New ‘retail holiday’ encourages shoppers to use their gift cards


When it comes to “retail holidays,” shoppers already hit the stores en masse on Black Friday, Super Saturday, Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday, and even National Returns Day.

But now merchants have launched a new retail holiday, one designed to get consumers into their stores to spend the gift cards they got over the holidays before they forget they have them.

On National Use Your Gift Card Day, set for Saturday, Jan. 18, some merchants are enticing shopping-weary consumers with special offers or simply reminding them to use their gift cards.

“We all do it! We receive gift cards that were at the top of our wish lists for the holidays with every intention to use them and then they’re forgotten,” said Tracy Tilson, founder of and National Use Your Gift Card Day.

Retailers and restaurants participating in the event include major retailers like Macy’s, Kohl’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, restaurants like Applebee’s, Chipotle and Panera Bread and theater chains including AMC and Regal.

Gift cards were the most-requested gift for the holiday season for the 13th year in a row, per the National Retail Foundation, sought by 59 percent of people. Consumers planned to purchase three or four gift cards over the holidays worth an average of $47 per card, for a total of $27.5 billion, per NRF.

And women are more likely to spend the gift cards they receive, per a 2018 YouGov survey reported by Eighty-one percent of women said they always use the gift cards they receive, compared with 68 percent of men. Just 17 percent of women said they forget to use gift cards, the survey found.

Yet in the same poll, 26 percent of women said they had received a gift card that they had never used.

When customers come in to spend their gift cards, about half will spend more than the card is worth, per Investopedia. If customers don’t spend the card’s full value in one visit, that usually means they’ll return. And customers shopping with a gift card are two-and-a-half times more likely to pay full price than people paying cash, per RetailNext.

But as much as $3 billion, or about 3 percent, of gift card dollars are expected go unredeemed this year, CBS News reported, based on the $98.6 consumers loaded on gift cards in 2019 cards.

Anne Stych is a staff writer for Bizwomen.


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