Consumers to spend more on holiday gift cards

Wed Nov 17, 2010 4:30pm EST
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By Jon Lentz

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gift card spending is expected to rise during the holiday shopping season as consumers are slightly less concerned about price, according to a trade group survey released on Wednesday.

The average American will spend $145.61 on gift cards in November and December, a 4 percent increase over last year, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation.

The recession and a sluggish recovery had led shoppers to spend less on the popular gift cards, said NRF spokeswoman Kathy Grannis. Total gift card spending fell by an estimated 5 percent in 2008, and another 5 percent in 2009.

"Getting two sweaters for the price of one in recent years trumped buying a gift card," Grannis said.

That trend appears to be turning this year. Overall spending on the cards should reach $24.78 billion for the final two months of the year, a nearly 5 percent increase from a year ago.

More than three out of four shoppers plan to buy at least one gift card, the same as a year ago, but those shoppers are spending more on each card.

A separate NRF survey last month found that gift cards continue to be the most requested gift, coming in at the top of consumers' wish lists for the fourth straight year.

Gift cards from American Express, Visa or Mastercard, which are not limited to a single store chain, are slightly more popular this year, with 23.8 percent of shoppers saying they would buy one compared with 22.1 percent a year ago.   Continued...

<p>A Target gift card is displayed in a Target store in Fairfax, Virginia, February 4, 2010. REUTERS/Stelios Varias</p>