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3 Reasons Why 2012 Might be the Year of the Gift Card

December 18, 2012 1 comment

Holiday 2012 has been an interesting selling season. Consumers are cautiously optimistic, planning to spend slightly above what they did in 2011, though the economy / unemployment are still troublesome and the fiscal cliff could still turn out to be the Grinch who stole Christmas. Undoubtedly, though, the shining star of the season has been the resurgence of gift cards.

Have Already Purchased Gift Cards this Holiday Season (Adults 18+)While gift cards have been perennially touted as the perfect last-minute gift, a look at this year’s insights shows us that gift card buying patterns are shifting. For 2012, consumers aren’t waiting until Christmas Eve for these purchases; they are checking them off their lists much sooner. According to the National Retail Federation, nearly one-third (32.6%) of Black Friday Weekend* shoppers made a gift card purchase, up a whopping 40% from a year ago (23.1%). Further, as of the first week of December, holiday shoppers overall continue to pace ahead of previous years’ buying habits; two out of five (39.2%) have already purchased these stored-cash cards as gifts this season, up 25% from 2011 (31.4%).

So is 2012 shaping up to be the Year of the Gift Card? You betcha. So let’s take a look at three reasons why gift cards are a “must buy” among holiday shoppers this year.

1. We want gift cards – badly.

While they have been atop consumers’ wish lists since 2007, intent to buy gift cards sputtered during the recession as consumers reached for bargain merchandise that wouldn’t quite reveal the total dollar amount paid. This year, though, a record number of consumers are requesting them (59.8%, much higher than the second most request gift – apparel and accessories – at 49.1%), and a record number of shoppers are responding that they are planning to buy them (59.2%, nearly eclipsing the most purchased category – again apparel and accessories – at 59.7%).

Gift Cards: Holiday Wish Lists versus Holiday Shopping Lists (Adults 18+)

Bonus: Buying a gift card spares the giver and receiver from that awkward “here’s the receipt for the return” exchange.

2. Gift cards are still practical gifts.

Gift cards may be tempting this year because they can still be perfectly practical, which is on what the near majority of consumers are remaining focused in this uncertain economy. Recipients can buy what they want or what they need – and either way, it’s money well spent on behalf of the giver and better than a sweater relegated to the back of someone’s closet, no? Shoppers may have a little extra cash in their pockets this year, but if they are going to spend their hard-earned (and hard-saved) pennies, they’ll do it wisely. And remember, a $50 gift card to a discounter might be one man’s (or woman’s) groceries at Target but another’s new home décor from Tar-Zhay.

Bonus: And speaking of sweaters, gift cards are one-size-fits-all, so no worrying about whether or not Aunt Clara really did lose that 10 lbs. this year when debating between a medium and a large [oy].

3. We can buy gift cards “on sale.”

Back in the day (so…five years ago), buying a $50 gift card meant that the purchaser would fork over $50 cash.  And these days, with retailers and restaurateurs bending over backward to bring customers through their doors, it seems that incentives to buy gift cards are becoming increasingly creative as well as prevalent. Nowadays, a $100 gift card might come with a $20 bonus to use later (Merry Christmas to me, right?) Or, and this is one of the examples I saw a few times during my Black Friday exploits, a pack of five $20 gift cards might be discounted 20% to $80. Gift card purchasers may also be receiving more indirect incentives to purchase, such as grocery stores offering frequent shopper / fuel rewards or salons giving away coupon books for future services with gift cards purchases.

Bonus: Shop wisely and gift cards purchases can still come with that “you’ll-never-guess-what-I-paid-for-it” cachet, which was the feel good saying among holiday shoppers during the recession.

So are gift cards changing the way we approach shopping for holiday gifts? Certainly. However, when and if gift exchanges turn into gift card exchanges, I’ll bet we’ll see a renaissance of more traditional gift giving.

* “Black Friday Weekend” is defined as Thursday (Thanksgiving), Friday (Black Friday), Saturday, and Sunday.

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

The Great Tablet Debate: Kindle Fire HD or Apple iPad Mini?

December 12, 2012 Leave a comment

When Amazon.com introduced the Kindle Fire in 2011, it was a budget-friendly game-changer for the growing tablet market that certainly shook the Apple tree. Fast forward to holiday 2012 and Apple – facing declining market share for its once superbly dominant iPad – has responded directly to the value-priced threat (from Amazon, Google, et al.) with its own $329 entry, the iPad mini. Not to be outdone, Amazon has recently launched the upgraded Kindle Fire HD – at the still very wallet-friendly $199 price point.

Hot or Not? Kindle Fire versus Apple iPad mini

iPad mini sales are expected to exceed 5 million units this quarter, while the world’s largest online retailer touts the Kindle Fire HD as the “#1 most gifted product on Amazon.” And all of the back-and-forth between these two giants is enough to send Santa into a tizzy. With the shopping days until Christmas now numbered, let’s take a look at how the nearly 9,000 consumers we talk to each month feel about these two new tablets, courtesy of our popular “Hot or Not?” feature.

As it turns out, if you are planning on gifting either of these devices, you’re likely to make the recipient pretty happy. The majority of Adults 18+ rated the both the Kindle Fire HD (56.9%) and iPad mini (58.2%) as “hot,” though Apple’s device boasts a slight edge.

And if your recipient is a Gen X-er, you’re in luck: those born between 1965 and 1982 were the most likely to be fanning the flames on both of these “hot” tablets. Millenials followed, but expressed sentiment more in line with the general population.  The Silent generation (much like its affinity for Apple iOS) and Boomers were more likely to boost the temperature on the iPad mini, rather than the Kindle Fire HD.

The upside for Amazon? It appears that we’ve stumbled upon a new slogan: Kindle Fire HD: Not Your Grandmother’s Tablet

This post originally appeared on Forbes.com as a contribution to the Prosper Now blog.

Generation Gap: Who’s Excited about the Holiday Season?

December 15, 2011 1 comment

With the holiday season in full swing and Christmas just days away, it’s hard not to get excited about this time of year…or is it? Findings from our American Pulse™ survey indicate that this really depends on what generation you belong to:

Silent (born 1945 or earlier)
Boomers (born 1946 – 1964)
Gen X (born 1965 – 1982)
Gen Y (born 1983 – 1993)

Overall, the majority of consumers (50.5%) say they get very or somewhat excited for the holiday season this year, while one in four (24.5%) aren’t at all or aren’t very excited about the prospect of untangling lights, fighting crowds at malls, and hearing I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas on regular rotation on their favorite radio station [blech].

While no particular generation says “Bah Humbug” to the holidays, it’s evident that the older generations definitely find less to get excited about. Fewer than two in five (38.2%) of those in the Silent generation get somewhat or very excited as the holiday season rolls around, just slightly more Boomers (39.5%) say the same. The excitement level of Gen X-ers (53.4%) indexes higher than average, while nearly three in four (72.7%) Gen Y youngsters get downright twitterpated at the thought of candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup (OK, maybe that’s just Buddy the Elf).

About one in three of those in the Silent (31.2%) and Boomer (31.4%) generations say they just aren’t at all or aren’t very excited for the holiday season this year. Fewer Gen X-ers (23.5%) feel this way, while just one in ten of those in Gen Y (10.4%) say the same.

Three out of five (59.7%) holiday celebrants say they most look forward to spending time with family and friends during the season; about three in ten (29.6%) are actually dreading this time of year because money is tight. Just 10.6% is most looking forward to finding the perfect gift for everyone on their lists.*

While spending time with family and friends is the top priority for each generation, more Silents (70.4%) and – surprise! – Gen Y-ers (64.2%) are prone to indicate this. One in three of those in the Boomer (35.1%) and Gen X (32.9%) generations say aren’t looking forward to the holidays due to money concerns; Silents (24.6%) and Gen Y-ers (20.0%) are much less likely to indicate that money is putting a Grinch wrench in their holiday plans.

Finally, while I still refuse to disclose my age, I will admit that I [thankfully] do belong in a generation that tends to look forward to shopping during the holiday season. Those in the Gen X (13.4%) and Gen Y (15.8%) groups are more likely to indicate that they most look forward to finding the perfect holiday gifts, compared to Silents (5.0%) and Boomers (6.6%).

For more information on this data, please contact BIGinsight™.

* For this question, consumers were asked to select one of the following phrases that best describes them: “I am looking forward to finding the perfect gifts for everyone on my list,” “I am looking forward to spending time with family and friends,” and “I am dreading the holiday season because money is tight.”

Source: American Pulse™ Survey, OCT-11 #2

© 2011, Prosper®

BIGinsight™ is a trademark of Prosper Business Development Corp.

BIG on the Street: Black Friday, Part II

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

So I’ve mentioned that I continued Black Friday tradition this year by shopping with my best friend and her mother. Now, her mother didn’t join us for our Target excursion; instead, she headed to the mall to stake out Bath & Body Works (B&BW), also opening at midnight. Our B&BW target was the annual VIP bag, a purchase-with-purchase special for the day that included a variety of fun, I-don’t-really-need-these type of items (which *ahem* were a bit leaner compared to the 2010 bag and most noticeably did not include last year’s coupon for $10 off a $10 purchase).

However like moths drawn to a flame, we Black Friday shoppers needed this “deal.” And, given the line at Target, we didn’t think we’d make it over to the mall in a sufficient amount of time. My friend’s mother was sent to B&BW with instructions to grab some of their $10 three wick candles (enough to use a $10 off $30 coupon and qualify for the VIP bag). Much to our surprise though, by the time we made it out of Target (12:25pm) and over to the mall, my friend’s mother was still in line at B&BW! Yes, that’s right, our shopping trip to Target was quicker than B&BW.

Thus concluded our destination Black Friday shopping until 5am, when Toys R Us would tempt us my friend back with a new round of deals. To be perfectly honest, I find it hard to recall all of the details of this four hour timespan; perhaps this is where a few hours of pre-shopping sleep would have been beneficial. I actually had to check my receipts to see where I was and what I bought (just slightly reminiscent of The Hangover­). During this time, we stopped at Macy’s (used $10 off $25 and $20 off $50 coupons for a couple of gifts). At 2:30am, I purchased a crystal gingerbread man ornament with a $10 off $10 coupon at Elder-Beerman. (You can categorize that purchase under “Strange Items One Buys in the Wee Hours of the Morning on Zero Sleep”).

Hungry for deals? At the food court. (click to enlarge)

At some point during this time period, we did refuel at the food court, which was crowded with people. I think that this was one of the biggest differences I noticed this year compared to past. Traditionally, I think when you head over to the mall at – say – 4am on Black Friday, you don’t begin to feel really hungry until 7 or 8am, after you’ve hit your destinations. This year, I felt that a lot of people (i.e. teenagers, other youngsters, non-serious Black Friday shoppers, window shoppers, and other “roadblocks”) went to the mall to hang out for an hour or two – and to grab a bite to eat. So the mall was crowded, but the stores within the mall were manageable – somewhat like busy weekend traffic. When I explored Gap, associates were straightening clothing stacks; we saw the same scene at The Children’s Place, American Eagle, and a few other stores that opened extremely early. I didn’t even have to wait in line at Elder-Beerman to buy my crystal gingerbread man – which helped to make this a completely impulsive purchase.

Scene at the mall, about 3am. (click to enlarge)

The “sad” part about shopping so early on Black Friday is that, while we scored some great deals at Toys R Us, Target, and B&BW, we missed the 5am and 6am openings of several specialty stores (including my personal favorite, The Limited). And by 4am, I was so desperate for caffeine that I waited in line for Starbucks to raise their gate. At 5am, we were nearly cooked. Our shopping excursion ended with a stop back at Toys R Us (where the checkout line was infinitely shorter than during their 9pm opening) as well as Walmart, which was empty (not merchandise-wise, but people-wise). At Walmart, not only did my friend find the items that she was after, but we walked right up to the checkout. I was shocked to see that they were even polishing the floor of the optical center. (The lesson here: if you aren’t in need of a doorbuster, wait for the initial crowd to dissipate).

In the past, it’s been tradition for us to enjoy a 9am lunch post-Black Friday shopping and call it a day. This year, though, we were so tired after our last stop that we couldn’t even fathom making it until 9am. Maybe next year!

I’d like to conclude this post with the following thoughts on this year’s Black Friday shopping experience:

The Buddy System Rules: Late Thanksgiving openings meant that a lot of shoppers (including yours truly) were pulling all-nighters to procure their deals. Shopping with a group kept us motivated, prevented us from falling asleep in line (and behind the wheel), and increased gift finding/buying efficiency.

-  Browsers Need Not Apply: If your goal for Black Friday is to look around and people-watch, perhaps you should find some better entertainment and roam the mall on another day. Taking up valuable parking spaces, clogging aisles, and usurping benches really only irritates Black Friday shopping pros.

-  Know Your Sales: Brush up on sales, deals, and offerings before you head to the store and have your non-expired coupons in hand (and not buried in the bottom of your pocket or purse) at the checkout. Those behind you in line will be grateful for your efficiency.

-  Night Owls Got the Doorbusters, but Early Birds Still Found Worms: It was truly physically impossible for our group to begin at 9pm on Thanksgiving and shop past 6am the next morning. Unless you were looking for a doorbuster at Target, Walmart, Toys R Us, or one of the other stores opening up on Thanksgiving, beginning at 5/6am on Black Friday still afforded you a lot of deals, a few hours of sleep, and un-ransacked merchandise at those specialty stores that didn’t herald a midnight opening.

-  Remember the Spirit of the Season: Getting up early or staying up all night makes it easy to get a case of the cranky-pants. Dial down the tension and recall that [most] shoppers are in the stores to GIVE this season. If you have to fight with a fellow shopper to save few bucks on that perfect present, that present really isn’t perfect, is it?

Remember, for more Black Friday insights, you can head over to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Headquarters.

©2011, Prosper®

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