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Simple, direct and genuine.

AMERICAN GREETINGS CORP.

Jeff Petit, vice president of communications

HALLMARK CARDS INC.

Ken Cook, vice president of mass sales

SOCIAL EXPRESSIONS

The social expressions category has historically been one of the most dependable performers in chain drug stores, and it remains so today. More than ever before, retailers and suppliers involved in the product segment are working in tandem to respond effectively to changing demographics and meet the needs and expectations of consumers, while offering enticing in-store displays and promotions.

Q. What are the most significant trends in the social expressions category?

COOK: "Perhaps the most important trend in the greeting card industry is cards that reflect consumer segmentation, including selections for baby boomers, GenXers, ethnic groups, religious and other specific segments.

"Above all, relevancy is what sells cards. When a collection of cards is on target, that translates to consumer satisfaction, repeat sales and profitability for retailers. Relevancy is the one trend that will ensure card use and category growth.

"The editorial revolution that has been evident for the past decade has created a generation of cards that are short and to the point, and that use informal language that sounds like people really talk. Both Warm Wishes and Fresh Ink reflect that trend as well as the trend toward new shapes and sizes.

"Both lines feature smaller sizes and square and die-cut looks. Fresh Ink includes round designs as well, to satisfy the desire of young-thinking consumers for novelty and surprise.

"In addition, cards must be perceived by consumers as a value at a particular price point. Because consumers want different types of cards for different situations and relationships, Hallmark offers broad pricing and designs that reflect to the consumer a positive price-value relationship."

PETIT: "The trends we've identified include:

"'Keeping it casual.' Consumers are demanding communications that are simple, direct and genuine, resulting in an increased use of humorous copy.

"'The many faces of value.' Consumers are concerned about more than price, seeking a variety of choices along the price spectrum for various sending occasions.

"'Pursuit of style.' Baby boomers have the most spending power in today's economy and are using it to drive their sense of fashion and style.

"'Support for life's experiences.' People today have a greater need to show encouragement for the many challenges their loved ones encounter.

"'The new family.' The definition of family continues to expand, with larger extended families and the inclusion of nonrelatives into more households.

"'Uniquely me.' Individualism continues to flourish, resulting in consumer demand for products tailored to particular lifestyles and personalities.

"'The power of youth.' Children of baby boomers are poised to unseat their parents for economic dominance, with significant and continually growing spending power.

"'High-tech, high-touch connection.' Consumers have a need to communicate with a genuine personal touch to fill the void left by the overabundance of technology.

"'American optimism,' which is at an all-time high and still on the rise."

Q. How can chain drug retailers and social expressions sup pliers work together to maximize category sales in the trade class?

PETIT: "American Greetings is working with chain drug retailers to offer the most relevant brands to consumers. The company has invested in the All New American Way 2001 marketing strategy and backed it up with consumer advertising on television and in widely read magazines.

"We've developed innovative new products and identified target markets in need of customized card lines. Bubblegum, Intuitions, Just Between Friends, In Rhythm and Design Studio are examples of delivering on our promise to retailers, all at an unprecedented pace.

"We have the industry's hottest licenses, such as Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, Rugrats, Bubblegum, Jellabies, Sesame Street and Barney. In addition, we have a balanced licensing strategy. While American Greetings purchases the rights to use other companies' properties on its own products, we also license the properties that American Greetings develops, such as Bubblegum, to other companies."

COOK: "Superior category management is a major factor in profitable card departments, and Hallmark continues to look for both innovation and technologies to improve performance.

"Fact-based data should drive card department decisions. Hallmark is providing tailored offers that reflect not only national demographic changes but also the specific demographics of chains, both by region and on a store-by-store basis.

"National advertising and promotion are key elements of category management. Massive national card relevance advertising by Hallmark plus nationally advertised promotions, combined with local store and chain advertising and promotion, optimize not only interest in the category but also brand strength and consumer acceptance.

"The combining of the top-brand greeting cards with the top chains is a powerful message that draws consumers to stores and reminds them of reasons to purchase cards and reaps sales for retailers."

Q. How are suppliers addressing the changing demographics in the United States?

COOK: 'We demographically target new lines of cards in order to use each square foot of the Hallmark display both to satisfy consumer needs and enhance store profitability. This allows a retailer to offer exactly the right mix for a particular demographic and geographic consumer base. Hallmark has always used demographic information to tailor departments on a store-specific basis since the technology for demographic analysis became available."

PETIT: "American Greetings takes changing demographics very seriously. For example, society's attitude toward family, one's heritage and youth becomes embedded into our product development philosophy. In the last year we have launched an unprecedented number of new designs as part of the All New American Way strategy. As a result American Greetings is focused on producing a card that 'says it best' for each consumer."

Q. What new products and promotions are attracting consumers to greeting card aisles?

PETIT: "Design Studio was developed in June 1999 specifically for drug stores to supplement established birthday and everyday lines with more trend-based products. Thirty-five different themes inspired by home decor trends make up the card line. They include simplicity in design, handmade looks, close-up photo magic, fashion-forward shapes and updated classics. An the designs are upscale, modern and fashionable.

"To help grab consumers' attention, one of the card themes within the line is prominently merchandised in butterfly displayers. When you team innovative products and dynamic merchandising with a key retail partnership, we can really drive sales success.

"Intuitions and Bubblegum cards are examples of American Greetings' delivery on top trends with products designed to attract a new customer. Bubblegum characters bring a fresh look to greeting cards. Initial sales indicate 'Girly Chats,' 'Party On' and 'Dancing Queen' Bubblegum birthday cards are favorites among girls ages 13 to 25."

COOK: "Peanuts for Christmas 2000 will be supported by national television and radio campaigns as well as by the hallmark.com web site. Special promotions will be offered to increase seasonal sales.

"Hallmark Fresh Ink, introduced this spring, is seeing tremendous consumer and retailer success. Our heavy advertising has increased visibility and awareness of cards in general and specifically for Fresh Ink.

"The highly successful 99-cent Hallmark Warm Wishes line has brought consumers back into the category and into store card departments. The newly introduced Hallmark en Espanol for Spanish-speaking consumers, the Mahogany line for African-American consumers and Hallmark's Tree of Life brand allow retailers to offer a product mix that plays to the needs of a particular store's consumer.

"In addition, the double-digit sales increases in the gift wrap category underscore the segment's potential for continued growth. Design, quality, brand, and more enticing and convenient displays are capturing consumer attention, and our focus on store-level execution increases the frequency of purchase."
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Publication:Chain Drug Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 11, 2000
Words:1249
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