Greeting card and gift wrap maker American Greetings (NYSE:AM) sent a rather non-poetic message to shareholders this morning. It held no whimsical lyrics or clever alliteration -- just some prosaic lines about how fourth-quarter income was more than cut in half. Like last quarter, though, the earnings announcement reads more easily after a series of one-time charges are excluded. Backing out a $6.4 million charge stemming from a plant closure and $34.7 million from other non-recurring events, adjusted earnings from continuing operations dropped about 7% to $0.54 -- well ahead of expectations.

Revenues from the Valentine's Day quarter were disappointing, slipping 5% to $490.9 million. For the year, net income (including a hefty $118.3 million in pre-tax expenses) fell to $70.6 million (or $0.95) from $98 million a year ago, on sales that came in slightly lower at $1.90 billion. Unfortunately, the year ahead isn't shaping up much better, as earnings are now forecast to fall far short of estimates, landing in a range between $1.46 and $1.51 on a scant 1% rise in revenues.

American Greetings, the nation's second-largest card company behind Hallmark, has seen its sales reach a plateau over the past decade, with last year's revenues slipping below levels first reached in the mid-1990s. The growth of paper greeting cards stalled long ago, even before the introduction of e-cards from online companies such as (NASDAQ:AMZN) or Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO). Like Hallmark, American Greetings has responded by filling its 600 retail outlets with additional merchandise, such as candles, stationery, and gifts. Its products are also sold at some 70,000 other retail locations, though Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and a handful of other companies represent one-third of total sales.

Despite today's earnings shortfall, American Greetings did have some good news to share. The company reported the strongest cash flows in its nearly 100-year history, and that gave management the confidence to boost its dividend payment by one-third and authorize a $200 million stock repurchase program. Maybe it should also consider sending a card to shareholders. Perhaps something like this:

We'd like to thanks our owners, for sticking by our side.
We know that times have been quite tough, but soon we'll hit our stride.
Our debt is down, so do not frown, our stock just cannot swoon.
We'd like to say we're on our way to getting well quite soon.

Fool Contributor Nathan Slaughter owns none of the companies mentioned.