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Supply chain issues could make it a big year for gift cards

Supply chain slowdowns could make some popular holiday gift items hard to get this season, meaning it could be a big year for gift cards. A survey by Blackhawk Network found shoppers were planning to spend 27% more on gift cards this year.

Once considered an impersonal and thoughtless present of last resort, gift cards have become not just acceptable but popular — especially among young people — said business professor Dan Horne at Providence College.

Gift cards can be bought and sent online, super niche — say from the local artisan cheese shop — or super broad from an e-commerce giant that sells everything. Or they can be bought from a vendor that doesn’t sell things at all.

“There’s a preference for experiences that they can remember,” Horne said. “You know, a dinner or travel or something like that.”

Retailers love gift cards because they can bring in new customers and lock in future sales. Consumers usually spend 40% more than what’s on the gift card, according to Theresa McEndree with Blackhawk Network, which issues gift cards.

“You’re going to splurge a little bit,” she said. “You’re going to buy something that maybe you wouldn’t normally treat yourself with.” Ideally at a future nonholiday date, when everybody else isn’t trying to buy the same thing.

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