Specialty retail gift-card redemptions up

Atlanta Gift-card redemptions in specialty retail stores grew 12.3% last week, a significant year-over-year increase, according to First Data Corp., a provider of e-commerce and payment processing.

First Data’s Holiday Gift Card Performance Report compared gift-card sales for the week ending Dec. 13 with the same period in 2008.

The increase in redemptions suggested that consumers are already using the incentive cards they obtained in the first two weeks of the holiday shopping season. For the first three weeks of the holiday season, the dollar amount of gift-card activations grew 1.7% over last year, consistent with the company’s forecast of 0 to 5% growth.

Overall, total dollar value of gift cards activated decreased 1.6% compared with last year. The number of gift cards activated decreased 2.7%. Gift-card redemptions grew 5.1%.

According to the survey, about three-quarters of gift -card purchasers indicate that they buy their gift cards within two weeks of the holidays.

Gift-card activations remain strong for the specialty retail category. The number of activations grew 12.6% and the dollar value of cards activated increased 5.2% over last year. More cards are being activated, but in smaller denominations.

Restaurant gift-card sales were down slightly for the week.

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