Research into 2000 UK shoppers revealed that gift cards overtook physical gifts during the Covid-19 crisis

The research, carried out in partnership with GlobalData, found that, of those that purchased gifts for loved ones during lockdown, 14% bought a gift card for somebody else, outselling physical gifts at just 12%. When quizzed about their motivations for switching to gift cards, 30% of respondents highlighted the increased difficulty of purchasing physical gifts in lockdown, with gift cards offering greater convenience.

A further 25% did so due to the ease of having gift cards delivered. More than one in five (21%) of consumers purchased gift cards to support their favourite businesses during a difficult period, highlighting a growing trend among consumers to spend with brands that have prioritised customer service and loyalty. This has been particularly noticeable among younger consumers, with 32.5% of those aged 16-24, and 33.8% of 25-34, purchasing for this reason. 

Retail gift cards remain the most popular form of gift cards, purchased by 44% of shoppers, followed by multi-store gift cards, which were bought by 38% of consumers. Gaming gift cards have also seen a boost during lockdown, having been purchased by 24% of respondents. Gaming gift cards have proved particularly popular among younger age groups, with 24.7% of shoppers aged 16-24 and 21.6% of those aged 25-34, purchasing since the lockdown. 

Experience gift cards, which can be spent on activities such as weekends away, or at local bars and restaurants, were purchased by 16% of consumers, with a further 10% having purchased leisure gift cards, reflecting continued public uncertainty around when, or if, businesses throughout the sector will be able to reopen.

Delhi Fair 2024

Interestingly, almost half (45%) of gift cards purchased during lockdown were from physical stores, due to a combination of the increasing popularity of supermarkets and convenience stores as avenues for gift card purchasing. Gift card malls – a wall of branded gift cards from a range of retailers, located in a store – will have also contributed to this growth, with 7.2% of shoppers most likely to purchase gift cards in this way. 

‘Some of the UK’s most popular gifting occasions, such as Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, fell during lockdown,’ said Gail Cohen, director general of the GCVA. ‘To adhere to social distancing, consumers needed gifting solutions that minimise contact, could be sent instantly, and enjoyed at a later date. For this, as well as recognising our key workers and even keeping the nation fed, gift cards have been the perfect solution.’

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