Starbucks is rapidly becoming a leader in the holiday shopping economy. While massive retailers with a diverse range of gift options, like the ubiquitous Walmart and Amazon, have typically conquered the holiday season, Starbucks is proving that their gift card sales can be just as formidable.
According to Fortune, Starbucks recently announced that one in seven Americans received a Starbucks gift card over the course of the 2014 holiday season. With over 320 million American citizens, that means approximately 46 million gift cards were sold, up from the 40 million Starbucks gift cards that were sold during the 2013 holiday season.
Starbucks has become one of the most popular choices for gift card purchases, due in part to its widespread appeal, but the rise of the gift card economy itself is an equally likely motivator for the spike in sales this past season. According to the Kansas City Star, 62 percent of United States consumers planned on purchasing at least one gift card during the holiday shopping season.
While some critics have pointed out the downsides of gift cards — including the impersonality of the gift, the lack of thought the gift requires, and the ease of misplacing the gift — gift cards seem to be a mainstay in the U.S. holiday economy. This remains, even despite the fact that one in four gift card recipients do not use the gift card within the first year of possession.
Unused gift cards have become such a problem that secondary economies for them have arisen. Transaction websites like GiftCardRescue and Plastic Jungle offer to buy unused gift cards at a discount, then reselling those discounted gift cards for a few additional dollars.
If you plan on buying gift cards in the future, for birthday or special occasion gifts or even for the next holiday season, there are a few factors to keep in mind. As a recent article on Inquisitr points out, some gift cards contain purchase fees or dormancy fees, which can cost the purchaser extra money or take money away from the value of the gift card if not used within a given time period. Also, keep in mind that some gift cards may be more valuable than others, due to “extra” benefits or perks offered by the company selling them.
There are many opinions on the appropriateness and utility of gift cards, but no matter where you stand, gift cards are a strong and growing part of the holiday economy.