Charities to feel fall in Christmas card sales

The corporate Christmas card market looks set for another poor year after a disastrous festive season in 2001, which will mean less money going to charities.

"We were optimistic a month ago but now it looks like many companies are not sending Christmas cards again," said Rod Davies, marketing and sales director at CCA Group, a UK independent greetings card producer.

That spells bad news for the voluntary sector, as last Christmas CCA passed on £750,000 to charities on sales of corporate cards.

Last year the corporate market slumped by 25 per cent, which was attributed to 11 September and the anthrax scare although economic problems in sectors like airlines and the City also contributed.

As a result of those problems, many companies postponed spending decisions and Christmas cards were an easy option for budget cuts.

"It looks like many of the companies that didn't send cards last year believe they got away with it and that customers didn't notice so they're doing it again this year," said Davies.

But the news is not all bad. "The consumer market seems to be holding up well and doing much better than the corporate market," he said.

A spokeswoman for homelessness charity Crisis, which has been campaigning for companies not to send cards but instead make a donation, said fewer companies were signing up to the campaign.

"A lot of the smaller companies that supported our campaign last year have withdrawn," she said.

But because bigger companies are donating more the campaign is set to raise £600,000, about the same as last year.

Many of the companies that support the Crisis campaign are banks, building societies and City firms, which form the main market for corporate cards, so it is likely that the Crisis campaign has contributed to the general fall in sales.

But it appears that some of the slump in catalogue corporate Christmas cards may be offset by online purchases.

Will Ruffman, managing director at the Greetings Card Company, which trades online and works with 40 charities, said that orders were up compared with last year.

"The general market has slowed but perhaps people are more confident using the internet now and that's helping us," he said.

Thomas Bates, general manager at one of the main card suppliers, Almanac Gallery, acknowledged that the market was uncertain.

"So far we're up on last year but the next two weeks will be crucial," he said.

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