Gift Card sales soar due to stock shortages and greener gifting

  • More than 80% of gifters set to purchase a gift card this year
  • 44% of shoppers thwarted by stock shortages are turning to gift cards
  • One in 10 use gift cards to make their Xmas shopping more sustainable

A shift in gifting habits this Christmas, spurred by eco-conscious shoppers and supply shortages, mean that gift cards are set to be 2021’s gift of choice, according to the latest research from the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA).

A nationally-representative survey into 1,000 members of the public reveals that more than four-fifths (80.9%) of people will buy a gift card as a gift this Christmas, either instead of, or in addition to, physical gifts, with one in six (16.4%) having attributed this directly to difficulties purchasing a physical gift of their choice this year amidst supply shortages.

The research shows the impact supply issues are having on Christmas shoppers. 67% of early present buyers have found their choices limited due to lack of stock online or on the high street, with many shoppers reporting that they have been unable to find some, or even any, of the gifts they were looking for.

In response to difficulties purchasing physical gifts, nearly half (44%) of people report that they are most likely to buy a gift card this year if supply issues make gift buying more difficult. This was by far the most popular option over purchasing an alternative gift (31.6%) and offering the giftee the chance to buy their own gift (16.4%).

Furthermore, one in eight people (12.1%) have switched to gifting primarily with gift cards over physical gifts since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, indicating a major shift in how the public buys and receives gifts. Interestingly, this shift is most prominent amongst younger shoppers, with almost a quarter (22.3%) of the 18-24 demographic having switched to primarily gifting with gift cards over this period, with a similar shift amongst shoppers aged 25-34 (17.3%).

Further underlining gift cards’ sustainability credentials, just over one in 10 (11.3%) of people also report they buy gift cards for Christmas directly because gift cards feel like a more environmentally-friendly option than many physical gifts. This is likely to be due in part to gift cards increasingly shifting to digital means, which create no waste and can be sent and received instantly, with further GCVA research finding that 38.4% of shoppers have now converted to digital gift cards.

As well as buying gift cards to avoid the prospect of unwanted gifts and festive disappointment, the public are overall adopting a greener approach to dealing with unwanted gifts this year, with more than a third planning to donate these gifts to charity (35.4%) and a further 26.8% planning to regift to a loved one. Just 3% say they would send unwanted gifts to landfill (a fall from 19% in 2020).

Gail Cohen, director general of the GCVA, commented: “Gift cards, offering a convenient, personalised way of showing loved ones how much you care, are likely to be the big winner this Christmas for good reason. We are all looking for ways to avoid the disappointment of our favourite gifts not being available, as well as improving our everyday impact on the planet – for which gift cards offer an elegant solution.

“An unfortunate by-product of the festive period for far too long has been the waste it creates, with huge volumes of wrapping paper, cards and, most significantly, unwanted gifts thrown away every year. Gift cards have long been a solution to cutting down on unwanted gifts and avoiding disappointment, and this is underlined by the public’s continued shift towards gift cards, particularly amongst younger shoppers, which is likely to hugely reduce Christmas-related waste this year.”

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