Kirlin’s Hallmark, one of the original FairOaks Mall stores, is going out of business.

The card and gift store that has served Columbus since 1990 will likely close its doors sometime in mid-April, store manager Stephanie Crosby said.

“Online shopping has eroded our sales,” said Penny Marks, director of operations for the Quincy, Illinois-based Kirlin’s Inc.

In 2015, U.S. retail sales of greeting cards rose by 1.5 percent to $8.59 billion, and are expected to reach $9.07 billion in 2020, industry tracker Sundale Research reported last year.

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But the growth rates of e-cards far exceed those sold in retail channels, according to a Nov. 21 article published in the Chicago Tribune.

E-card sales rose by 4.6 percent to $868 million two years ago and are expected to pass $1 billion in 2019, the newspaper stated.

When FairOaks Mall opened in 1990, Kirlin’s — originally founded as a Quincy candy store in 1948 — was considered America’s largest independent Hallmark dealer, according to local advertisements from that time.

At its peak, the chain had more than 115 stores, 2,000 workers and annual revenues of more than $120 million, the Tribune reported.

But by the end of 2015, the company had shrunk to about 60 Hallmark stores with approximately 1,250 workers and $60 million in annual revenues, the newspaper reported.

Today, only 34 stores in eight states remain open, Marks said.

When asked whether the upcoming closure in Columbus was the result of a pending lawsuit, Marks replied “it’s probably the other way around” — meaning the store closures likely prompted the litigation.

In that lawsuit, one Kirlin heir accuses two siblings of paying excessive amounts to themselves and their families over an extended period of time.

At least a year before the lease of a store expires, the company begins a routine profitability assessment to determine whether the location can sustain future business, Marks said.

After it was determined the FairOaks Mall outlet was not performing up to the company’s standards, an effort was made to either sell the store to the corporate Hallmark group or to an independent retailer, she said.

“But there was no interest in the Columbus store,” Marks said.

In 1996, there were 5,000 Hallmark Gold Crown stores operating nationwide, but only about 2,000 remain open today, according to a company news release.

Changing market conditions forced the Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards Inc. to begin offering more of its products to competing national outlets like Walgreens _ which also hurt business at stores like Kirlin’s, Marks said.

The retail outlet in FairOaks Mall currently employs one manager, two full-time staff members and seven part-time workers, Crosby said.

“We can’t fault the team there, because they are outstanding,” Marks said. “The market has softened, and retail in general is not strong.”

After being told that Marks had described the 10 employees in Columbus as being in great spirits, Crosby paused a moment before replying.

“All things considered,” she said.

To learn more

To learn more about Kirlin’s Hallmark stores, visit kirlins.com/

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.