2019 Holiday Gift Card Sales Growth Doubled Overall Holiday Retail Sales Growth Estimates

Data from Blackhawk Network Reports on 2019 Holiday Spending and Trends Shaping the Industry in 2020

PLEASANTON, Calif. – January 7, 2019 – Doubling the estimated 3.4% increase in overall holiday retail sales1, consumers spent 7% more on gift cards during the 2019 holiday season than in 2018. These findings come from a post-holiday spending report2 by global branded payments provider Blackhawk Network as part of its 2019 BrandedPay Holiday Shopping Research series. The growth was supported by double digit increases in ecommerce and new gift card formats, including curated cards like Blackhawk’s Happy Cards®.

According to Blackhawk’s earlier 2019 BrandedPay Holiday Shopping Preview report3, surveyed shoppers’ holiday gift card spend was expected to increase despite fewer shopping days between Black Friday and Christmas. Blackhawk’s post-holiday report found consumers’ spending to be on par with those forecasts.

“The popularity of gift cards cannot be overstated; 80% of consumers reported receiving a digital or physical gift card for the 2019 holidays, making the cards a significant source of revenue for retailers. I expect that post-holiday gift cards redemptions will drive an economic impact for retailers in early 2020,” said Theresa McEndree, vice president of marketing at Blackhawk Network. “With more than half of consumers expecting to spend as much as $30 more than the value of their gift cards—and many planning to spend them within weeks of receiving them—gift cards are poised to make a huge boon for retailers in Q1. We are really excited about these results because strong gift card sales mean a strong start for 2020 retail sales.”

Retailers can leverage Blackhawk Network’s holiday data (which includes analysis of Blackhawk’s recent sales data combined with the findings of the organization’s latest consumer surveys) to inform 2020 planning and strategy not just for the holidays, but throughout the year. Top findings from Blackhawk Network’s 2019 holiday gift card research studies include:

Consumers asked for gift cards, and the holidays delivered

The most requested holiday gift in America once again4, overall gift card sales grew more than 7%. The growth was supported by a 4.5% increase in digital gift card sales and the rapidly increasing popularity of curated cards, which will likely continue trending into the new year. Blackhawk’s line of Happy Cards® saw a substantial jump in sales over the holidays. 

Innovation drives the gift card customer experience

Physical gift cards continue to remain the most popular option among consumers, but more streamlined and user-friendly digital and mobile gift card options continue to expand the adoption and application of egifts. eCommerce sales during the holiday were up more than 12% and digital gift cards accounted for nearly 20% of holiday gift card sales in 2019. Blackhawk’s research also found 23% of surveyed respondents reported receiving digital gift cards.

Gift cards can ease the pain of post-holiday returns for retailers

According to Blackhawk’s research, 33% of surveyed consumers received a gift they were not satisfied with this holiday season. The National Retail Federation reports that 55% of consumers will return any unwanted gifts or holiday items within the first month of receiving them5. Gift cards can help to alleviate some of the frustrations retailers are bracing for with post-holiday returns. Blackhawk’s research found:

  • 53% of consumers surveyed plan to use their gift cards right away to take advantage of sales after the holidays.
  • Nearly 3 out of 5 consumers surveyed plan to spend more than the value of their gift card with more than half of consumers (52%) planning to spend as much as $30 more.

The first annual National Use Your Gift Card Day is Saturday, January 18—an extra prompt for consumers to use their gift cards to buy something they didn’t get for the holidays, take advantage of post-holiday sales or to treat themselves.

About Blackhawk Network

Blackhawk Network delivers branded payment solutions through the prepaid products, technologies and network that connect brands and people. We collaborate with our partners to innovate, translating market trends in branded payments to increase reach, loyalty and revenue. Serving 26 countries, we reliably execute security-minded solutions worldwide. Join us as we shape the future of global branded payments.

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1 The “Mastercard SpendingPulse” report was published in December 2019.

2 The “2019 BrandedPay Post-Holiday Shopping” report is based on the findings in our post-holiday shopping survey, an internet-based survey conducted by Murphy Research on behalf of Blackhawk Network between December 26–29, 2019. The sample size included over 3,000 respondents ages 18+. Gift card growth findings are based on 2018 and 2019 sales data from Blackhawk Network from over 50,000 merchant locations across the United States.

3 The “2019 BrandedPay Holiday Shopping Preview” Report is based on the findings in our “Holiday Sentiment Study,” an internet-based survey conducted by Murphy Research on behalf of Blackhawk Network between August 2–9, 2019. The sample size included over 3,000 respondents ages 18+. Gift card category findings are based on 2017 and 2018 sales data from Blackhawk Network from over 50,000 merchant locations across the United States.

4 The “Annual October Holiday Consumer Study” was conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics on behalf of the National Retail Federation in October 2019.

5 The study was conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics on behalf of the National Retail Federation between November 27 through December 5, 2019.


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