Self-gifting soars in popularity amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Research reveals £1 billion annual spend on gifts to self

UK consumers are increasingly purchasing gift cards to spend on themselves, according to the latest industry research from the Gift Card & Voucher Association (GCVA), in partnership with research and data specialist GlobalData.

The Valuing the Gift Card Industry 2020 research, surveying 2,000 UK consumers and supported by incentives and benefits provider Blackhawk Network, found that self-use, referring to when a gift card is purchased to be used specifically by the purchaser, rather than as a gift, is now among the most prominent drivers of gift card purchasing. Self-use now represents 21.8% of consumer spend on gift cards – a value of just over £1 billion.

The rise in self-gifting is reflective of the rising prominence of shoppers purchasing gift cards – typically at discounted rates – through B2B channels, such as employer programmes, rather than waiting to receive them from a friend or family member.

Other drivers of this trend include the rise of gift card and loyalty card hybrids, as well as the growth of categories such as video gaming – where the gift card is the primary mechanism for online purchases. This is because gift cards are often seen as a more secure alternative to storing payment details on shared devices.

The boost may have also been further augmented over the past few weeks by a brand-new gifting trend termed “sunny day gifting”, referring to when a gift – usually a gift card – is purchased with the intention of being used at a later date once everyday life has returned to normal. This new means of gifting has already been adopted positively throughout the retail and hospitality industries, with consumers across the UK purchasing gift cards for their favourite shops, bars and restaurants, to support these businesses throughout the pandemic.

Across the rest of the gift card market, gifting for others, such as friends and family, remains the most popular purchase driver of gift cards, making up 70.8% of the market. The list is rounded out by company bosses purchasing gift cards for staff to recognise loyalty and hard work, which makes up 5.8% of the total market – equating to £270 million.

Gail Cohen, director general of the GCVA, commented: “Our gifting habits continue to evolve over time, as evidenced by our latest research which reveals that, sometimes, we just like to treat ourselves, for which gift cards are the perfect solution.

“Gift cards’ versatility, despite the name, in fact extends far beyond being used as a gift for others. Whether rewarding key workers, helping to provide free school meals to schools or even just being used to pay for the weekly shop, gift cards have emerged as the safe, flexible payment option of choice throughout this pandemic. Given this, the continued rise of gift cards for self-gifting, at a time when we all need a little lift, comes as little surprise.

“We would expect this shift in shopper behaviour to only grow over time, presenting an interesting opportunity for retailers and providers that will need to adapt their offering to cater for this growing trend.”

As of the most recent valuation, the gift card industry as a whole is now worth £6.9 billion* – up from the previous estimated value of £6 billion.

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*The quantification research utilised a methodology which included bespoke primary consumer research across a representative sample of 2,000 UK gift card shoppers, in addition to leveraging previous waves of State of the Nation primary research and anonymous aggregated gift card operator data, collected by KPMG. 

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