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Gift Card Spending Drops as Budget-Focused Holiday Shoppers Look for Bargains

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For Immediate Release
Kathy Grannis (202)783-7971

Gift Card Spending Drops as Budget-Focused Holiday Shoppers Look for Bargains
--Gift Givers to Spend $24.9 Billion on Gift Cards this Holiday Season-- 

Washington, November 18, 2008—Shoppers’ price-conscious mentality is taking a toll on the season’s most-requested present: gift cards. NRF’s sixth annual Gift Card Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found that gift card sales will fall nearly six percent this holiday season to $24.9 billion, down from $26.3 billion last year. 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). 

“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 survey found that 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. 

Preliminary gift card research conducted for NRF by BIGresearch found that the main reason shoppers plan to buy fewer gift cards this holiday season was because they feel the cards are impersonal (22.7%), that they would rather stretch their dollar by buying merchandise on sale (10.9%), and because they do not want to buy a card with expiration dates or added fees (9.8%). Other shoppers say they simply do not know which gift card a person would want (7.7%), while 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 percent of consumers would like to receive a gift card this holiday season, up slightly from 53.8 percent 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, Vice President 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.” 

NRF released its top tips for buying gift cards on October 27.

About the Survey

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. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent. 

BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes. BIGresearch’s syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 8,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.  

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2007 sales of $4.5 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations. www.nrf.com