Leisure gift card market explodes as UK embraces experience-led gifting

  • New research shows huge pickup in leisure gift card sales, having increased by 110% in second half of 2021
  • Gift card and voucher sales as a whole grow by 7.7%
  • Digital gift cards up by 15% on rolling-year basis

As the UK continues to emerge from the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, new research reveals that the public is overwhelmingly flocking to buy experiences, to make up for time lost during COVID-19.

According to the latest analysis by the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA) and KPMG UK, sales of leisure gift cards, referring to those redeemed for experiences such as meals out, trips to the theatre, and travel experiences, surged by 110% over the last six months of 2021, compared with the previous year. Sales of leisure gift cards also grew by 74.7% on a rolling-year basis.

While sales of leisure gift cards fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, this re-discovered appetite for experiences grew exponentially as restrictions were eased further was evidenced by previous GCVA research carried out in Summer 2021, which revealed that one in six shoppers (15.8%) viewed gift cards as “a great way to purchase experiences to enjoy once restrictions lift”. The survey also found that a quarter (24.8%) of the public specifically purchased gift cards during this period to enjoy experiences with loved ones, or to visit a favourite restaurant or pub.

More broadly, UK gift card and voucher sales as a whole grew by 7.7% on a rolling year basis, in line with the wider resurgence of the high street as lockdown restrictions were eased. Notably, business-to-consumer (B2C) sales surged by a staggering 14.1% on a rolling-year basis in 2021, growing by 12.6% in the last six months of the year alone when compared with the same period in 2020.

Looking at the market share for digital gifting products vs physical gift cards, the findings revealed that digital gift cards continue to grow in prominence, having grown by 15% on a rolling-year basis across 2021. However, physical gift cards still retain a strong place in the market and also show continued growth, with sales having increased by 5.2% on a rolling-year basis, and having remained stable on a like-for-like basis.

Gail Cohen, director general at the Gift Card and Voucher Association, said: “It is wonderful to see the public embracing gift cards so strongly, with the sector having worked tirelessly during the pandemic in order to innovate and best serve retailers and shoppers alike. The sector as a whole continues to grow and flourish, as evidenced by the continued rise of both digital gifting products and physical gift cards, which will always have a valued place in the hearts and wallets of shoppers, as well as savvy retailers’ overall gift card programme. 

“Particularly heartening to see was the huge pickup in leisure gift card sales – a sector which felt the challenges of enforced lockdown measures most strongly. During lockdown, many of the activities we love were taken away from us, so it is little surprise to see shoppers focusing so strongly on gift cards that facilitate experiences to enjoy with loved ones over the coming months.” 

Commenting on the latest figures, Don Williams, Retail Partner at KPMG UK, added: “Retail sales for the last six months have been resilient but sales growth of 7.7% in the gift card and voucher segment has out-performed. The shift to digital that accelerated as a necessity during the various lockdowns has moved to a matter of choice and habit for many. This trend, of a locked-in step up in digital activity, is mirrored in a 15% growth in sales of digital gift cards. 

“With rising costs challenging retailers operations and consumers wallets there is an increasing requirement to build and retain customer loyalty and to satisfy consumers desire for ever-increasing convenience and personalisation. The gift card and voucher sector has a huge opportunity to deliver on these priorities, for both customers and the businesses that serve them. Ensuring there is the offer of a gift card programme and/or expanding programmes to include more digital offerings, which can be redeemed at any time in line with changing consumer needs and desires, must surely be on the agenda for most if not all consumer facing businesses.”

Additional key findings from the latest UK Gift Card and Voucher Sales Analysis and Outlook: H2 2021:

  • B2B sales of gift cards and vouchers grew by 4.8% on a rolling year basis, but dipped slightly in like-for-like sales, having dropped by 7.6% in H2 2021 compared with the same period in 2020.
  • Consumers favoured specificity in the second half of 2021, with Closed Loop sales growing 10.9% on a rolling-year basis.
  • Retail gift card sales grew by 6% across the rolling year, but fell slightly by 3.1% like-for-like (measuring H2 2021 against H2 2020).

Comments are closed.

    Recolight right-hand skyscraper April 20
    Perspex right-hand skyscraper March 21
    Inspired Lighting right-hand skyscraper Aug 21
  • A1 Retail Twitter

  • Search