Feb 19, 2020

Hallmark’s Dealt Some Bad Cards

By Ed Goldman

Hallmark’s failing greeting-card division recently dismissed its president, Steve Farley. I can only hope it wasn’t done in its patented doggerel style:

“Our TV specials still do well
But card sales have got gnarly.
No time to grieve—
So sorry, Steve,
It’s time to chuck you, Farley.”

If you’re still with us,* here’s what happened, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. Hallmark Cards, Inc., which is 110 years old, decided its greeting cards would do better online, where they can compete with the almost-as-ubiquitous, equally treacly Jacquie Lawson Cards. Or as an internal memo might have put it:

“Our sacch’rine cards have lost their pep,
They need a bowl of Wheaties.
We think online
They’ll do just fine
But still cause diabetes.”

Hallmark’s aim to go digital with its greeting cards is due in part to young people today who “don’t even know, in some cases, how to address an envelope,” according to the company’s senior public affairs executive, Molly Biwar—who, if she has teens at home, should probably have someone else  start the car in the morning to take them to school.

Because she’s not done: “They don’t have a stamp, or necessarily know how to buy a stamp. They don’t have addresses.” She could have summarized this in verse for the firm’s operations manager:

“These kids today can’t tell the diff’
‘Tween envelopes and postcards.
Let’s play this straight:
All postage stamps and most cards.”

Hallmark Cards, Inc., decided its greeting cards would do better online

Hallmark’s misery isn’t quite as dire as that of other brick-and-mortar operations.

According to the Journal story, the company still can boast of roughly $4 billion in annual revenue, thanks to its ownership of both Crayola and Crown Media Family Networks, under which the Hallmark Channel produces what seem like 4,000 wholesome TV movies per year with synopses like:

“A separated Mom and Dad,
Whose teens are ever-present
Begin to date
But get in late—
The scolding is incessant.

The son and daughter give them hell
(Believe us, it’s not pleasant):
‘Hey, Mom and Dad,
This looks real bad:
You’re acting adolescent.’”

*For the easily offended: Please address your objections to my editor and publisher, whose name and photo appear at the top of this column.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).