Gretchen's Hallmark Chain Expanding Despite Industry Trends | Business

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Gretchen's Hallmark Chain Expanding Despite Industry Trends
Gretchen's Hallmark Chain Expanding Despite Industry Trends

Recent high-profile news of greeting card apps have bloggers and the media buzzing about the end of traditional greeting cards, but one local family-owned company is defying the hype with expansion plans and great optimism about the future of their industry.

Manan Gandhi and his wife Vakta have grown their chain of seven local Gretchen’s Hallmark greeting card stores to 80 employees on the First Coast. They’ve opened two more stores in Southeast Jacksonville just in time for holiday shopping, and say they feel “very optimistic” about the future of their business and their industry.

“Hallmark Cards has a lot of competition from big box retailers, but the reason for giving cards has only kept increasing,” said Gandhi. “Women still expect cards from their husbands on Valentine’s Day. Cards are still a great way to show people you care during the holiday season. Often e-cards and text messages just aren't personal enough.”

Last month’s announcement of Apple’s new $2.99 greeting card app sent the stocks of greeting card companies tumbling. Shares in American Greetings Corp. fell more than 6 percent, and Shutterfly Inc. fell more than 2 percent. Gandhi, however, saw Apple’s announcement as an affirmation of what his success has shown: Americans’ love for traditional greeting cards promises to keep growing.

Indeed, according to the U.S. Greeting Card Association, Americans send 7 billion greeting cards every year, with the average household buying 30 cards. Retail sales of greeting cards in the U.S. are estimated to top $7.5 billion and growing. The card industry is growing at an annual rate of 3 percent in the face of tough retail conditions, according to the Associated Press.

Gretchen’s Hallmark recently opened two new stores in The Shoppes of Bartram Walk off of Old St. Augustine Road on November 4. Next to their eighth Gretchen’s Hallmark they opened Lucy’s Gift Boutique, an upscale retailer offering high-end name brand gifts like Vera Bradley handbags and Pandora jewelry and Life Is Good apparel. They are in the process of hiring about 15 new employees to staff the two new stores.

 “We are local owners with a family run business,” Gandhi said. “We provide better customer service than any big box store out there. My wife and I work alongside our employees and we give the personal attention that our customers have come to expect. We need to give our customers a reason to shop with us because we compete everyday with the big retailers.”

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