Last post for the Christmas card?

According to new research, Christmas card sales are dwindling – with the rise of social networking sites, email and mobile phones, Neil Hudson asks if the humble Christmas card is on the way out

How many Christmas cards have you sent this year? Are you sending any?

According to high street charity Oxfam, which has 700 shops throughout the country, some 141 million fewer Christmas cards will be posted this year.

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The findings are based on research carried out on their behalf this year which estimated that about 882 million cards will be sent this year, compared to 1.02 billion in 2005. Since a third of all Christmas cards are sold through charity shops, it represents a significant amount of money.

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The main reasons for the drop in sales are saving money, environmental concerns, postage cost (41p for standard first class and 32p for second) and lack of relevance.

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While the figures do not show the humble Christmas card is dying a death, they are an indicator of a change in social trends.

The rise of social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and the general ubiquitousness of email and mobile phone texts means those of a certain age are unlikely to spend time and money on a tradition which takes more time and costs more money.

David McCullough, Oxfam's director of trading, said: "There is a clear generational gap at play, with a colossal 91 per cent of those aged 55 and above planning to send Christmas cards this year, compared to just 72 per cent of 18-24 year olds. More than one in three of us will be sending fewer Christmas cards this year than we did just five years ago.

"Women are also sending far fewer cards than five years ago, with 42 per cent claiming they'll send fewer this year, compared to just 30 per cent of men.

"Given their social importance, Christmas cards are clearly a tradition it's important to keep alive. Sending a card this year could help you not only to stay in touch with your loved ones but could make a difference to the lives of poor people around the world at the same time."

He added: "Oxfam shops, one of the UK's leading Christmas card retailers, are often a barometer for wider high street trends. Indeed, the national trend in Christmas card sales is reflected at the charity's 700 shops, with card sales down by around 14 per cent so far this year.

"Christmas cards are Oxfam's biggest seasonal seller, bringing in around 1m every year."

However, according to Royal Mail, there has been no drop in the amount of post. It estimates this year's festive mailbag will be bulging with around two billion items – the busiest day being Monday December 13, when some 130m items entered the system, almost double the average of

71m.

A spokeswoman said: "Royal Mail expects around 750 million cards to be posted in the UK this year. The number of physical Christmas cards sent each year by people in the UK has remained constant in recent years and not seen a decrease as a result of the emergence of e-cards, because people like to display cards at home."

Royal Mail reckons each adult sends about 55 Christmas cards a year – enough in total to stretch around the world five times.

Royal Mail also acts as Santa's biggest helper – last year it received 750,000 letters addressed to Father Christmas, Reindeerland, SAN TA1.

All of those with a return address posted by December 15 received a free reply.

Sarah Champion MP

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