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Holiday Shoppers Plan to Spend Nearly a Quarter of Gift Budgets on Gift Cards


American Express Gift Card Survey Shows Gift Cards Simplify Giving, Viewed as “Thoughtful”

NEW YORK.- Americans plan to spend nearly a quarter of their gift-giving budgets on gift cards this year, reshaping shopping and gift-giving this holiday season, according to a new survey from American Express Gift Cards released today. Increasingly popular, gift cards are changing how people think about gift giving and how people shop.

Americans plan to spend 25% of their total gift spending on gift cards, up from 18% last year and 13% in 2005. Shoppers will buy six gift cards on average. The most popular gift categories this year, according to the survey, are apparel, cited by 69% of consumers, followed by music CDs and DVDs (62%); gift cards (61%); toys and games (56%); cash (51%); perfume/cologne or cosmetics and books/magazines (both 42%); jewelry (38%); consumer electronics or appliances (37%); house wares/appliances and hardware/tools (both 32%); and experiential gifts (31%).

“Gift-givers want to get it right the first time and choose gifts that recipients will enjoy using as they wish,” said Alpesh Chokshi, president, American Express Travelers Cheques and Prepaid Services. “Gift cards come with unspoken permission for the recipients to splurge on themselves, and that is making gift cards more appealing, acceptable and personal.” According to the survey, shoppers most often describe themselves as “thoughtful” in their selections when choosing a gift card.

The popularity of gift cards has changed shopping habits, with three quarters (78%) reporting that they finish shopping faster and with less stress. Consumers recognize gift cards provide good gift-giving value, and a majority of those planning to give gift cards see the following features as important; they simplify holiday shopping (88%), are gifts that “you can easily take with you” when traveling for the holidays (85%), and allow recipients to choose what they most want (88%).

“Gift cards continue to increase in popularity, as 61 percent of consumers report that they are planning on giving gift cards this holiday season,” said Michael Niemira, chief economist and director of research, International Council of Shopping Centers. “This bodes well for retailers as it extends holiday spending well into the New Year.”

More Americans are likely to be opening gift cards this year. Shoppers say they are likely to give them to friends or acquaintances (75%, up from 56% in 2006); aunts, uncles, cousins or other relatives (75%, up from 58% in 2006); service workers such as a babysitter, teacher, housekeeper, or postal worker (71%, up from 43%); a child or friend’s child (69%, up from 54%); parents (57%, up from 40%); coworkers (49%, up from 39%); and girlfriends or boyfriends (35%, up from 23%). Nearly a third of spouses (32%, up from 23%) may receive a gift card this year. Nearly half (45%) of those who might be getting a gift card asked for one.

As shoppers map their weekend strategies, many say they will be “in and out” of the stores (38%). Others describe themselves as a “bargain basement” shoppers (30%); “window shoppers” (11%); or “procrastinators” (9%). Only a few count themselves among “last of the big spenders” (6%).

Survey Methodology
The American Express Gift Card Survey is based on a nationally representative sample of 1,009 Americans, age 18+, and 615 of them who plan to purchase a gift card/certificate this coming holiday season. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points for the entire sample. The survey was conducted via telephone by Opinion Research Corporation during the period of October 25-28, 2007.


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