Gift cards sales predicted to fall this season due to economic troubles

WASHINGTON According to the National Retail Federation’s sixth annual Gift Card Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, gift card sales will fall 5.3 percent this holiday season to $24.9 billion, the association reported Tuesday.

Fewer people plan to purchase gift cards this year than last year—53.5 percent vs. 56.6 percent—and gift card shoppers will be spending less overall on the cards—$147.33 vs. $156.24 in 2007.

“Since gift cards never go on sale, some price-conscious shoppers will be passing up gift cards in favor of holiday bargains," stated NRF president and chief executive officer Tracy Mullin. “Retailers may need to make minor adjustments to holiday plans as fewer people may be hitting the stores in January to redeem gift cards.”

The survey found that the biggest gift card spenders this year will be men, who will spend an average of $156.98 on the cards, and Americans over age 45, who will spend $168.02.

The primary reason shoppers plan to buy fewer gift cards this holiday season was because they feel the cards are impersonal 22.7 percent, as opposed to identifying the economic recession. However, 10.9 percent of consumers did report that they’d forego gift card purchases in an effort to take advantage of deals. 

And while the actual purchase of gift cards may decline this holiday season, demand for those gift cards ought to remain high. According to NRF’s holiday spending survey released last month, 54.9 percent of consumers would like to receive a gift card this holiday season, up slightly from 53.8 percent last year.

“Most consumers have been holding back on spending for themselves all year long and would love nothing more than receiving a gift card that would let them buy whatever they want,” stated Phil Rist, vice president of strategy for BIGresearch. “Being able to walk through a store and select their own present would be a gift in and of itself for many Americans.”

The NRF 2008 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey polled 8,758 consumers, from Nov. 5 through 11.


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