Why Are Greeting Cards So Expensive, Anyway?

Image courtesy of Bala Maniymaran

You may have bought or received a few greeting cards this Valentine’s Day, and they all had one thing in common: They were probably really expensive. Why is that? Some industry experts argue that the reason why greeting cards are so pricey is that people are buying so few of them.

CBS Minnesota (Warning: Auto-play video at that link) looked into the question of greeting card prices, and learned that the first reason why cards cost so much is because just a few companies have most of the market, they control the prices.

“When you have two companies exerting so much power over the industry as a whole, they have a little more power over how they choose to set pricing,” a researcher in the industry explained.

Hallmark and American Greetings combined have about 81% of the greeting card market. Papyrus is at their heels, and then there are dozens of small card-makers that make up the rest of the industry.

The problem is changes in consumer behavior. People who might have sent birthday cards to friends and family now make Facebook posts on each other’s timelines, or make short videos. That has meant that the market that remains for greeting cards has gone high-end, with cards that play sounds, or that feature extensive glitter and other 3-D elements. Cards themselves can cost up to $10, turning them into gifts by themselves.