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Survey: Expect a big holiday season for restaurant gift cards

Shipping delays, supply chain problems and other issues are potentially leading to a surge in gift card-buying this fall and winter, according to new research from Blackhawk Network.
Gift cards
Photograph: Shutterstock

It might be time to start pushing restaurant gift cards for the holidays in a more significant way.  

New research from branded payments provider Blackhawk Network shows that shipping delays and supply chain issues will likely lead to increased interest in gift cards—particularly ones for restaurants and big box stores.

“Dining and multi-brand gift cards will top shopping lists this year,” Blackhawk said in a press release. “The most popular gift card categories this holiday season will be dining/restaurant, multi-brand gift cards and grocery and mass merchant.”

Last year, with COVID cases surging and no vaccine, restaurant gift card sales were down considerably from 2019, according to data from guest experience platform Paytronix Systems. Gift card sales dropped 30% over the Black Friday weekend after Thanksgiving last year compared to the previous year.

In the Blackhawk survey, 83% of consumers surveyed said they want to give a gift card instead of a physical gift this year, saying they plan on buying an average of 15 gift cards. Further, respondents said they expect to spend 41% of their holiday gifting budget, an average of $272, on gift cards. That’s a 27% jump from what gift-buyers reported spending on gift cards last year, the company found.

Black Friday may come early this year, with almost a quarter (24%) of those surveyed saying they intend to shop earlier because of worries about shipping delays or concerns the pandemic will make it harder to shop in some way, Blackhawk found.

Gift card purchasing may also be spurred by consumer shifts to digital transactions during the pandemic, according to the research. Nearly 60% of those surveyed said they’ve started or increased their use of digital wallets and 43% reported increased use of digital gift cards during the pandemic.

Younger consumers are leading the tech-enabled shift, with 61% of Gen Z consumers and 67% of millennials saying they will buy holiday gifts digitally this year, the survey found.

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