GOT IT, SPEND IT: Often stowed away in a wallet or a drawer, millions of gift cards are never redeemed for fashion or other products. But shoppers will soon have reason to dig them out and ring them up.
National Use Your Gift Card Day will be celebrated Jan. 21 as a reminder to the estimated 47 percent of U.S. adults, who have unused gift cards, vouchers or store credits.
Delray Beach, Florida-based publicist Tracy Tilson first cooked up the annual event four years ago, driven mostly by the cache of unused gift cards that she and her family have. “It was pretty funny, because everyone I talked to said they had some in their wallet, in their purse or in a drawer. That’s how claiming the day all started,” she said Monday.
All those forgotten or can’t-be-bothered-to-find gift cards amount to $21 billion in unspent cash for the U.S. population, according to a survey last summer by creditcards.com that was conducted by the online resource YouGov. The average amount of unspent gift cards, vouchers and store credits was $175 last year — a sizable gain compared to $116 in 2021.
Interestingly, the value varies by generations, with 52 percent of Millennials having forgotten stashes with the highest values of unspent cash at $226. Gen Xers were next in line with an average of $180, followed by Gen Zers ranked — 51 percent have yet-to-be spent resources on average of $149, based on the survey. Baby Boomers were fourth with an average of $133.
Gift cards continue to be a go-to holiday purchase with millions of consumers. The National Retail Federation forecasted that 2022 holiday spending on gift cards would hit $28.6 billion compared to $28.1 billion in the 2021 holiday season. During the key five-day Thanksgiving weekend holiday shopping period, gift cards were the most popular category behind apparel and toys, accounting for 27 percent of all purchases. Most consumers planned to purchase three or four with an average denomination of nearly $51.50.
The third week of January seemed like the right time to remind consumers to cash in on those gifts. Noting how retailers like Macy’s and Maurices are on board with the upcoming event, Tilson said the latter will offer shoppers who use their gift cards on Jan. 21 triple points. Neither retailer is a client of the NUYGCD founder. Her company has an eclectic mix of clients across industries that include BJ’s, Talbots, Dunkin’ Donuts, the International Gem & Jewelry Show, Cyclebar, AAA, Krispy Kreme and other established and lesser-known businesses. Chains like White Castle, Panera Bread and Smashburger are on this year’s roster for NUYGCD.
While logic would seem to indicate that unused gift cards are more beneficial to retailers since money is spent for them, but often no goods are purchased with them, Tilson said many consumers typically spend a little more than the designated amount, when they do buy something. The same is often true for diners who use gift cards in restaurants.
Designed to be a PSA more than anything, Tilson said, “It’s crazy how it’s a simple thing. But we’ve all gotten very busy with our lives. It’s a good time to pause and gather up whatever gift cards may have accumulated over the holidays and prior to them,” she said. “Whether it be for a restaurant, retail or a service like a massage or something, it’s the opportunity to make a day of it and treat yourself. Or you can donate it and pay it forward. There are so many worthy causes and people, who are doing great things in communities. Just donate it. It could be a restaurant [gift card] for a first responder or someone else in the community.”