Thursday, 30 December 2010

So is it me or is the Christmas card?

First publishe din the Bath Chronicle on Thursday December 9

I have had to come face-to-face with two possibilities this week - neither of which are very palatable.

One, is that in the space of the last 12 months I have become very unpopular. And the other is that the great tradition of sending Christmas cards is virtually dying out.

Usually, at this time of the year (and we are only 16 days away from Christmas remember) my office is festooned with a wide variety of cards sent by individuals and organisations as a way of saying 'thank you' for what we as a apaper may have done for them over the last year.

At this point, however, I have a mere four - so few in fact that I can publicly thank them all. So, it is the thumbs up to Bath Building Society, Sam and Wendy Farr, John and Gill McLay and the team at The Mission Theatre. I love you all.

Of course, I may have fallen into a huge depression wondering where all the other cards have gone were it not for a couple of pieces of research that have just come out - and the evidence of my own eyes.

In the latter case, I have been amazed to see how many shops are already selling Christmas cards at half price. Surely, I wonder, that is what you do in January? If you can't sell Christmas cards in December at full price then when on earth can you?

And then there are two pieces of research - the main one being from Oxfam - which indicate that we may indeed be falling out of love with our Christmas cards. Oxfam reckons a third of people this year will be sending far fewer cards than they have in the past with many opting out altogether. And they estimate that this could account for a whopping 141 million less cards being sent than five years ago.

A second survey reveals similar figures and also says that a third of stingy men are planning to send not a single card this year. Weird.

Some of the reasons given are the high price of stamps (but wasn't it always thus?), the hassle of buying cards (ditto) and, more likely, that instead we all now send 'hilarious' e-cards full of dancing gnomes with our heads attached to them. And yes, I have done this (and will probably do it again sadly).

The serious part of all this (apart from the fact that it is sad to see any tradition die off) is that the charity Christmas card market has been really badly hit and the aforementioned Oxfam reckon the trend away from cards could cost them £100,000 alone this year. When you add in all the other charities that rely on cards as an important part of their revenue, it adds up to an almighty sum of money that won't be going to help people this year.

How many people who used to receive a charity card in the post, will just sit stoney-faced at their computer screen as the 15th 'hilarious' dancing gnome with a red hat arrives in their inbox?

To end on a positive note, even with all this doom and gloom, it is still predicted that over 800 million cards will be sent this year.

If that is the case, then I am afraid I must go back to my original point and wonder what have I done to upset all but four people during the course of 2010...

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