Sending Christmas cards has become a top priority during the holiday season for many. This boon in Christmas card demand has translated into record sales for some local businesses that produce customized Christmas cards, particularly those with pictures included in them.
"A Christmas card is like a gift that you are sending," said Lisa Lee, owner of Doodle Bugs Stationary, Invitations & Gifts in downtown Statesboro. "It is an inexpensive way to share your holiday spirit with others."
Lee said her customers start ordering cards at the beginning of October.
"As soon as school starts, people come into the store and ask me when we are going to put out our Christmas cards," she said. "We try to have everything out on display by October 1. People come in and immediately start to order. Christmas cards are a very important part of our business."
From traditional Christmas cards with religious inspired messages to the now incredibly popular Christmas cards with family photos incorporated, the demand for holiday greeting cards continues to grow. Greeting cards manufacturer American Greetings estimates over two billion Christmas cards will be exchanged this year alone.
Local businesses such as Lori Grice Fine Art Photography in Statesboro began marketing their Christmas card products this past summer. DeWayne Grice said the photography studio offered a Christmas in July special that was very successful.
"You never know how these things will go over, but we had a tremendous response," he said. "I guess you could say that we have working on Christmas cards for the last six months. In the 20 years that we have been in business, this is the biggest year for Christmas cards that we have ever had."
The driving force behind the evolution of the Christmas card has been digital photography. Now that family photos are easily transferred into a greeting card format, businesses that are investing in the latest technology are seeing sales increase.
Gil Riggs, owner of Regency Photo on North Main Street in Statesboro, remembers when he began printing digital Christmas cards for his clients.
"I think it was back in the early eighties," Riggs said. "We would print the photo card with a little white strip along the side. Then we would take a rubber stamp and literally stamp the greeting into the white strip. That has all changed."
Riggs said borders, messages, and designs can all be changed and cards can be customized to the letter.
"That is what people want today," he said. "They want the most customized card that they can find, and you have to be able to produce that and produce it quickly."
Riggs estimates that he will print over 15,000 photo greeting cards for his customers this holiday season.
"It is the majority of our business in December," he said. "The sale of photo equipment is no longer a profit center for us. We rely on the processing end of the business, and this a huge part of that."
As photo Christmas cards continue to gain in popularity, traditional cards are still in demand. Janice Davis is the manager of the Hen House, a Hallmark Gold Crown store located in the Statesboro Mall. Davis said a significant percentage of her customer base still buys the traditional "religious" card.
"Our card display is growing every year," Davis said. "However, as popular as photo cards are, our customers still love the traditional cards, and we have a tremendous selection of those. It seems that tradition still reigns."
Lee said it is easy to see the impact that the photo Christmas card has had.
"How many times have you gone to someone's house and seen their refrigerator covered in Christmas card photos," she said. "It has almost become a phenomenon of sorts. People cherish getting pictures, and this is a great way to send one."