Gift Cards Top Holiday Shopping Lists

New York City, Gift cards will replace apparel as the holiday gift purchase of choice this year, according to the 19th annual consumer survey of holiday shopping commissioned by Deloitte & Touche USA LLP. Sixty-four percent of consumers said they intend to buy gift cards, up from 60% in 2003, with the increase coming primarily at the expense of apparel, CDs, DVDs and books. The growing use of gift cards puts added importance on January retail sales as shoppers redeem their cards.

"With the increasing popularity of gift cards, retailers will be well served by launching gift-card redemption campaigns, as they are unable to report the sale until the card is redeemed," said Tara Weiner, vice chairman and national managing partner of Deloitte’s Consumer Business Industries Practice. The survey found a split between upper- and lower-income groups in their outlook for the holiday season. Upper-income households expressed renewed optimism about job security, which bodes particularly well for luxury-goods retailers.

"Conversely, the lower-income groups expressed their concerns with rising gasoline prices and health-care costs, which may present challenges for discount retailers," Weiner said. Continuing a trend of the past several years, nearly two-thirds of consumers report that they will shop fewer retailers. Respondents said they would be buying 21 gifts on average, down from 22 last year, but spending more per gift. Consumers overall said they expect to spend $1,715 in total this holiday season, which includes money spent on entertaining and buying holiday furnishings.

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