Gift-Card Purchases Peak During Holiday Rush

December 8, 2010 by Cristina Bugnaru

In a recent post, we explored a trend showing that holiday shopping now starts well before Thanksgiving. According to weekly data from Experian Simmons DataStreamSM, this is only partially true in the case of shopping for gift cards. In 2009, for example, the percentage of U.S. adults who purchased retail-branded gift cards spiked after Christmas. The percent of adults purchasingĀ  retail-branded gift cards rose from 33% the week of November 23, 2009 to a peak of 47% the week of January 4, 2010, a relative increase of 42% in just 6 short weeks. This delay could easily be attributed to the fact that gift cards are an as a convenient last-minute gift.

Store-branded gift cards are also a preferred Valentine’s present. In 2010, the percentage of adults who purchase retail-branded gift cards experienced a second spike around Valentine’s Day. However, as Valentine’s festivities taper off, so too do sales of retail-branded gift cards. In fact, between February 22 and October 18, 2010, the percent of adults purchasing retail-branded gift cards fell from 47% to 31%, a relative decline of 34%.

On average, American adults are almost 5 times more likely to purchase retail-branded gift cards than credit card-branded gift cards. Approximately 8% of adults have purchased credit card-branded gift cards in the past year compared with 39% who have bought retail-branded gift cards. However, purchases of credit card-branded gift cards fluctuate less. Last year, sales of credit card-branded gift cards rose steadily from 6% the week just before Thanksgiving to 10% just after Valentine’s Day.

If last year’s trends hold true this holiday season, we still have a few more weeks before consumers really start reaching for both retail- and credit card-branded gift cards.

For more information on Simmons DataStream weekly reporting of nearly 40,000 consumer variables, visit our website.