Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hallmark. US Postal Service. Associations. Are we all in the same boat?

News item: Hallmark retail outlets closing 
News item: US Postal Service projected to loose $10 billion (video)

News item: 67.5% of professional associations reported memberships were down or even in 2011.

These stories all connect with associations and nonprofits.  Here's the background:

From the Fort Myers News-Press story about Hallmark closings:
  •  “Janele Krebs, who runs Kimberly’s Hallmark in North Fort Myers with her parents, said competitors who offer cards and gifts, such as Target, Bealls and Bed Bath and Beyond, has made the business more challenging, but she has diversified her merchandise to stand out from the competition. They owned the other Kimberly’s in south Fort Myers that closed.”
  •  “Her North Fort Myers store carries other lines, such as Vera Bradley hand bags and accessories and Lindsay Philips switchflops, to complement the Hallmark cards and gifts and help boost business. It’s a move she and her family made about five years ago.”
  •  “You have to give your consumer another reason to come into your store,” she said, “You try to give excellent customer service and do the little extras they’re not going to find at the big box stores.”
The Postal Service problems? 

Competition from FedEx and UPS started a downward slide. And, then email changed the entire landscape for communicating with friends, family and customers. The world changed but the U.S. Post Office – unlike others around the world – did not. And, higher prices combined with slower service isn’t bringing customers back.

Professional societies and trade associations face the same dilemma. 
Keeping up with changes impacting members ... from Kindle and Google to MeetingsToGo and Meetup. We are faced with keeping on keeping on or changing. As Vera Bradley told the News-Press when the market changes, “you have to give your customer another reason to come into your store.”

The board of one group I’m working with continues resist changes by saying membership will come back when the recession ends. Well, their membership data shows that membership started its decline BEFORE the recession. So, wonder what the post-recession numbers will show?

While some “blame” social media or competition from for profits, changing demographics represents a major factor in our world.

The cold, hard facts:

  • There are roughly 78 million Boomers in the U.S. They are “aging out” as another American turns 65 every 8 seconds. That’s 10,800 every day. And Boomers were joiners and donors. The recession has delayed retirement for many ... but, retire they will. And, in retirement, will they continue as your members and donors? Perhaps.
  • There are 50 million Gen Xers in the U.S. When Boomers retire and stop joining or donating, there are about 30 million FEWER “bodies” to replace them as members and donors.
  • There are about 80 million Millenials (or Gen Y). They are just coming in to the work force. We don’t know yet whether they will be joiners or donors. We do know that they communicate and engage differently than Boomers and somewhat differently that Xers.
To fill the 30 million gap between Boomers and Xers, we need to engage and recruit Ys.

You won’t do this by offering the same programs and services as during the past 40 years and you can’t engage them if you continue to communicate the way you have over the last 20 years.

So, if you are waiting for membership to return once the recession ends, you may find yourself looking at the wrong end of the microscope.

We all need to be looking at our member benefits, conferences and communications to see whether they can retain Boomers and Xers while engaging Millenials.


  1. It is a sign of the hard economic times. Hallmark and the postal industry losing money. I fear that recession will be an option for this industry.

  2. Hallmark cards and the USPS may have been hurt by the economy, but they are examples of businesses that have been hurt by a changing way in which people want information. These two, like Newsweek, are slow to change.

    In the case of the store in Fort Myers, I wonder why one store was closed. It is not difficult to understand when your business is important to a customer from multiple points that as one aspect becomes less important, another can be added or an existing one can be made more important to the customer.

    It is like associations; what have have provided for years is not available from multiple other sources.If the association adapts, they will remain relevant. If not, they could be joining Twinkies in the after world.