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Give mom some sugar

Black Mother’s Day card increasing in stores as Hallmark corners the market

Erick Johnson | 5/8/2014, 9 a.m.
Hallmark has entire Mahogany card sections featuring Black greeting cards in local stores and supermarkets.

The words can be as sweet as peach cobbler. Black Mother’s Day cards are becoming as common as fried chicken and collard greens.

It’s a tradition for thousands of Blacks in South Florida and across the country who will trek to stores in the coming days to purchase Mother’s Day greeting cards. Many will comb through the racks to find the perfect card that best reflects how one feels about mom.

They will most likely find images of curvy women with braided hair as more companies enter a Black consumer market that has been overlooked for years.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day and the industry biggest card maker, Hallmark, is expected to generate at least $3.5 billion in revenue from an estimated 133 million cards sold this year.

But among those are sold are growing amount of ethnic greeting cards specifically catering to the nation’s 39 million Blacks, whose purchasing power is experiencing a rebound from the economic recession. Although companies like Hallmark have been around for 104 years, many of them began tapping into the Black consumer market some 20 years ago with the Mahogany brand, a line of greeting cards specifically designed for people of color.

African-Kente pattern designs, dashikis, men and women with afros and more expressive messages are some the cards’ features. The cards strike a chord with Black consumers who want products that represent their ethnic identity and cultures.

Since making their debut among dozens of traditional cards in 1987, entire card sections are stocked with Black greeting cards as they have grown in popularity in local stores and supermarkets like Publix and Walgreens.

Other card companies have joined Hallmark to reach the Black consumer market that has gone virtually unnoticed for decades. African-American Expressions, a popular, Black-owned card company, started in a small shop in 1991 in California. Today the company sells over 2.5 million cards annually with over 250 designs.

Another Black-owned company, the Black Art Depot, sells artistic Mother’s Day cards primarily on its website.

But these companies have none or few of their products in major stores like the Mahogany brand. T

hey are outsmarted and outmatched by the illustrious reputation and history of Hallmark, who is dominating the Black consumer market with its powerful marketing machine, creative influence and business experience in the retail industry that span more the a century.

That’s why Hallmark’s Mahogany catalog selection has gone from a 16 cards to more than 800 card line that aims to capture Black lifestyles and relationships. The line features cards for both adults and children. In addition to Mother’s Day, Mahogany has cards for Father’s Day, graduations and major holidays.

Through the years, Mahogany has collaborated with Black celebrities and leaders, including Maya Angelou, T.D. Jakes and Oprah’s protégé and life coach, Iyania Vanzant.

The brand also partnered with the U.S. Postal Service in 1999 to celebrate Black History through a special “Legacy of Greatness” cards, a clever marketing campaign that also rolled out a set of collectible postage stamps of the same name.