Retailers Look To Gift Cards To Finish Holiday 2011 Strong
The 2011 holiday shopping season is tracking to be anything but a bell curve of sales. This year’s holiday shopping season started with a bang and ended with a flourish, but with a dip in the middle.
After a strong Thanksgiving weekend, sales went flat in early December. Retail sales look poised for a solid finish to the holiday season as warm weather and deep discounts encouraged shoppers to hit stores or go online to snap up last-minute gifts, according to data released on Wednesday.
Sales in the week ending December 24 soared 14.8 percent from a year ago to about $44 billion, helped by Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday, according to ShopperTrak, which monitors traffic at shopping malls. Good weather also helped as snowstorms had blanketed some areas at the same time last year. Sales on December 26, a public holiday this year, soared 25.5 percent to $7.1 billion, ShopperTrak said.
Indications are that January sales might continue strong due to strong sales of gift cards – which are often redeemed immediately after the holidays. Gift card spending rose to nearly 18 percent of total holiday spending this year, up 14.6 percent from last year and the highest percentage since 2006.
Retailers don’t count the revenue from gift cards until consumers redeem them. As a result, retailers are using incentives to bring shoppers in to redeem gift cards. Target, for example, offered 50 percent discounts on soft selling women’s apparel if purchases were made with gift cards. And nearly a third of all retailers have sent emails to consumers reminding them to redeem their gift cards.
It appears that if you’ve got a gift card, now’s the time to use it…lest you forget about it all together.