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Gift Card Study: Self-Gifting, Non-Seasonal Use Going Strong

gift-iconU.S. adults bought about $46 billion worth of gift cards over the past year—and a significant chunk of that total was comprised of gift cards for self-use, according to a new study by market research firm Packaged Facts. Of the total consumers spent on gift cards, $28 billion was for gift cards given to friends and family, while $11 billion was for gift cards they gave to themselves, the report found. The remaining $7 billion was comprised of gift cards given by companies to their employees.

The report echoes similar findings by previous research that identified self-gifting as an emerging trend in the gift card sector, including a National Retail Federation survey that found 58 percent of consumers planned to buy gift cards for themselves during the holiday season. In another study, from the Retail Gift Card Association, one-third of respondents reported having bought gift cards for themselves.

Christmas ranked as the most popular gift card-giving occasion by dollar value, with consumers spending more than $9 billion on gift cards earmarked as Christmas presents, or nearly one-third of the total spent on gift cards for others. Birthdays followed, with $7 billion in gift card spending, while the remaining one-quarter of gift card spending for others was comprised other reasons, including “doing something nice,” “rewarding someone” and “to say thank you.” The popularity of those avenues could be key to driving year-round, non-seasonal use of gift cards, Packaged Facts said.

Among demographics, older millennials—consumers between the ages of 25 and 34—were the heaviest gift card-givers, spending more than $7 billion on cards for others. Adults ages 35 to 44 ranked second, at $6 billion, while younger consumers ages 18 to 24 spent the least—most likely due to having lower incomes. On the other end of the income spectrum, consumers with more than $100,000 in annual household income spent disproportionately more on gift cards, comprising just 29 percent of survey respondents but 47 percent of spend ($13 billion), the report found. Wealthier consumers also accounted for 48 percent of spending on gift cards for self-use, the study found. Many retailers promote gift cards for self-use as a way to earn extra loyalty points or stick to a budget.

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