Gift cards not as hot this year

Gift cards from various retailers on display at a Chevron convenience store.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: On this Christmas morning, there may be fewer boxes under the tree.
And fewer cards. As in gift cards. That could mean a retailing double-whammy: slumping sales and no post-Christmas bump.
Jean Luc Renault explains.


Jean Luc Renault: The National Retail Federation says sales of gift cards fell 6 percent this holiday season. Vice President Ellen Davis says many consumers went looking for bargains instead.

Ellen Davis: The thinking is, why would I buy a $50 gift card when I can get an $80 cashmere sweater for 30 bucks?

Davis says the drop will hurt retail sales in January, when shoppers usually cash in gift cards. Gone too will be much of the gift-card effect when shoppers typically spend more than the value of the card.

Still, there was one bright spot in gift cards this year: Sales of so-called third-party gift cards -- the kind sold at supermarket check-out aisles -- were up.

Terri Llach is with third-party issuer Blackhawk Network. She says these cards lured grocery shoppers who might not have intended to buy gifts at all.

Terri Llach: People are even busier this year, there's a lot of anxiety around the economy and there's a lot of concern, but they're still going to the grocery store.

This year, most gift cards this year are expected to be for necessities, like gas and food.

In Los Angeles, I'm Jean-Luc Renault for Marketplace.

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