards designed by internationally-known artists, illustrators and calligraphers. With over 300 full-color photographs of creative, popular, and inspiring greeting card designs, this invaluable sourcebook showcases the very best of what is happening in the industry today. Accompanying text explores the history of the greeting card industry and examines the major contributions from the leading innovative companies.