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  • By Phillip V. Cruz Jr.

Saying ‘I Love You’ in print

If you think the greeting card industry has gone the way of the dinosaurs, think again

Shane Cruz arranges Monica Baza's cards rack in PayLess Supermarkets in Oka, Tamuning.

Shane Cruz arranges Monica Baza's cards rack in PayLess Supermarkets in Oka, Tamuning. Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan

Greeting cards have always been an essential part of the gift-giving extravaganza on birthdays and special holidays such as Christmas and Valentine’s Day. And with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, it’s time to look for the best greetings cards to go with that special gift for that special someone.

No, it’s not a dead industry. Despite the ubiquity of digital cards on social media, the traditional greeting cards — signed with a pen and inserted in envelops sealed with a kiss — are still a thing.

“I believe greeting cards are still a viable business today, especially when you want to reach out to a friend or loved one in the form of a special note or chenchule to help for funeral expenses or a send-off for going to the mainland or other off-island travel,” said Monica Baza, a local artist who founded Baza Designs on Valentine’s Day in 1995. Baza Designs supplies greeting cards for every occasion to local shops.

Gina T. Reilly, a resident of Barrigada and TFC News correspondent, said she and her husband Robert Reilly always exchange cards. “The gifts seem not complete without the written notes,” she said. “It's very unromantic to just say ‘I got you this gift or just open your email for my greetings.’ I think the cards amplify your efforts. Taking the extra time to buy a card and write on it show your loved ones that they are truly special.”

According to the National Retail Federation, more people — especially millennials — are sending greeting cards. Greeting card revenue has been steady over the past year, according to NRF. The group has projected this industry to bring in as much as $933 million this Valentine's Day, slightly up from last year's estimated $894 million.

The Greeting Card Association reported a decline in revenue in 2012 when social media and e-greeting cards took off. The online greeting service JibJab has created animated e-cards — with personalized disco dancers— that can be sent in a mass batch. The U.S. Postal Service has reported that the number of cards sent by U.S. mail dropped from 68.7 million in 2010 to 56.7 million in 2018.

However, a recent report by Anything Research shows a 3 percent growth in greeting card revenue last year.

Greeting cards are among the top sellers at the gift and flowers nook at PayLess Supermarkets in Oka Tamuning. “At my register alone, I ring up an average 10 cards a day. That’s just for my shift,” said Shane Cruz, a cashier at PayLess. “People buy cards for all occasions. Last Christmas, about 60 people bought Christmas cards per day—just in my shift.”

Cruz said one would be surprised that most of the card buyers are people in their 20s, the tech-savvy age group.

At BestSeller in Tamuning, most of the buyer are teenaged girls, according to store clerk Chloe Ezra. The Tamuning outlet sells an average of 10 cards a day, she said.

“I just bought four cards today,” said a 28-year-old Tamuning resident, who requested to be identified only as Katya. “I got one for bridal shower, one for wedding, one for baptism and one sympathy card,” she said. “I forgot to buy gifts so I just bought cards and put money in them.”

Baza, who sells greeting cards all year round, noted spikes in sales during Valentine’s Day and Christmas. “I am grateful for that,” she said.

Baza Designs cards are left blank inside so that the sender can write a personalized message for that special someone to match that special occasion.

Baza’s cards are designed with her own Guam-inspired art works, such as hibiscus, plumeria, legends of Guam and iconic landscapes. She also has ocean-themed cards that feature dolphins and mermaids.

So what are her top-selling designs? “I cannot pin it down to just one and popularity shifts from time to time,” Baza said.

Baza Designs cards are available at the Guam Museum Gift Shop, Café Valley of the Latte, Faith Bookstore, The Guam Gallery of Art, Puntan Dos Amantes Gift Shop, PayLess Oka and Mangilao branches.

Baza said her customers include children as young as seven and the elderly. Seeing people of all ages purchase her cards puts a smile on Baza’s face. “My passion is doing art work,” she said.

Other customers include avid art collectors. Baza said she puts her art on affordable format to enable people to purchase her pieces of art at a cheaper price. “We like to provide an affordable alternative, too,” she said. (With additional reports from Mar-Vic Cagurangan)

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