Even though fewer people are using first-class mail in general, relying instead on email and social networking sites, the tradition of sending Christmas cards remains strong.
“We still do get a lot of Christmas cards,” said Dan Reilly, Saratoga Springs postmaster.
“Are you going to send Grandma an email?” he asked. He said a Christmas card sent through the mail “means more — you took the time.
“It shows that you care,” Reilly said.
The Postal Service expects to deliver 16.5 billion cards, letters and packages during the holidays from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve this year, according to Maureen Marion, a U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman.
“During the same 28-day period last year, the Postal Service delivered 16.8 billion pieces of mail,” Marion said. This reflects a downturn of 1.7 percent comparing the two holiday seasons.
The Postal Service processes 551 million pieces of mail daily during non-holiday times, but during this holiday season, the Postal Service anticipates that number will jump to 589 million pieces per day, reflecting holiday cards in the mail stream.
Kim Haley, the manager of Tracy’s Hallmark store on Altamont Avenue in Rotterdam, said Christmas cards remain very popular in her store.
“It’s the one holiday we do see [remain strong],” Haley said. “We do see other holidays dwindle down, Thanksgiving, for instance.”
People continue to buy boxes of cards in preparation for the holiday season.
“Thomas Kinkade is the most popular right now,” Haley said. A box of 18 Kinkade cards sells for $9.99, while a box of 40 cards goes for $14.99.
Religious holiday cards are also very popular, along with individual cards for family members, the dentist and the mail carrier and foreign-language cards, Haley said.
A postage-paid greeting card created by Hallmark is a quite popular. The card is pre-stamped so the customer just has to sign it, address the envelope and drop it in a mailbox. The postage-paid cards are $3.99 each.
Customers also like the selection of 99-cent cards, Haley said.
To support the volume of holiday mail, the Postal Service will increase its air cargo transport of mail 31 percent this holiday season compared to non-peak mail periods, Marion said.
The Postal Service also expects to process about 30 million pounds of holiday mail to military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Postal Service suggests that mail going to these military destinations be mailed by Dec. 10 in most cases but as early as Dec. 3 in other cases. Express Mail to the military overseas should be sent by Dec. 17.
Postmaster Reilly said holiday mail, including cards, has remained steady in the past two or three years.
“Everybody [at his post office] gets really busy,” he said.
Reilly’s suggestion is that people mailing holiday packages use Priority Mail.
“It makes a big difference in time,” Reilly said. He said Priority Mail is delivered within two or three days and those sending it can track it. He said the cost difference is usually negligible.
“While Christmas remains the holiday that sparks the most greeting card sales, fewer people send cards each year, according to Unity Marketing,” says a Dec. 9, 2010, story in the Chicago Tribune.
The percentage of consumers buying greeting cards for Christmas fell from 77 percent in 2005 to 73 percent in 2007 and to 62 percent in 2009, according to that report.
The Christmas card outlook is particularly weak for teenagers and college students, who are accustomed to communicating in ways that are more immediate, more efficient and more cost-effective, said Pamela Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, the Pennsylvania-based firm cited in the Chicago Tribune story.
“Compared to these instant forms of communication, addressing a preprinted card and sending it via snail mail seems like an antiquated waste of time,” Danziger said.