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Christmas cards 'making a comeback' - will you put pen to paper?

By This is SouthDevon  |  Posted: December 10, 2012

By Emma McFarnon

Christmas cards

A quarter of people intend to make more of an effort to send Christmas cards this year - photo Phil Radcliffe

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Christmas cards are making a comeback, with 80 per cent of people saying they would prefer to receive a traditional card to any electronic festive wishes.

That is according to a poll carried out on behalf of Royal Mail. The research suggests 25 per cent of people intend to make more of an effort to send Christmas cards this year, while the average person expects to send 19 cards - a 27 per cent rise on last year.

The average person sent 15 Christmas cards in 2011, but this will rise to an expected 19 cards per person this year, the research found. This rise is partly attributed to a fifth of people saying they were planning to send more cards this year because they felt guilty about forgetting to send a card to someone who was expecting one last year.

And it appears Christmas cards are still cherished – 80 per cent of people would rather receive a card than a festive message via social media; a method of well-wishing one in four described as feeling “a bit empty” or impersonal.

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Meanwhile 85 per cent of people plan to display their Christmas cards around their home, the poll found.

Sharon Little, chief executive of the Greeting Card Association, said: “This research confirms that cards remain at the centre of all life's special celebrations.

“We all love to be in our homes at Christmas time surrounded by the cards we have received from far and wide. We know that all these people have taken the time to think of us.

“Christmas is all about caring, sending real cards to friends and family is far more meaningful than any form of electronic communication - you can’t put a Facebook message or an e-card on your mantelpiece.”

When it comes to Christmas cards, humour and snow come out on top – a quarter of people say they most like to receive an amusing card, while 24 per cent like cards with a wintery image.

This was also the case with the first cards sent almost 150 years ago, which featured festive family fun scenes.

The world’s first commercially-produced Christmas cards were introduced in 1843. Only 1,000 of these cards - commissioned by Sir Henry Cole - were printed, and sold for a shilling each. This meant they were a luxury item and were not within the means of the working class.

Today’s research paints a different picture to that of recent years – in 2010 the tradition of sending Christmas cards was said to be in terminal decline.

Mintel found “over the past four years there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of Brits buying Christmas cards, as while in 2006 as many as 84 per cent of us sent a Christmas card, this has dropped to just 73 per cent in 2009.”

Meanwhile Oxfam, one of the largest charities which sells Christmas cards, said sales were 14 per cent lower than in 2009.

And in 2008 it seemed the rise in e-card sales – of 200 to 250 per cent according to ecards.co.uk – could threaten the traditional Christmas card.

But despite Royal Mail’s predicted Christmas card comeback, price may still pose a problem for many. According to research conducted by Saga, 51 per cent of over-50s said they would this year send fewer Christmas cards than they did in 2011, due to the rise in stamp prices.

In 2011, the average number of Christmas cards sent by post by this age group was 38. This is expected to fall to 28 this year - a reduction of 26 per cent.

Saga found sending 50 Christmas cards first class this year will cost £7 more than last year. However, Royal Mail insists it “provides one of the highest quality postal services in Europe and UK stamp prices are amongst the best value in the EU; with the 50p price of a Second Class stamp the lowest in Europe.”

And the cost of cards themselves may be an issue. The Greeting Card Association Market Report 2012 found the average price for a single Christmas card is now £1.63.

To read more about the Royal Mail findings, click here.

Will you send Christmas cards this year? Vote in our poll on the right-hand side of the page.

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