British passion for gift cards continues

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on September 21, 2006

UK retailers can expect a continuation of the ongoing shift in consumer goods sales from pre-Christmas to post-Christmas, thanks to the still-growing popularity of gift cards among the nation's consumers, according to research from ValueLink.

Research commissioned by the electronic gift and prepaid card provider revealed that 926.4 million worth of gifts were returned to shops after Christmas 2005 because friends and family made the wrong gift choices.

ValueLink predicts many retailers will switch from vouchers to gift cards in time for Christmas 2006, and that gift cards will become a key tool for incentive managers in the UK.

Avoiding the wrong choice
Some respondents reported being given bath salts when they only ever shower, a photo album when they don't own a camera, and wool when they don't know how to knit. The average Briton returned 10% of their presents after Christmas 2005, with some of the most common reasons including:

  • Clothes that were the wrong size;
  • CDs that were the wrong title;
  • Books that had already been read.

The most unsuitable presents were actually given by friends (21.6%), rather than family members (although mothers did follow in second place at 15%). But for men, it was wives or partners who got it wrong the most with 19.7% feeling disappointed by their presents. It's much more difficult to give the wrong thing when it's a gift card, ValueLink suggests.

Gift values
The average value of presents received by UK consumers in December 2005 was 193, with the young receiving the most. A lucky 11.1% of 16-24 year-olds received over 500 worth of presents, while only 3.2% of over-55 year-olds received that much. The Northern Irish were the most generous with 20% receiving more than 500 worth of gifts from their friends and family.

Gift cards favoured
Almost half (47.6%) of the consumers surveyed said they would prefer to receive a gift card so they could choose a present themselves from a selected store - significantly more than those who would prefer money for Christmas (33.6%).

Gift Cards also ensure the recipient treats themselves to a gift. People in the south-east are the keenest on the electronic vouchers, with 52.2% putting them on their wish lists. Women are also keen on gift cards with 52.4% having chosen them (compared to 31.2% who would prefer money).

According to Greg Sheppard, marketing manager for First Data's ValueLink division, "It is often very difficult to find the perfect present. With today's busy lifestyles, we often have insufficient information about our friends and family's preferences. Our survey indicates that having to return a gift is frustrating for the recipient and that a gift card from their favourite shop would make the ideal present."

Just for fun...
Some of the reasons given by survey respondents as to why they felt Christmas gifts had been unsuitable included:

  • Alcohol - does not drink at home;
  • Biscuits - no longer eats them;
  • Bath products - only has a shower;
  • Bird table - no room for one in the garden;
  • Receives same present every year - from same person;
  • Chocolates - on a diet;
  • Cheese selection - could not eat it all by best-before date;
  • Last year's gift to a friend came back, re-wrapped;
  • Woman given men's aftershave instead of perfume;
  • "There are only so many candles a person can own".

The survey of 2,338 UK adults aged 16+ was carried out by

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