If you’ve already started thinking of what you’d like for Christmas, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll just end up with a gift card, according to a survey released last week.
Givex, a Toronto-based company that specializes in gift card programs for stores, said gift cards account for 23 per cent of all gifts given during the holiday season.
Though a little plastic card bearing the name of a company on it might seem impersonal, they actually help the economy, said Bryan Wang, marketing manager at Givex.
He said half of consumers will spend more than the card’s initial value, helping retailers smooth-out the post-holiday sales slump.
This is an increase from last year’s numbers which show that 39 per cent of consumers spent more than was on the card, a trend Wang attributes to greater consumer confidence.
He also said many gift-buyers are conscious about the amount of money they spend and don’t want to “waste money on gifts people may not receive well.”
Leila Wakim, a 21-year-old student at UniversitÃ© de MontrÃ©al said gift cards are sometimes the best option. “I think they’re good if you just met the person and aren’t sure what to get them, but too impersonal if you’ve known someone for a while,” she said.
Laura Dicker, a 20-year-old marketing student, agreed, saying she believes they can “provide a sense of control and independence; you don’t have to be stuck with a gift you might not enjoy.” She also admitted that when she receives a gift card, she tends to spend more than was given to her.
But consumers should inform themselves before stocking up on gift cards for everybody on their shopping list.
Many stores8212;but not all8212; offer gift cards that don’t expire. However, of those that do, some require a minimum initial amount be loaded onto the card.
Shoppers should also be wary of some gift cards offered by malls. The Cadillac Fairview chain of malls, for example, charges $1.50 to activate every “shopping card,” unless the total purchase is more than $1,000. The mall chain also charges a monthly fee if funds remain on the card after 16 months. These cards expire three years after the date of issue, and some merchants may not honour them.
Wang said part of gift card’s appeal comes from the fact that they can help beat the crowds, and wrapping is an option.
Some companies, such as the GAP and Starbucks, have created environmentally friendly cards, using 100 per cent recycled plastic.