December 29, 2004, 12:00 AM

Gift card spending is up – so is the number of people wanting to swap cards

At gift card buying, selling and trading site SwapaGift.com, post-Christmas traffic was up by more than 4,000% over trend last week. The company will apply the same model to other markets, with SwapaGame.com for video game trading to launch in January.

The National Retail Federation forecasts that online and offline, consumers will spend more than $17 billion on gift cards this year, about 0.5% more than last year. Other industry estimates have placed the percentage of total holiday spending on gift cards at 11% this year, up from about 9% last year. And as eBay launched its own economy of related businesses, the gift card phenomenon may one day do the same. SwapaGift.com, for example, an online venue for the buying, selling and trading of gift cards, reports that traffic is up with the holidays.

As gift card spending rises, so does the number of cards received by consumers for redemption in places where they don’t actually shop. That’s one reason why by November, the number of online visitors to the year-old site was up by about 500% over the trend during the rest of the year, when daily visitors were averaging about 500 to 600, says vice president Mike Kelly. By Dec. 28 – three days after Christmas – site traffic had increased by a factor of approximately 4,000 to more than 22,000 visitors that day.

A national ad campaign that launched on cable TV the first week in December, with a provider that has a reach of 26 million homes, also helped traffic to the site, he adds. “Like anything else that relates to gift-giving, there’s much more interest at this time of year,” says Kelly.

While the increase in visitors to Swapagift.com may be seasonally-based, Langhorne, PA-based Swap a Thing Inc., the company that operates SwapaGift.com for gift card exchange, has plans to use the same model in a second site – SwapaGame.com, for the buying, selling and swapping of video games. Now in test, the new site is expected to launch in January. Kelly adds that the company believes the model has application to other vertical markets as well, and it’s eyeing the launch of third and fourth sites targeting those markets later in the year.

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