A Snapshot of the Photo Card Market from a Door



David Haueter

Most of us get photo cards around the Holiday’s but not many of us save them. My girlfriend is an exception, as she has the interesting practice of keeping all the cards she receives over the Holidays on the door to her garage for the rest of the year. It’s a nice tradition; because it spruces up an otherwise dull door and lets you see pictures and memories from your friends and family all year long. To me, it also provides a touchstone for how the photo card market is doing. Although one person is not a solid benchmark, my girlfriend’s door serves as a good reflection on what I believe is happening in the overall market for photo cards.

Of the 32 total cards on her door, 16 included a personal photo and 16 were off-the-shelf greeting cards (mostly Hallmark). All 16 of the photo cards were flat, with not a single folded card to be found in the bunch. There was only one 4” x 8” photo card out of the 16, as her friends have moved predominantly to larger format cards, and several of those larger format cards were printed on heavier stock paper. The majority of the photo cards she received were ordered from Shutterfly.


She still had the cards from last year when she put the new ones up and we found that she received one less photo card than last year. Of course, we use a lot of different inputs when we develop a forecast besides the number of cards our significant others receive, but her year-over-year card display findings match up well with the Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends photo card forecast. We predicted the market would be flat from 2016 to 2017, we predicted that flat photo card volume would be up slightly while folded photo cards declined and we predicted that most of the orders would come from online vendors rather than retail stores. Not only was Shutterfly the most popular brand on her door; they were also the most popular brand cited in our annual consumer photo merchandise survey in 2017 (which included nearly 400 photo card buyers). I was glad to see that she received more of the higher-priced larger format cards with heavier stock paper, which bodes well for average selling prices and revenue if others are doing this besides her friends and family.

Keypoint Intelligence – InfoTrends’ Opinion

Photo cards contribute a great deal of revenue to the photo merchandise market. We estimate that in 2017 there was over $520 million in revenue generated in the U.S. from photo cards, but we’re expecting the overall market to be flat through 2021. Many people still order photo cards, but many are ordering fewer than they used to and there are fewer vendors that require consumers to order a minimum number of cards, which was typically 20-25 cards (and still is with a few vendors). Even though the market may be flat, we shouldn’t discount the importance of photo cards as they relate to the entire photo output market. Photo cards not only bring in a lot of revenue, they also serve the purpose of leading to sales of other products like photo prints, books and wall décor through promotions received with card orders or through cross-marketing with other products. They may also influence some to buy photo cards for the first time, when non-buyers get a great card and decide to do it themselves. In my girlfriend’s case, they also serve as home décor so maybe that will catch on. You never know!