Report: Santa Will Be Giving Fewer Gift Cards

Nothing says Christmas like a Shell gasoline gift card. Nevertheless, gift cards for gas are one the few bright spots, according to Deloitte’s Annual Holiday Survey. A clear indication of how focused consumers are on necessities versus frivolity, 17% of respondents said they plan on purchasing gas cards as gifts, up from 13% last year.

Overall, consumers said they would be spending less on gift cards this year. While last year, consumers said they’d spend $199 on preloaded cards for friends and family, this year the total is projected to be $151.

“The results weren’t as bad as they could have been,” said Stacy Janiak, vice chairman/U.S. retail leadership at Deloitte. The decline in gift card spending aligns with the fact that “59% of respondents said they will reduce holiday spending. It’s not good news, but it was not unexpected.”

Gift cards will remain the top gift purchase for the fifth year running. Sixty-six percent of the 13,000-plus shoppers polled online between Sept. 26 and Oct. 7 said they would purchase one this year. This was down slightly from 69% last year. While they purchased 5.5 cards each last year, this holiday season it will be 5.3.

Gift cards popularity remains because “it appeals to consumers desire for convenience,” said Janiak. “You don’t have to worry about size, color or returns.”

Other key findings:

    * Gift cards for stores/products are less popular. Forty-seven percent of consumers expect to buy them versus 54% last year.

    * Another sign of the times: About a quarter of respondents are concerned about the store closing before they can use them.

    * Almost half (47%) of consumers have at least one unused gift card. On average, these people have 5.9 unused cards. This was up from 3.7 last year.

This stat could change in a hurry, said Janiak. “You’d think people would use the cards if they have them and find them if they lost them…It will be an interesting phenomenon regarding how much redemption there is and if there will be higher rates than they had experienced in the past.”