For seven straight years, the National RetailFederation has released data indicating the majority of consumersdesire gift cards as presents during the holiday season. The NRFreported this past year some 80.6% of the shoppers it had surveyedplanned to buy gift cards this holiday season. That figureaccurately mirrored what happened with my family, and it’s anexample the industry can take note of as it has worked to portraythe gift card as more than just a piece of plastic.
By the time the Hernandez family (and friends) finished exchanginggifts on Christmas, 14 gift cards changed hands. I’ve been smart togift cards for a while, even before I started covering the paymentsindustry almost seven years ago. My sister and I exchanged AmericanExpress gift cards for a few years because it was easier for us aswe go older. But gift cards were a foreign concept for the rest ofmy immediate family because they aren’t personal enough. Studies,however, have shown over the years that particular perception ischanging, even with old-fashioned family members such as my motherand aunt.
The gift card now can be viewed as something with meaning. When mymother told me she was giving a Barnes & Noble gift card to mygirlfriend, I was shocked. But she knows my girlfriend loves toread and it was the gift that made the most sense. I was even moresurprised when my aunt gave my girlfriend a Starbucks giftcard.
One thing you have to understand about my aunt is that she has atendency to be a bit of a storm cloud. On one occasion when I gavemy sister the Amex card, she warned her to use the card before feeswere charged and the card expired. The CARD Act had been put intoeffect that summer, and I explained to my aunt that my sisterdidn’t need to worry about any of that happening because new lawswere enacted. And now some three years later, my aunt is buyinggift cards for people.
The Starbucks card was another example of how a gift card was thebest option available. When my girlfriend and I visited home forThanksgiving, we went to Starbucks each morning to start our day.My aunt noted our behavior and responded in the best waypossible.
I gifted five cards during the holidays, all of the closed-loopvariety. My sister received one for clothing retailer H&M. Ialso gave her a card for Babies “R” Us to buy clothes for my niece.I gave an Old Navy gift card to my sister-in-law since she loves toshop there. The biggest winners might have been my girlfriend’s twoteenage daughters.
One thing program managers should consider for their cards is anaccompanying knick knack. Some do it, but not nearly enough go downthis path. Cosmetics store chain Sephora puts the card in adual-mirrored compact and presents it in a gift box. That is not acheap addition for Sephora, but it certainly makes for a moreimpactful and memorable gift for two teenage girls.
We’ll have to wait and see to learn about the final gift cardnumbers for this past holiday season, but rest assured theHernandez family did its part to contribute to the bottomline.
Follow Will on Twitter @DebitPrepaid.