The history of the greeting cards commodity in Harding’s Friendly Markets has been an interesting one during my 25+ years in GM/HBC.  When I first entered into my present position, our stores were pretty much evenly split between American Greetings and Hallmark’s Ambassador line. {Our company today operates 30 stores}

That arrangement served us quite well for many years, as both companies offered exceptional service, product lines and nearly interchangeable terms of doing business.  My predecessor in the GM/HBC area at Harding’s strongly believed that having both card companies equally represented in our stores kept both of them “on their toes and hungry for our business.”  An absence of greeting card “problems” and continual business growth with both companies lent credence, I feel, to his wise reasoning. 

Several years ago, our company purchased 3 Jewel/Osco supercenters in Kalamazoo.  We sought to retain Hallmark as the card supplier in taking over these stores, as we chose NOT to downsize or diminish the greeting card presence in these locations in any way.  Hallmark, however, consented only to allowing us to market their Ambassador line in these stores, since Osco was no longer involved and Hallmark chose to recognize our company as only a supermarket chain; the Hallmark label was deemed to be “off-limits” to our more “conventional” supermarkets.  After consultation with our owners, I chose at that time to move all of our greeting card business to American Greetings. 

Over the past 3 or 4 years, in particular, I have witnessed a slightly less attentive approach to our company’s needs from corporate giant American Greetings.  In today’s mass merchandiser driven competitive market, I must admit, this is somewhat understandable, given the need for all successful businesses to modify their practices to get the most out of every investment opportunity.  I do not feel bitterness toward American Greetings, particularly since they made the decision to enter into a working relationship with Grand Greetings, a company much more oriented to the “conventional supermarket”.  For many years, Grand had taken good care of some of our smallest stores and when we saw the opportunity to widen the scope of Grand’s involvement in a significantly larger number of our stores we had no reservations!

Today, Grand Greetings is OUR card company, with extensive presence in the vast majority of our outlets.  We could not be more pleased with the ease of the transitions in every case, and most importantly, our valued customers are unaware that there ever WAS a “transition”.  I can honestly say that today our greeting card business is healthy and problem free!  Grand Greetings appreciates our business, conventional though it may be, and we certainly appreciate having them as a valued supplier of quality product and service in our stores! 
Dave Lynam
GM/HBC Director
Harding’s Friendly Markets
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