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‘Death by a thousand emojis’: All 254 Papyrus stores closing

The card seller’s parent, Schurman Fine Paper, files for bankruptcy protection and says it will shed more than 1,000 jobs

Greeting card and stationery chain Papyrus announced plans to shutter all of its 254 retail stores in the next four to six weeks. (Justin Sullivan/AFP/Getty Images)
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Papyrus, the stationery store that feels like a walk-in greeting card, is signing off.

The company’s parent, Schurman Fine Paper, has filed for bankruptcy protection and will close all 254 U.S. and Canadian locations. Its fall marks yet another blow to bricks-and-mortar storefronts, thousands of which have closed as shoppers continue to gravitate toward online alternatives. More than 1,000 Papyrus employees will lose their jobs.

Greeting card sales have declined as consumers increasingly opt for the ease and immediacy of email or text — or even “handwriting robots” — to convey their birthday, anniversary and other sentiments.

“It’s death by a thousand emojis,” said Mark Cohen, director of retail studies at Columbia Business School.

Tennessee-based Papyrus, known for its upscale cards, stationery and trinkets, said it never fully bounced back after its rapid store expansion collided with the Great Recession. The privately held company, which reported $157.5 million in sales in fiscal 2019, said it was unable to find a buyer or renegotiate rates with its landlords or suppliers to keep costs down.

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Schurman, which also runs the American Greetings, Carlton Cards and Paper Destiny brands, filed for Chapter 11 protection Thursday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, listing assets of $39.4 million and liabilities of $54.9 million. The company says it will shutter 178 stores in 27 states and the District of Columbia, and 76 locations across Canada. Most stores will close by the end of February.

“We hope that through our artistic, thoughtful greeting cards and our personal expression products that we were able to inspire you to celebrate and honor the special people in your lives,” Papyrus wrote on its Facebook page. Schurman did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The Papyrus name won’t disappear. Though Schurman operates the stores, the brand is owned by American Greetings. In an email to The Washington Post on Friday, spokesperson Patrice Molnar said American Greetings would continue to supply Papyrus greeting cards and products to more than 300 retailers, representing 20,000 locations, in the United States and Canada without any interruption.

Retailers of all kinds have been forced to downsize, particularly those with a heavy concentration of mall outposts. U.S. companies closed 9,300 stores last year, a 72 percent jump over 2018, according to Coresight Research. Analysts expect the trend to continue this year.

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Macy’s announced this month it would close 29 stores across the country. Pier 1 Imports, the furniture and home goods chain, said it would close up to 450 of its 936 stores, plus some distribution centers, after a 13 percent drop in quarterly sales. Just this week, fashion retailer Express said it would shutter more than 90 stores by 2022.

Founded by Marcel and Margrit Schurman in 1950, Papyrus started out as an importer and wholesaler of high-end greeting cards and stationery before stepping into retail. The first Papyrus store opened in 1973 in Berkeley, Calif., and American Greetings, Carlton Cards and Paper Destiny all eventually came under the Schurman umbrella. At its peak, Papyrus had more than 500 locations.

“From ‘thank you’ to ‘I love you,’ back in the day, you had to either make a phone call or send something in the mail,” Cohen said. “Now it’s a bit of a dinosaur business. And it’s a shame.‘‘