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Greeting Cards/Stationery 2006


Jewish New Year observance especially poignant this year

Cards express wishes for peace, health and happiness during turbulent times

From sunset, Sept. 22, through nightfall on Oct. 2, Jews around the world will observe their High Holy Days - beginning with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and culminating with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is believed that on Rosh Hashanah, the symbolic Book of Life is opened and one's fate for the coming year is inscribed during the ten-day period until Yom Kippur, when the Book of Life is closed or sealed.

For many people, exchanging cards with family and friends is a meaningful part of the season's traditions. In fact, according to the Greeting Card Association, Jewish New Year is the top card-giving holiday for the faith, with an estimated 10 million Jewish New Year cards sent every year. This year, with the unfortunate violence in the Middle East and around the world, reaching out with wishes for peace and happiness is more compelling than ever.

"It is a customary practice to connect with family and friends during this time of soul-searching and introspection to express sincere wishes for peace, health and happiness in the coming year," explained Pam Fink, a 23-year veteran editor and writer who works on American Greetings L'Chayim To Life! line of Jewish New Year cards. A practicing Orthodox Jew who reads and writes Hebrew, Fink not only helps plan and craft the sentiments for the cards, but as a consumer, she also sends them to her own family members and friends.

Peace themes and dove imagery are prevalent on several of this year's cards. "Typography, or using words as art, is a popular contemporary look right now, and it's used very effectively on two of the peace-themed cards," Fink said. "One features the phrase 'L'Shanah Tovah' (Hebrew for 'good year') written in elegant script in a repetitive pattern that forms the shape of a dove. Another card shows bold interlocking block letters spelling out 'Shalom' down the front of the card along with a subtle overlay of the repeated words 'peace,' 'health,' 'happiness' and 'prosperity.'"

Although Rosh Hashanah is observed in the synagogue with meaningful prayer services and the sounding of the Shofar (ram's horn), it is also customary to celebrate the anticipated sweetness of the new year with apples, honey, pomegranates, and honey cake, along with the traditional egg bread (challah) baked in a round loaf rather than a braid to symbolize the year's cyclical nature.

Fink said this year's line combines the important time-honored symbolism of the holidays with contemporary language to help people express their wishes in a more meaningful way. "Many of the cards reflect a real life, conversational style, like one with repeated bold graphic images of honey and apples on the front with the simple message: "Wishing you all sweet things in the new year." A card to give to a child features a whimsical honeybee illustration and says: 'It's Rosh Hashanah... Sweet!"

The color palette used in this year's L'Chayim To Life! line incorporates vibrant hues of pink, yellow, green, blue and purple that add rich appeal to the cards. Customary holiday imagery is accented by bold graphic treatments and repetitive patterns that give the cards a distinctively modern look.

"Jewish New Year is an important, meaningful time and the ideal period to wish friends and loved ones blessings in the year to come. Cards have always played a major role in this communication connection, and this year more than ever, the L'Chayim To Life! line offers an attractive, appropriate selection for every relationship," Fink said.


--About American Greetings Corporation : American Greetings Corporation (NYSE: AM), which celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2006, is one of the world's largest manufacturers of social expression products. Along with greeting cards, its product lines include gift wrap, party goods, candles, stationery, calendars, educational products, ornaments and electronic greetings. American Greetings is also the creator and owner of many celebrated character properties, including Strawberry Shortcake and Care Bears. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, American Greetings generates annual net sales of approximately $1.9 billion.

Greeting Cards/Stationery Trends

Florentine Journey, High End Office and Comic Stylz are the three trends representative of design directions for the 2006/2007 season, reports Messe Frankfurt's recently published report. Compiled by international trend researcher Gunnar Frank, the creative force behind the trend show that will be staged at the upcoming edition of Paperworld (January 25 to 26, 2006) in Frankfurt.

The colors, forms and materials that characterize each of the trends are:

*Florentine Journey : This trend world describes classically or romantically-inspired design, evoking a hint of Tuscany. Hallmarks include materials such as handmade, glossy or matte paper or rice paper, brushed metal, transparent plastic, high-sheen glass, and faux metal or suede. Decorative elements include mini or compose designs, stripes, marbling and clouds, fake flora and fauna, imitation snake and reptile/crocodile skin, and historic symbols from the worlds of architecture, music and art. Shapes are characterized by romantic nostalgia and include boxes, containers, folders, cases, mini-calendars, variations on the poetry book theme, and napkins in a wide variety of formats. Pastel colors such as honey, sky, tangerine, mint and pink contrast with intense black. Detail evocative of art deco china and jewelry rounds off the trend.

*High End Office: This trend is inspired by both sport and industry. Its products span the material spectrum from top quality plastics, wood, metal in gold, silver or bronze form, textiles, leather and suede to glass and transparent materials. Sport, cars, Art Deco and the kitchen inspire designs. Products include calendars, notebooks, postcards, office equipment, scissors, pinks top-of-the-range pens, desk pads, rolodex files and computer accessories. The high-tech, industrial design of the 1930s and 1970s typically provides the detail. The trend's color story includes deep, dark shades including fire, khaki, ochre, baize green and indigo. White provides the contrast

*Comic stylz! : This trend is comprised of value-for-money, disposable products based in whimsy, fantasy, humor and a love of color. In terms of materials, plastic in the form of imitation paper, reptile skin and stone as well as musical/optical effects and environmentally-friendly dyes, rubber finishes and coatings dominate. Decorative elements include jolly stripes and spots and exotic, folkloristic designs. Games, files and diaries for hobbyists with details drawn from film, folklore and exotic destinations form part of the trend. Colors are lively, clear and inspiring. They include sunshine yellow, violet, mint, olive and turquoise with gray used for contrast.

Best New Products at The National Stationery Show

Five National Stationery Show exhibitors were honored with Best New Product Awards during the Show's Opening Ceremony, on Sunday, May 21, 2006, at New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

The 60th annual National Stationery Show took place May 21-24, and had over 1,300 exhibitors and approximately 14,000 attendees. The 10th annual Best New Product Awards were presented in five distinct categories: Celebrate, Homework, Indulgences, Presents and Take Note.

Editors from top industry trade publications reviewed more than 100 submissions and selected outstanding new products based on innovative product design; aesthetic appeal; new product direction and niche; creative use of materials and packaging.

Winners of the 2006 Best New Product Awards :

* Celebrate - Party & Occasions Tarta, Marketing LLC (Chicago, IL), for the Toppers by Tarta Self-Sticking Pop-Up Gift Topper. Each topper is a perfect addition to any gift for any occasion.

* Home Work- - Desk Top & Personal Office ZuZu (Louisville, CO), for the Crocodile paper stationery products and accessories, available in six vibrant colors. The crocodile line includes nesting boxes, journals, accordion photo albums and wrapping paper sets.

* Indulgences - Fine Lines & Luxury Cleo Writing Instruments (Munich, Germany), for the Gessner wooden pen and key case set. The Gessner pen and case consist of a cherry wood finish in a Hessian pouch.

* Presents - Gifts, Novelty and Crafts Supplies E.K. Success (Clifton, NJ), for the Let-Me-Tell-You & Me and My Honey wedding, honeymoon and anniversary keepsake. Packaged in a suitcase-style box, the keepsake houses a three-ring album with more than 80 inspiring pages for personalizing memories.

* Take Note - Cards & Social Stationery Hugz Inc. (Dallas, TX), for Big Bear Hugz Greeting Card. Hugz greeting card line come in a variety of characters. The card is sent in a capsule and is designed to "hug" the recipient with its arms when the capsule is opened.

Cards to Shed Real Feathers

Greeting card producers Hallmark Cards, and American Greetings are looking to feather their cards with fakes. According to the Associated Press, public concern over the bird flu virus has led the nation's two largest greeting card producers to remove feathers from their products. Both companies are now looking at alternatives for the real bird feathers used on a small number of their cards.

The companies, however, maintain that the moves are not safety precautions, but rather guided by public relations. Both Hallmark and American Greetings say they use sterilized feathers, some domestically plucked, some Asian. Feathers account for "a very small fraction of 1 percent" of the total number of cards American Greetings produces, according to company spokeswoman Laurie Henrichsen. Some of those have a "small fashion icon glued on the front - like a miniature fabric woman's hat with feather attachment," she added. Hallmark says fewer than 10 of about 20,000 types of cards it makes have real feathers. The company is considering using fake feathers on those cards.

Valentine's Day 2006

Valentine's Day is Feb. 14.

Top Ways To Celebrate Valentine's Day:

Greeting Cards 65%

Date Night 44%

Candy 38%

Flowers 32%

Gift Cards 29%

Plush 21%

Other Gifts 17%

Perfume/Cologne 12%

Jewelry 11%

45 percent of Valentine's Day transactions involve the purchase of at least one card for a romantic relationship. The need to express emotions and connect with loved ones continues. Romantic valentines are often kept as keepsakes. People are looking for meaningful valentine gifts and creative ways to present them. A continuing trend is toward cards with handcrafted appeal.

- Approximately 180 million cards exchanged .

- Valentine's Day is the second largest holiday for greeting cards.

- More than half of the US population celebrates Valentine's Day by purchasing a greeting card.

- Valentine's Day is a top card-buying occasion for men.

- Women receive half of all valentines.

- Last-minute shopping is the norm for this holiday with nearly 50 percent of all Valentine's Day cards purchased within six days prior to Valentine's Day.

- About half of all Valentine's Day cards are hand-delivered, often with gifts.

- Parents account for approximately 40 percent of all Valentine card purchases.

How American Greetings helps its artists and writers stay inspired and in touch

Is Santa a patriot? He is this year. If you go to a store run by American Greetings Corp. you'll see him on a Christmas card tucking miniature American flags into red, white, and blue stockings. Another card features a snowman waving the flag under the slogan "God Bless America."

While Christmas cards may seem like they've been the same forever, that couldn't be further from the truth. They are precisely calibrated to the national mood. The greeting card business, in essence, is the zeitgeist business. At 99-year-old American Greetings, the Christmas lineup is revamped every year, with slightly different shades of red and green and hipper colors tossed in -- blues are hot now. "We are very focused on making sure we are ahead of trends," says Zev Weiss, 39, the fourth-generation chief executive of the Cleveland company. Jeffrey, who's his brother, is president.To meet that challenge, the Weiss brothers create an environment that keeps the company's 400-plus artists, writers, and creative types inspired.

At American Greetings artists are encouraged to look inside and out for inspiration. The company''s creative reference library stocks some 10,000 books and provides 300 magazines, plus animation magazines. To stay ahead of consumer tastes, AG relies on feedback from its 500 company-owned stores and powerhouse retailers.

For Christmas themes a creative director travels to trade shows in Germany and England, checking out consumer sentiment in such seemingly far-flung areas as home decor. He even shops in luxury stores such as Harrod's. "Europe is a traditional source of fashion and design," says Vice-President Richard Hunt. Black and silver, now popping up in AG's Christmas lines, made their mark in Europe first.

At headquarters artists can pick up creative vibes in a secluded room where the decor changes four times a year. The interiors have ranged over the past year from sleek ultramodern to comfy hunting lodge. The company also sends its artists on regular trips to local museums and art shows, and it hosts in-house sessions with top designers and floral experts. Writers go to poetry sessions and journal-writing classes. To get everyone in the mood for Christmas, AG brought in old holiday movies a few weeks ago, showing them at lunchtime.

Above and beyond supporting its artists, the company gleans all it can out of market research to help it get inside the heads of potential customers. For a few years its research with consumers has turned up a passion for such "feminine icons" as shoes, lipstick tubes, and hats, says Tina Benavides, a vice-president in the creative division. "This is part of a return to glamour," she says. Thus, one AG card reads: "Gloves and hats that match, a trendy scarf that ties -- Christmas is a special time when girls accessorize!" Indeed, the female target is no accident: Women buy more than 90% of all greeting cards. AG's offices sport big banners with a photograph of a woman signing greeting cards along with the slogan: "It's all about her."

--Business Week

Respondents Plan to Send eCards, Print Address Labels and Personalize Calendars at Home

The trends revealed in a new study commissioned by American Greetings include: more holiday eCards will be sent through cyberspace this year, more holiday cards will be personalized and made at home, and that consumers are interested in a diverse selection of greetings and home projects for the holiday season. 80% of those polled said that they planned on sending at least one eCard this year. More than half of those surveyed will be sending ten or more eCards this holiday season, compared with 38% who sent that many last year.

Respondents said that they plan on increasing the number of personalized greetings and holiday decorations that they make at home. More than 30% of users plan to print some of their holiday cards themselves this holiday season. In addition, 70% of those polled said they were planning on printing address labels at home, 65% responded that they were thinking about making a personalized calendar, and 60% planned on making personalized gift tags at home.

When asked how early people start sending out their paper holiday cards, over 70% wait until December, while only 7% send out any holidays cards before Thanksgiving. When asked when they purchase their holiday cards, the largest group said after the holiday sales the year before, with the second most popular timeframe being the last week in November.

In a separate national independent study recently commissioned by American Greetings, the results showed that online greetings and traditional holiday cards complement each other, and tend to be used for different situations and people.

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