National Retail Federation analysts anticipate consumer spending on gift cards this year will top $23 billion.
The Consumer's Edge developed the reputation of being anti-gift card over the last couple of years. Part of the issue has been about consumers leaving billions of dollars on unused gift cards, and the other issue is that people should go out and actually find a gift for someone.
(You know Big Mama would always say, "it's not the gift, it's the thought that counts.")
Well, Plastic Jungle, a Mountain View, Calif., company, appears to be breathing new life into gift cards. The 3-year-old company allows consumers to buy, sell, trade and donate gift cards.
This might well be the best thing to happen to a gift card.
Kristin Cunningham, a former St. Petersburg resident and 1994 graduate of Shorecrest Preparatory School, runs the marketing operations for Plastic Jungle and has seen steady growth in traffic on the site.
"Traffic is growing 20 percent month over month," Cunningham said. "We really wanted to create a solution that was valuable to consumers."
Here's how it works:
Consumers can visit Plastic Jungle's site (www.plasticjungle.com) for a transaction.
For sales and trades, the consumer will give up about 10 percent of the value of the card in exchange for cash or to trade for another gift card.
The card must have a value of at least $25 and cannot exceed $10,000.
For purchases, the consumer can buy a gift card at a discount of 10 to as much as 40 percent.
So the value of the card gives consumers an automatic discount at the store, in addition to any sales or coupons they might have.
"Once people get used to the concept, they start poking around the site," Cunningham said. "Gift cards can be a fantastic way to get a discount."
Retailers also are looking at ways to use gift cards as incentives for consumers.
"Many retailers are offering incentives on these popular items to help bargain-hunters stretch their budgets even farther," Tracy Mullin, president and chief executive officer of the National Retail Federation.
A survey by the retail federation found that 22.1 percent of gift givers still say they find gift cards impersonal.
So here's the Edge:
• Don't sit on your gift card. Increasingly, expiration dates are being eliminated from many gift cards. But you can lose value on some gift cards if not used.
• Give enough on a gift card so the receiver can purchase a product at the store you chose. Oftentimes a gift card goes unused because the receiver can't buy anything with the amount on the card.