Spending on Holiday Gift Cards to Hit Record High

During this year’s holiday season, 8 in 10 (80.6 percent) shoppers will purchase gift cards for friends and loved ones, according to NRF’s Gift Card Spending Survey.

In fact, holiday shoppers plan to spend an average of $163.16 on gift cards, up 4 percent over the $156.86 they spent last year, and total spending is projected to reach $29.8 billion, the most in the survey’s 11-year history.

“Shoppers today recognize gift cards as the perfect fool-proof option for friends and family,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “And traditional gift cards aren’t the only winners this holiday season, as more and more Americans are tied to their mobile devices, we expect digital gift cards to be especially popular with consumers.”

According to NRF’s first 2013 holiday survey, released in October, six in ten (59.4 percent) of those polled said they’d like to receive gift cards this year, the seventh year in a row gift cards have topped holiday celebrants’ wish lists.

Consumers also will spend more on the cards they buy, spending an average $45.16 per card, up from $43.75 last year. Shoppers older than 65 will spend the most on gift cards at an average of $175.96, followed by those 35-44, who will spend $171.15 on average. Additionally, men will spend nearly $20 more than women on gift cards this holiday season ($171.35 vs. $155.42, respectively).

Department stores (40.3 percent) and restaurants (34.2 percent) will be the top choices for those giving gift cards, followed by coffee shops (19 percent), electronic stores (20.1 percent), online merchants (12.7 percent) and gas stations (12 percent).

“Gift givers know that many of their loved ones may have been holding back on spending on themselves all year long, and would love nothing more than to receive a gift card that allows them to purchase whatever they want,” said Pam Goodfellow, consumer insights director for Prosper Insights & Analytics, the company that conducted the survey.

When it comes to why people do or don’t buy gift cards, most agree (43.1 percent) that letting the recipient choose their own gift is what influences their purchases. However, some still feel gift cards are too impersonal (25.3 percent).

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