Early retail sales could move gift-card purchases further down the list of items to buy this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

According to NRF’s latest Gift Card Spending Survey, consumers who plan to buy a gift card this year will spend slightly less on average than a year ago, down to $153.08 from $172.74. That represents the first drop in average spending since 2009.

Matthew Shay, NFR’s president and chief executive officer, said, “Retailers’ early promotions and exclusive offerings have made it easier for consumers to find everything they need without having to consider raiding the gift-card rack.” He said there is a “disconnect between gift-givers and gift recipients this year as gift cards still top millions of Americans’ wish lists.”

The survey suggests that shoppers will spend an average of $44.83 per card. Adults 65 years and older are expected to buy at least one card. This demographic is expected to spend the most overall for gift cards, an average of $186.44, and the most per card, at $47.88. Further, men plan to spend more than women on gift cards, $162.01 compared with $144.62, respectively.

Of those surveyed, 24.7 percent said they will buy a gift card because it is easier and faster to buy than a traditional gift, and 5.6 percent said a gift card is easier to mail and ship to out-of-town family and friends.

As for purchase options, department stores, restaurants and coffee shops are the top choice of most holiday shoppers, NRF said. The survey indicated that 34.8 percent of shoppers plan to purchase a gift card from a restaurant, while 34.4 percent will choose one from a department store. That’s followed by 20.1 percent who will choose a gift card for a coffee shop, 17.2 percent will pick an entertainment gift card and 15.8 percent will select an electronics store.

NRF said the survey polled 7,172 consumers. The study was conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics for NRF.

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