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Report: Gift card sales in 2013 to top $118 billion

Arlington, Va. -- Sales of gift cards in 2013 are expected to surpass $118 billion in sales, an 8% increase from 2012. CEB Tower Report research suggests that the widespread adoption of e-gifting, which experienced rapid growth from $300 million in 2012 to a predicted $3 billion in 2013, will provide scale for continued industry gains through 2016.

In addition, open network branded cards grew from $41 billion to $44 billion, retailer card volume grew from $36 billion to $39 billion, and restaurant and miscellaneous segments held flat at $19 billion and $13 billion, respectively.

CEB predicts the e-gifting trend will help propel continued growth in the gift card market in excess of $140 billion in sales by 2016. E-gifting is expected to top $10 billion during the same period, filling a niche for customers seeking to simultaneously buy and send their gifts to recipients they may not see in person over the holidays. Analysis suggests little overlap between e-gifting and traditional gift card segments though, as the latter rely on the physical presentation of a gift as a primary selling point.

However, CEB says new P2P services from banks and non-traditional financial players such as PayPal, which can be utilized for gifts and may begin to cut into gift card volume, should be of greater concern to traditional card issuers. The new services offer the ability to send gifts in real time through proprietary networks, circumventing the traditional card issuer's spheres.

Innovations related to e-gifting and P2P services are expected to contribute to the decline of unused gift card value, or "spillage." The spillage figure now stands at an estimated 1% of total gift card value spend, down from a high of nearly 10% when CEB began studying gift card trends in 2006.

"The gift card experience continues to get better for consumers," said CEB TowerGroup senior research director Brian Riley. "E-gifting and P2P innovations add a new dimension to the market, which means more flexibility for buyers and recipients. Those same innovations may pose a threat to the growth of traditional card volume, and issuers should remain nimble in adjusting their strategies as digital competitors continue to enter the market.”

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