Sandra Schauer, owner of the Hallmark card store on Madison Street, knows a lot about Valentine’s Day. Since buying the store in 2007, she and her son Scott have been providing customers with cards that express how they feel about the people they love.
Scott Schauer said this year they will sell about 85% of the 3,000 cards Hallmark has sent them, which they stock in a 28-foot-long display. Customers these days can find a card custom designed for almost any category of loved one, priced at anywhere from 99 cents to $10.99.
Sandra said the majority of customers buying Valentine’s Day cards are women, and those men who do buy them come in at the very last minute. Scott said he will lock the doors this Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. but won’t get out of the store for another hour because of the men scrambling to pick out the right card.
The Schauers’ experience is consistent with behavior nationwide. The website Statistic Brain reports that 85% of the cards sold are purchased by women, and apparently women place more emotional value on the day. Statistic Brain also states that 53% of the women they polled would end their relationship if they didn’t get something for Valentine’s Day.
Also in stock at the Hallmark store, of course, are cards that husbands and wives can give each other. One says, “You know me by heart” on the cover, and inside “You remember all my stories, quirks and dreams, and sometimes you know what I’m thinking before I say a word. It’s so good being known, especially by someone like you. I love you. Happy Valentine’s Day from your wife.”
For those whose first language is Spanish, the Schauers have a large selection. For example, one card is for “Mi esposa.” Inside, the message declares, “Tu eres la persona que me conoce como realamente soy asi. Te amo,” i.e. You are the person who really knows me. I love you.
The Schauers also have cards children can give their parents. One has Marvel superheroes on the cover and the line “To Dad from his children.” On the inside it continues, “You lead the way; you save the day. You’re strong as you can be. You’re an amazing dad who does so much.”
In addition, the Hallmark store has cards specifically created for step-fathers, step-mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends, fiancees, in-laws, grandparents, great grandparents, nieces, nephews and step-siblings.
The store has a line called Mahogany designed just for African Americans and a few cards with messages written in Chinese characters. For kids who want to pass out Valentine’s cards to their classmates, the store has 32-card packs with themes like Barbie, Star Wars, Disney, and Peanuts characters. Hallmark even supplied the Schauers with cards your pet can give you.
One has a dog dressed as Darth Vader on the cover with the message: “Happy Valentine’s Day from the bark side.” Another is for cats to give their humans: “I love being your purrrfect Valentine.”
One market segment Hallmark decided not to address, at least for now, is same-sex couples.
Some customers want cards that are humorous, e.g. the one stating, “I’ll never forget the day” and then when whoever receives the card opens it, they hear a recording of an accordion playing a French song and read, “Eiffel in love with you.”
Sandra has seen the greeting card market change over the years.
“I don’t think people are buying as many cards as they used to. Some say it’s because of the Internet, but I think people don’t care to send them out any more. When I was a kid, I would save cards I got for special occasions. Now kids open the envelope, read the card and throw it in the trash.”
Scott noticed another shift in customer behavior. “They are coming in and buying six or eight cards all at once, for the whole month — birthday, holiday, anniversary, wedding cards all at one time.”
Not only have cultural changes affected their business, Scott said, but the weather can also impact sales.
“The big snow on Valentine’s Day six years ago hurt us,” he recalled, adding that he expects sales to be up this year because both Valentine’s Day itself and the day before are on a weekend when many people are not at work.