Amex giftcard survey

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Shoppers Report Less Stress, Fewer Store Visits, and a New View of Gift Giving; Plan To Spend $339 on Gift Cards and $679 on Additional Gift Items

NEW YORK, November 10, 2005 — Gift cards are changing both gift-getting and giving, according to an American Express® Gift Card survey released today. Virtually all those surveyed (92%) agree that gift cards have altered how they shop.

Gift card purchasers say that they expect to visit fewer stores (62%), purchase less actual merchandise as gifts (60%), and shop more online (28%). In addition, they plan to finish shopping faster and with less stress (74%).

Two-thirds of shoppers (66%) say gift cards have made them think differently about gift giving – that the gift is “what the receiver gets for him or herself.” Recipients shopping with their gift cards will shift retail spending later in the cycle, extending the peak shopping season past traditional year-end holidays and providing incremental sales opportunities to retailers.

Notably, gift card purchasers suggest that these plastic cards could impact the dynamics of the traditional crush of shoppers on Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of gift card purchasers will shop at malls or stores less often, including the Thanksgiving weekend. A majority (52%) say they will get their holiday shopping done earlier because gift cards are always available.

According to the survey, a majority (57% vs. 55% in 2004) plan to purchase gift cards this year, spending on average $339 and rethinking gift giving in the process. Survey respondents plan to spend an additional $679 on average for other gift items this year.

Gift cards maintain a strong ranking as No. 4 on the list of items consumers surveyed plan to give, just after the perennial favorites of clothing (68%), toys and games (63%) and music in all forms (62%).

Gift card purchasers know the pitfalls of gift giving all too well. Nearly half (49%) admit to returning or exchanging one or two gifts each year, so it is understandable why gift cards are a popular choice for the pickiest people on their gift list. More than half of shoppers (52%) plan to purchase gift card because the recipient has particular taste and the gift giver would prefer to offer a choice. Others plan to purchase a gift card for someone they don’t know well enough (11%), for someone who is never satisfied (8%), or because the recipient asked for a gift card (8%).

“Gift cards have become a thoughtful purchase, and an intentional way of giving the recipient the gift of whatever they want,” said Valerie Soranno Keating, President, American Express Global Travelers Cheques and Prepaid Services Group. “The sought-after gift has come to be seen as providing a way of allowing recipients to give themselves a special treat.”

Experiential Gifts on the Rise
The growing popularity of gift cards parallels rising interest in giving and getting experiences such as tickets to a sporting event, a class, membership in a cultural institution, or travel. More people will be giving experiential gifts this year (30% up from 23% last year), according to the survey. Experiential gifts are particularly popular among younger consumers, age 18 to 44, and in higher income households.

“Experiential gifts are part of a trend toward giving friends and loved-ones a chance to create their own memorable experience,” said Valerie Soranno Keating. “Gifts cards have fueled the expansion of the category, providing easier and more convenient ways to give valued experiences – from a day at the spa to a night on the town.”

Gift Cards Become a “Cool” Gift
More than half of shoppers (57%) agreed that gift cards are a cool gift, because recipients can choose what they most want, indicating that gift cards are a desirable gift to give and receive. Gift cards have gained acceptance in the mainstream with only 40% of consumers reporting that gift cards are “okay for some, but not for others.”

When comparing gift card features, shoppers want cards that let the recipient get what they want where they want to get it (55%), simplify holiday shopping (36%), don’t expire (33%), provide a gift that is more appropriate than giving cash (31%), are refundable if lost, easy to ship long distance, or easy to buy at the last minute (each 29%).

When it comes to the gift card consumers want to receive, more than half (55%) said they want a universal gift card that can be used anywhere rather than a card that is accepted at a particular store (40%).

Eight in ten (79%) gift card purchasers would buy something for themselves if they were the recipient of a gift card: 10% would use it for others, either purchasing a present for someone else (8%) or re-gifting the card (2%) Those surveyed said they are most likely to redeem cards for clothing (59%), music/CDs (24%), consumer electronics (17%), books/magazines (13%), hardware/tools (13%), perfume/cologne (11%), and house wares/appliances (11%), and jewelry (10%).

Holiday Shopping Extends into January
The post-holiday season is extending into January with a new breed of shoppers – those ready to spend gift card money, joining those motivated by mark downs and gift exchanges, who typify the post-holiday shopping experience. Four in ten (40%) respondents who plan to purchase a gift card said if they receive gift cards, they would redeem them within a month; eight percent said within the post-holiday week.

And, the post-holiday season extends further into the new year as more than one in four (28%) would redeem their gift card within six months, and 11% within the year. More than half (59%) say they usually spend the value of the card when redeemed; a third (34%) usually spend more than the value.

“Gift cards will help drive sales and store traffic long after the holiday decorations have come down,” said Valerie Soranno Keating. “Retailers that don’t prepare for this ‘after-season’ shopping may be leaving money on the table.”

Survey Methodology
The 2005 American Express Gift Card Survey sampled 593 consumers who plan to give gift cards for gifts this holiday season.  The survey was conducted via telephone by International Communications Research (ICR) between October 14 – October 18, 2005.  The poll has a margin of error ± 3.0%.

The American Express Gift Card can be redeemed at U.S. retailers and restaurants that accept the American Express Card.  It provides the experience of getting the gift of choice and is an ideal solution for the upcoming holiday season – unlike store gift cards, instead of one place, the American Express Gift Card is good all over the place and gives endless ways to make everyone happy.  The Gift Card is available in denominations ranging from $25 to $500 and is replaceable if lost or stolen for a fee.