In a remarkable sign of the loss many have been going through during the coronavirus pandemic, the greeting card industry is selling out of sympathy cards.
At least 73,431 people have died in the U.S. of the novel coronavirus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Amid the crisis, friends and relatives who are unable to express sympathies in person have turned to written condolences that are insufficiently conveyed in a text or tweet.
"During this time of social distancing, the ability to communicate in writing with friends and loved ones is more important than ever to many consumers," said Kelly Ricker, chief creative officer at American Greetings, the second largest producer of greeting cards. "Our ability to keep cards in stock has been limited at times by the various shelter-in-place orders that state and local governments have implemented."
Stationery, gift and book stores are closed. Sympathy cards in the greeting card aisles of grocery and drug stores are picked through.
"All the places where you go to buy greeting cards with the exception of supermarkets and drug stores are closed," said Alan Friedman, who runs Great Arrow Graphics in Buffalo and is a board member of the Greeting Card Association. "That’s putting pressure on the stocks in mass grocery locations, and they’re sold out."
His direct-to-consumer customers have been ordering loads of sympathy cards online.
"It has been unprecedented," Friedman said. "There are $250 orders for greeting cards and every one of them is a sympathy or encouragement."
ABC’s Aaron Katersky reports for ABC News Radio:
At Curly Girl Design, Leigh Standley has also gotten an influx of online orders for sympathy cards.
"We’re seeing an uptick in humor support and probably a downturn in birthday and wedding," Standley said.
A favorite humorous support card she has designed reads: "If life hasn’t given you a double chin, has it really been lived?"
When she designs a sympathy card, Standley said she tries to find words for sentiments that can be difficult to express. Her favorite: "When I’m gone, look for me in every star, every moon, every brand new day. I’m not gone. / I’m everywhere with you, dear. Everywhere the light gets in."
The pandemic will influence some sympathy card content, according to Ricker at American Greetings.
"The job of a greeting card is to reflect the thoughts and feelings of the person sending it, in a real and relevant way," she said. "The coronavirus pandemic is influencing all of us in big and small ways, so you will definitely see that reflected in cards in the future."
Friedman said his job is to prompt messages of condolence that do not always come easily to people.
"Sending a sympathy message needs to be done in a heartfelt way, and a text or Facebook timeline posting is probably not adequate," he said. "The ability to write is rising to the surface in a way that it hasn’t before."
His favorite card: "The beauty of a life well lived is that it’s never forgotten."