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Despite sour economy, religious card sales up
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
December 21, 2010
5 MIN READ TIME

Despite sour economy, religious card sales up

Despite sour economy, religious card sales up
Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service
December 21, 2010

The sour economy may mean fewer presents under the tree for many

families this year, but one thing some Christians won’t give up on is sending

Christmas cards — especially religious cards.

“It’s the whole message of Christmas,” said Velma Fann, who

returned to the Shrine of the Black Madonna bookstore in Atlanta this year to purchase

her cards. “It’s what Christmas is really about.”

Fann, who lost her writing job in October, said she doesn’t

have “gift money” for presents this year, but she’s still sending cards that feature

a trumpet-playing angel, not Santa Claus.

“The cards are just flying out of the door,” said Ewa Omo

Aba, manager of the bookstore, which carries religious cards aimed at her African-American

clientele and produced by Carole Joy Creations.

“You might not be able to give a gift, but you at least want

to give a card. We’ve had an upswing of that.”

Across the country, retailers and card companies report that

the economy has not halted Christians from purchasing greeting cards. But they’re

bypassing the boxes of cards that say “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”

in favor of religious cards with nativity scenes, angels, and, often, Bible

verses.

RNS photo courtesy DaySpring

Part of a Christmas card from DaySpring reflects the growing demand for religious-themed Christmas cards.

“Christmas boxed cards are doing very well this year, even

in a tough economy,” said Micah Carter, spokesman for the Southern Baptist agency

that runs LifeWay Christian Stores. “Our customers are looking for Christmas

cards with a strong Christian message.”

Target, which would not disclose sales figures, said demand

for religious Christmas cards is increasing, with higher sales this year than

last.

“We monitor our guests’ needs closely and respond to their

buying habits by increasing the assortment of religious cards in stores where they

perform well,” said Target spokeswoman Tara Schlosser.

“Religious cards remain popular with our guests, therefore a

significant number of Target stores carry an expanded assortment to meet guest

demand.”

Hallmark officials also declined to give specific sales

statistics, but said religious-themed cards featuring the artwork of Thomas

Kinkade are usually among their top 10 best sellers.

DaySpring Cards, a Hallmark subsidiary and one of the

largest manufacturers of religious Christmas cards, say demand has remained steady.

Christmas cards comprise 73 percent of the company’s sales of boxed cards, said

spokeswoman Brenda Turner.

DaySpring cards range from images of church steeples to

snowy scenes, and carry messages such as “our hearts rejoice anew at the Savior’s

birth.” Even a Peanuts series of cards have a spiritual touch, with one sound

card featuring the voice of Linus reading the Christmas story from the Gospel

of Luke.

Overall, Christmas cards — both secular and religious —

remain the mainstay of all greeting cards sold, with about 30 percent of them featuring

religious or inspirational messages or imagery, according to the Greeting Card

Association.

“I’ve talked to some of our publishers this year and they

say … they had seen even a greater interest in Christmas cards, not necessarily

religious per se, but expressing spirituality,” said spokeswoman Barbara

Miller. “They had seen more nativity scenes, more archangels, Madonnas with

child.”

The economy has put a dent in overall sales, however. Last

year, more than 2 billion Christmas cards were sold in the U.S., but industry experts

expect sales to be between 1.7 and 1.8 billion this year.

The Knights of Columbus, which for more than two decades has

distributed Christian Christmas cards as part of a “Keep Christ in Christmas”

fundraising campaign, says sales of its religious cards have increased this

year from coast to coast.

“The economy does not seem to be a factor in card sales this

year,” said Kevin Adler, campaign chairman for the Alaska division of the Catholic

fraternal organization.

If the Knights learn of someone who can’t afford the cards —

which feature Mother Teresa, the Madonna and child or the holy family — they will

offer assistance.

“I had an elderly lady this year who only had enough money

to purchase a single box of cards,” he said. “We gave her a second box of cards

so that she could send (them) to her family.”

But some purchasers say they’re thinking more of the

religious message than any drain on their wallet when they send the Christian cards.

“That’s what Christmas is about,” said Don Klippstein, a

Kennewick, Wash., retiree who buys the cards with his wife Bonnie every year despite

a smaller expendable income.

“We’ve just made the choice that we want to stay in contact.

I’d prefer to send out some nice-looking religious cards than something that’s

not.”