Mail Works

The Pandemic and Living the Nostalgic Life

Wed Mar 03 15:10:00 EST 2021

Many products have been selling out during the COVID-19 pandemic. Facemasks, hand sanitizer, and paper towels are obvious examples. But as we have adapted to working, living, and staying at home, other more surprising products have been purchased in record numbers.

The jigsaw puzzle is widely popular again. Game maker Ravensburger has seen U.S. puzzle sales soar 370% year over year. Bicycles skyrocketed as a result of the pandemic. Whether used as an alternate form of transportation for city dwellers avoiding a closed in subway car or a safe form of outdoor exercise for families, the supply was exhausted. As reported by The New York Times, sales of commuter and fitness bikes in March increased 66 percent and leisure bikes jumped 121 percent.

As explained by Walmart CFO Brett Briggs during his company’s second-quarter earnings call, home workout equipment, DIY hair color, flour, chocolate chips and even fishing gear all exhibited increased demand and filled consumer shopping carts.

Mail is no exception

Pitney Bowes conducted a survey from October 28 to November 1, 2020 with 1,500 consumers reflecting the overall US population. Results confirmed Millennials and GenXers, more than all other generations, are now living the nostalgic life, playing board games, growing vegetables, baking bread, going to drive-in movies, and eating foods they loved as kids.

A common thread in these ‘comeback products’ is the sense of comfort they provide – connecting people, shared experiences, and personal communication. And this is where mail fits in. The trip to the mailbox, the cherished letter from a loved one, or the note you penned yourself to a friend in quarantine carried more sentimental value in a world where so many distanced apart.

Our research also showed that mail has never played a more pivotal role in our daily lives. Essential parcels and letters take on a new meaning as Americans limit their interactions with friends and family. They reach out to others beyond the screens of our phones and computers to combat the loneliness and isolation so many are feeling during this time.

A 2020 USPS study found:

  • 65% of respondents felt their spirits were lifted by receiving a card or letter from a friend or family during the pandemic.

  • 1 in 6 consumers have been sending more letters and cards during the COVID-19 pandemic, even more by those with higher income and children in the house.

Before COVID, the $7 billion greeting card industry had been experiencing steep declines, with Americans sending significantly fewer greeting cards than a decade earlier. When the pandemic hit the US, Americans began sending significantly more personal mail and greeting cards. From a research respondent: “Cards are an opportunity to start a conversation and to connect at this time when we’re at our lowest and our loneliest.”  Paper Source saw a 10X increase in online sales of greeting cards from April to June, while increased greeting card sales 3X this year.

The Pitney Bowes October 2020 research itemized the top reasons for sending more personal mail:

  • “Make someone happy” (52%)

  • “Can stay home and still feel connected to people” (38%)

  • “To do something positive in these uncertain times” (37%).

Is mailing a generational thing?

I think not. Our research shows, 1 in 3 Millennials and Gen-X’ers have sent more personal letters or greeting cards to friends and family in the past 6 months and are also receiving more letters and cards from loved ones. It’s no wonder that the overwhelming majority (86%) of Americans say they will continue to send more personal mail in the upcoming year.

This appreciation of mail extends well beyond cards and letters alone. Look for the next “Mail Works” article, where I will discuss the generational differences and similarities in greater depth.