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Hallmark acquires Net gift certificate merchant

In an attempt to boost its e-commerce offerings, the greeting card giant acquires Gift Certificate Center, which operates a consumer gift site and an employee incentive program for businesses.

In an attempt to boost its e-commerce offerings, Hallmark Cards said today that it has acquired Gift Certificate Center, which operates a consumer gift site and an employee incentive program for businesses.

With Gift Certificate Center (GCC), Hallmark adds business and consumer e-commerce sites to its online holdings.

Minneapolis-based GCC operates Premiere Choice Award, which sells gift certificates to companies to use as incentives or employee rewards. GCC's GiftCert.com sells gift certificates directly to consumers.

One of the world's largest paper greeting-card makers, Hallmark has fallen behind other companies in the electronic greeting-card business, including Excite@Home's Blue Mountain Arts, Egreetings.com and Amazon.com.

Because most companies offer e-cards free of charge, businesses have had to search for other ways to make money from their online audiences. Many have begun selling gifts on their sites to boost sales.

In 1999, GCC reported gross earnings of $31 million. Hallmark said in a statement that the privately held company will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary, distributing gift certificates through Hallmark.com and to current GCC clients.

"Acquiring leading companies like GCC is part of an overall growth strategy for Hallmark.com," said John Sullivan, senior vice president of Hallmark Internet Commerce. "It allows us to quickly build our portfolio of services."