Holiday Gift Card Update: Despite Positive Sales Trends, Winter Storm Freezes Out Gift Card Sales on Key Shopping Day

Top Takeaways:

  • – Total holiday gift card sales value is up in 2022 while the total number of cards sold is down.
  • – Digital gift card sales continue their rise.
  • – The large holiday winter storm cooled what is traditionally the biggest day of gift card sales.
  • – More consumers are opting for higher value gift cards.
  • – Fine dining gift card sales are up, QSRs sales are down.

According to Paytronix Gift Card Data, some retailers have much to be cheerful about. An early look at the data shows that the shift to digital gift cards is in full swing and that dining trends across the country continue to trend towards sit-down concepts. Despite the swing to digital, an arctic blast translated to lower gift card sales on a key shopping day, demonstrating that gift card sales are not insulated from factors such as weather.

Holiday gift card sales are largely up across the board. The total dollar value of cards sold is up 2.2% versus 2019 and up 1.4% since 2021. 2022 was the best year for gift card sales in recent memory, with more dollars spent on gift cards between Black Friday and Christmas Eve than any year since 2019.

However, while the total dollars spent on gift cards has increased, the number of gift cards sold is substantially lower than previous years. For the holiday period from November to December, numbers of gift cards sold dropped by 5.1% vs 2019 and by 10.7% from 2022. However, this trend has a notable exception: digital gift cards. Between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, the value of physical gift cards is down nearly a fifth (22%) vs 2019 and down 7.9% since 2021. Digital gift cards, on the other hand, have seen the value of sales increase by a whopping 77% since 2019 for the same time period, while the value of digital gift cards sold also increased 4.6% since 2021.

One trend of note during the Holiday Season was the impact of a severe winter storm that froze out a large portion of the country just before Christmas. As shown in the chart below, December 23 is typically the best day for gift card sales. While this still held true for 2022, gift card sales suffered significantly, with numbers of cards sold per day down 32.6% from 2019, down 23% since 2022, and down 10.9 percent since 2020 during the height of the pandemic. Value of cards sold was down by 19% since 2019 and down 14.3% from 2021. Physical gift card sales in particular suffered significantly due to the storm, with numbers of in-store cards sold down by 37% as compared to 2019. Shoppers who procrastinated had to find other stocking stuffers this year as the weather prevented last-minute shopping.

Inflation has also impacted the values of gift cards sold.  $5 and $10 cards were far more popular in 2019, representing 11.2% and 16.7% of gift cards sold that year, respectively. During 2022, the sales of those values of cards dropped approximately 3% each, with sales of each representing 8.8% and 14.1% of total gift cards sold, respectively. On the other hand, sales of higher value gift cards increased to match, with sales of $50 growing from 12.2% to 16.3% and $100 gift cards getting a boost from 6% to 7.8%.

Finally, gift card sales this holiday season reveal that, 2 years out from the worst of the pandemic, consumer tastes are changing from both pre- and post- pandemic. Between Black Friday and Christmas Eve, the value of gift cards sold for QSRs dropped 3.2% compared to 2019 and 6.9% compared to 2021. But the value of cards for fine-dining restaurants has increased 9% compared to 2019 and by 3.7% as compared to 2021, indicating a building demand to revisit concepts with a sit-down model. Moreover, dollars spent per day for fine-dining gift cards during the holiday season is up 80% as compared to 2020’s holiday season, indicating the trends of the pandemic are receding.

So what does this all mean for restaurants? Inflation has taken its toll on the American consumer, but as previous Paytronix resources have shown, loyalty offerings like gift cards are an effective shield against inflation. Moreover, the concepts that suffered the worst during the pandemic are enjoying a resurgence. Finally, the proliferation of digital gift cards shows that digital guest engagement is increasing in popularity and will likely continue to build in popularity.

And of course, cross your fingers for good weather on December 23rd next year.

A photo of the posts author

The Author
Chuck Tanowitz directs marketing communications for Paytronix.

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