Gift Card Spending to Drop as Holiday Shoppers Look for Bargains

November 19, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Boomers & Older | CPG & FMCG | Men | Retail & E-Commerce

Shoppers’ price-conscious mentality is taking a toll on the holiday season’s most-requested present, gift cards, sales of which will fall nearly 6% this season, to $24.9 billion, from $26.3 billion last year, according to the National Retail Federation’s sixth annual Gift Card Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, reports Retailer Daily.

Fewer people plan to purchase gift cards this year (53.5% vs. 56.6% last year) and gift-card shoppers will be spending less overall on the cards ($147.33 vs. $156.24 in 2007), the survey found.


“Since gift cards never go on sale, some price-conscious shoppers will be passing up gift cards in favor of holiday bargains,” said NRF President and CEO 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 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 survey found.


The main reason that shoppers plan to buy fewer gift cards this holiday season is that they feel the cards are impersonal (22.7%), according to preliminary gift card research conducted for NRF by?BIGresearch.

Other reasons cited:

  • Gift buyers would rather stretch their dollar by buying merchandise on sale (10.9%).
  • They do not want to buy a card with expiration dates or added fees (9.8%).
  • They do not know which gift card a person would want (7.7%).
  • A small number of people say that they are worried the gift recipient will lose it (3.9%) or that the retailer will go out of business (3.1%).

Though gift card spending is expected to decrease, more people than ever will be asking for the cards this holiday season, according to NRF’s first holiday spending survey, released last month:

  • 54.9% of consumers would like to receive a gift card this holiday season, up slightly from 53.8% last year.
  • Gift cards will be the most requested gift this year, followed by books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games (50.0%) and clothing or accessories (49.8%).

“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,” said Phil Rist, VP 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.”

About the study: The NRF 2008 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey was designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to the winter holidays. The survey, which polled 8,758 consumers, was conducted for NRF by BIGresearch from November 5-11, 2008. NRF released its top tips for buying gift cards on October 27.

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