Some retailers launched online deals well in advance of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
More than 80% of consumers will buy them this year, according to the NRF.
Gift cards are a perennial favorite of gift givers, and 80.6% of consumers say they will buy at least one this holiday shopping season, according to the National Retail Federation’s Gift Card Spending Survey. 12.7% of shoppers say they will buy gift cards online.
The retail trade group ran the online survey of more than 6,200 consumers during the first week of November. It found that consumers will spend an average of $163.16 on gift cards this year, up about 4% from $156.86 they spent a year ago. Spending per gift card will average $45.16, up 3.2% from $43.75 a year ago.
One store type has grown steadily as a popular choice for gift cards: coffee shops. 19% of gift card buyers will give a gift card for a coffee shop this holiday, up from 13% in 2009. This may be good news for Starbucks Coffee Co., the largest coffee shop retailer in the world, which launched a novel, and social, way to give a gift card last month. Latte fans can now give a $5 digital gift certificate through Twitter via a program called tweet-a-coffee. Starbucks is No. 454 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.
In other gift card news, flash-sale retailer Rue La La, No. 76, today announced it will be selling digital gift cards for the first time this holiday season as part of its “Goof Proof Gifting” program, which also makes it easier for gift givers and gift recipients to return or exchange unwanted gifts. The e-retailer says the purpose of the program is to remove the uncertainty that comes with shopping for gifts online. 43.1% of consumers surveyed by the National Retail Federation say letting recipients choose their own gift is why they buy gift cards.
Amazon.com Inc. this holiday season is selling Amazon.com gift cards in denominations of $50 to $1000. Gift card buyers get to select a holiday-themed gift box for the card and get one-day free shipping on the cards.
CEB TowerGroup, an advisory group for executives, estimates U.S. consumers loaded $110 billion onto gift cards in 2012. It estimates roughly $36 billion of that total was for retailer-specific gift cards.