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Archive for Thursday, March 4, 1999

HALLMARK WRAPS UP CARD SALES INCREASE

March 4, 1999

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A new line of cards being produced at the company's Topeka plant has meant more work for the Lawrence plant.

Nearly half of the greeting cards sold in America during 1998 were from Hallmark Cards Inc., and most of those were made at plants in Lawrence and other nearby communities.

Hallmark, the Kansas City, Mo.-based greeting card giant, said this week it had $3.9 billion in sales during 1998, up 5 percent from the previous year. That accounted for 51 percent of all the money spent on greeting cards in 1998, up 4 percent from 1997.

By number of units sold, privately owned Hallmark's share of the market rose to 47 percent. That's up 3 percentage points from a year earlier.

"Increased consumer preference is the greatest compliment any company can receive," said Irvine O. Hockaday Jr., president and chief executive officer of Hallmark. "The fact that more people are choosing cards from Hallmark over other brands tells us that we are doing a better job of listening to the voice of the consumer."

Karmen Huyser, general manager of Hallmark's greeting card plant in Lawrence, said the consumer's voice was a big reason for the company's latest card venture, which is being introduced this month.

"Our research suggests there is a need in the marketplace for a more casual card, and a lower-priced card with brighter colors and simpler style of verse," he said.

The response is Hallmark Warm Wishes, one of the largest new card lines in the company's 80-year history. The cards, which are being produced at Hallmark's 800-employee Topeka plant, will cost 99 cents each. Most Hallmark cards sell for about $1.99.

A national advertising campaign begins March 15, but the cards already are available in many stores, Huyser said. And the early response has been strong.

"The stores that have launched it have seen some good increases in sales," he said.

Hallmark spokeswoman Julie O'Dell said more than 20,000 retail outlets nationally have signed up to carry the line -- more than double Hallmark's expectations. The idea is to get the cards into places where people shop every day and to offer them at a price that entices buyers.

Hallmark's 1,000-employee Lawrence plant has been picking up some extra work from Topeka while that plant has been producing Warm Wishes cards, Huyser said.

But it hasn't translated into increases in employment in Lawrence.

"We've been around the 1,000 employee mark for seven or eight years," he said. When the plant opened in 1958, it employed less than half that.

Initially, the 650,000-square-foot plant was built to produce ribbons and bows, products that now account for about 25 percent of the plant's output. That changed in the 1970s, when Hallmark created its successful Ambassador card line for sale in grocery stores, and the plant retooled to produce and distribute that product as well.

It later began producing mainly seasonal Hallmark cards. Huyser said Lawrence's production accounts for more than 90 percent of such cards made by the company. It also produces all the ribbons and bows sold nationwide.

-- Richard Brack's phone message number is 832-7194. His e-mail address is rbrack@ljworld.com.

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