The greeting card industry is selling out of sympathy cards amid coronavirus

In a time of crisis, communicating with loved ones is more important than ever.

May 7, 2020, 11:44 AM

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: