Study: Gift cards sales surge amid shipping delays

Spending from an expected gift card boom this holiday season will propel retailers’ sales into the first quarter of 2022.

That’s one of the findings of a report consumer intelligence and real-time activation firm InMarket, which details an accelerating shift to gift cards as the go-to holiday gift amid supply chain woes, inflation and lingering effects of COVID-19. The report found that shoppers are spending more on gift cards earlier than last year with average spending up year-over-year.

The findings are based on first and third-party transactional data sources, including InMarket's proprietary panel of opted-in, anonymized U.S. credit card/debit card consumers, and item-level sales data comprising over 200,000 consumers in the U.S., in September and October 2021.

Among general commerce gift cards that work for many types of products and services, Visa holds the highest share of purchases at 14.8%, with shoppers spending an average of $106.87. 

Second place belongs to Amazon, which accounts for 13.5% of total gift card purchases, up from 6.7% last year and $75.80 spent per person. MasterCard owns a 1.3% share of gift card purchases, with shoppers spending an average of $71.88.

In the quick-serve restaurant and casual dining sector, Starbucks owns the highest share of gift card purchases for any company in the assessment. The coffee giant was responsible for 11.7% of all gift cards sold in September and October of 2021. All of its QSR competitors sit below 2.9% share. 

Lowe's is leading the home improvement category with 2.4% of all gift card purchases and an average of $77.84 spent per shopper. Home Depot comprises 1% of all gift card purchases and an average of $39.96 spent per shopper. 

Additional insights from the Holiday 2021 Gift Card Scorecard report are below.

• E-commerce gift cards accounted for 29.8% of gift cards purchased, up from 19.6% in 2020.

• When comparing week number 35 through 41, average spend per shopper is up on average 7.7% 2021 vs. 2020, and up on average 24.2% when comparing 2021 to 2019. 

• In 2021, spending is starting to tick upward: During week 41 (October 10-16) InMarket measured a 22% increase in transactions per shopper in 2021 from the same week in 2020.

• While McDonald's (2.5%) trails Starbucks (11.7% %) by a wide margin in terms of share of purchases, McDonald's gift card buyers are spending more on McDonald's gift cards than other QSR chains at an average of $34.90 per shopper. 

• In electronics, Google holds the highest share of total gift card purchases at 5.3%, with Xbox trailing at 4.9% share and Apple at 1.9%. 

• In the video game wars of 2021, Xbox is edging out PlayStation with a 4.9% and 0.3% share of gift card purchases, respectively. 

"Supply chain logistics and the lack of workers have created unprecedented shipping delays. said Todd Dipaola, CEO and founder of InMarket. “As a result Americans are moving to a "buy now and shop later" mindset and are turning to gift cards as they weather a season filled with delays and frustration. Retailers should prepare for an extended omnichannel holiday season and look to provide value and options to shoppers as they look for ways to solve this season's challenges."

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