TUPdate: Sometimes Caring To Send the Very Best: Greeting Card Creation Slumping Among Home PC Users

The age-old tradition of the family gathering around the home PC printer during the holidays to create unique greeting cards appears to be slipping-the practice has been in decline for the last three years. However, families with young children appear to be clinging to the tradition more tightly than others. Meanwhile, the percentage of hard-core card senders-those households for whom card-creation is the main reason for having a PC printer-has remained about the same.

These and other insights about the convergence of home PCs, printers, and greeting cards were derived from 10,418 households who responded to questionnaires submitted by MetaFacts, Inc. concerning uses of their home PC printers. The results showed that in 2004 about a third of American households (32.6 percent) used their home computer to make greeting cards, down from 35.5 percent in 2003 and 39.2 percent in 2002. Perhaps the practice of making unique cards is now so time-tested that the results don’t seem as novel any more.

Why is this important?

Self-made greeting cards reflect a creative, personal and high-involvement action on the part of the computer user. Even with the gentle and sometimes thorough assistance of some software and sites to design the card and compose the sentiment, it still involves communication with friends, family and other intimates. It forms a personal expression and statement. Therefore, it’s a key indicator of how deeply involved home computers and printers are in the American lifestyle.

The presence of small children in the home appears to make it significantly more likely that the family will devote more time to greeting card creation. For instance, 15.1 percent of households surveyed in 2004 said that greeting card creation was the main use of their printer, but that figure rose to 20.6 percent for households with PC users aged three to 12. (Yet, having teen-aged users didn’t help, since the average for households with PCs users aged 13 to 19 was 14.9 percent-about average, in other words.)

Households with income less than $50,000 were also more likely to make their own cards, with 17.3 percent listing it as the main use of their printers. Either they like to save money, or have practices favoring personal creativity over buying ready-made solutions.

Meanwhile, the percentage of hardcore card-makers has barely declined, even if the practice has slipped significantly among the general population. As stated above, 15.1 percent of households in 2004 listed card creation as the primary use for their printers. That’s only a slight decrease from 15.9 percent in 2003 and 16.8 percent in 2002. This probably means we won’t see a specialized greeting-card printer in the near future, as the market may be too small to justify it.

On the other hand, card-making has remained the second most common activity for which special paper is used-understandably, since the paper is an important factor in making a card unique. It also helps to have the paper pre-scored for easy and professional-looking folding. In 2004, 40.9 percent of PC-owning households report that card-creation was an activity that they used special paper for, second to photo printing (68.1 percent). Letter writing was a distant third, at 18.4 percent. Here, too, prevalence has fallen during the last three years, since the rate of using special paper to create cards was 42.4 percent in 2003 and 46.7 percent in 2002. (However, it remained in second place during those years, between photo printer and letter writing.)

Here, too, the presence of small children among the users meant a higher rate of usage. While 40.9 percent of the general PC user population reported using special paper for cards, the rate rose to 47.2 percent for those with users aged three to 12 in the house. But in this case the highest rate was among those households with teenaged users, rising to 49.6 percent. Evidently, teenagers value uniqueness-and they do so consistently. The rate was 48.7 percent in 2003 and 49.8 percent in 2002.

In case you were wondering, the demographic least likely to create their own cards were the single adults. Only 10 percent of single-adults households said that card-making was the most common use of their printer in 2004. Here, too, the trend was downward, from 11.8 percent in 2003 and 13.8 percent in 2002.