Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, March 03, 2021

Did you know that gift cards are now the single-biggest holiday gift item given and received by Americans during the holidays, surpassing categories like apparel and electronics?

And did you know that all it would take to obliterate that popularity is a refusal to accept gift cards, like soon-to-be-bankrupt retailer Sharper Image is doing.

Aside from the obvious, a lot of it has to do with the nature of what a gift card actually is:

Gift card holders fall in the class of unsecured creditors, which is “low in the pecking order,” [bankruptcy lawyer Howard] Kleinberg said. Those at the top of the list are secured creditors — with debts backed by assets such as real estate or accounts receivable.

But more fundamentally, the backlash from consumers can be harsh. It’s somewhat amazing that shoppers have been convinced that what are essentially purchase vouchers make the perfect gift — basically selling the store brand instead of a specific item. But when that store brand turns out to be worthless? I can see the entire basis for gift card popularity eroding in short order.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 03/03/2021 11:23:34 PM
Category: Business
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  1. I’d be surprised if gift cards went anywhere. They’re too convenient and the chances of something like this happen pale in comparison to the losing of the card which has been going on since these things were invented. I can imagine that companies that are in financial trouble might see a marked decline in gift cards, though.

    Comment by trumwill — 03/04/2021 @ 10:03:03 PM

  2. Well, “short order” might be an exaggeration. But it wasn’t that long ago that giving gift cards/certificates was considered impersonal and a second-class act. I still feel a tinge of that when I give them — like they require less thought than a “real” present. Perceptions changed once, maybe they can again.

    Comment by CT — 03/05/2021 @ 09:50:17 AM

  3. Perceptions certainly change, but it’ll take more than a bankruptcy or two for people to start thinking that gift cards are unreliable. If companies were to start placing limitations on gift cards, such as theater gift cards cannot be used for new features or whatnot, that’d kill the market. Or maybe if people start finding out that half of the gift cards that they gave out last year got lost and were never spent. Otherwise, it’ll always be the thoughtless alternative to a personal gift and/or a gift for people that genuinely don’t know what to get people that they don’t know very well.

    Comment by trumwill — 03/06/2021 @ 02:06:52 PM

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