Gift cards have seemingly been with us forever, but in their current, non-paper, format the history of the gift card isn’t all that long.
Although paper cards and schemes like book tokens were around long before, the history of the plastic card can be traced back to the early 1970s when retailers including JC Penney and MacDonald’s introduced a thin plastic card. The retailers needed a more secure and accountable method of tracking and redeeming payments than the paper version.
However, it wasn’t until the mid-nineties that the popularity of the gift card really took off. Since then the rise has been meteoric.
With each passing year, the figures have grown and according to a report commissioned by Business Wire, the growth forecast for the years 2020 – 2024 is $527 billion. This is a staggering figure, and the rise shows no signs of slowing down.
Gift cards: Driving the Gifting Culture
Every holiday season, be it Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, or on special days like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day sees a spike in gift card sales. But there is an underlying trend that suggests a ‘gifting culture’ is emerging.
It is really a magnification of a culture that already existed but has been coming more to the fore since the advent of cards and the convenience that they offer. The growth of this culture has driven the increase in card sales. Among the factors behind this phenomenon is organizations that reward employees with gift cards to recognize and reward their achievements.
And another is the variety of cards now available. Cards can be used in restaurants, grocery stores, supermarkets, department stores, specialty shops, cafés, as well as for nights out at the movies or for other entertainment.
The Future of Gift Cards
You might think after reading through this article that gift cards are here to stay. But that isn’t the case, at least not in the form that we currently know them. Single-use plastics are becoming a huge factor in the fight against global warming, pollution, and resource sustainability.
It is these factors that will sound the death knell for the gift card. But don’t worry your favorite way of giving gifts isn’t going anywhere soon. It is merely going to follow the trend that is already happening to cash.
While the buzzwords ‘cashless society’ is becoming an increasing reality, the same future waits in store for gift cards. Digital gift cards are increasingly becoming the preferred method for many retailers and offer great advantages over the plastic cards of old.
A digital gift card performs the same function, has the same advantages, and is even more convenient than its plastic equivalent.
This holiday season many of us will give and receive gift cards. They are part and parcel of modern life and they are here to stay in one form or another.
Despite there being the odd downside to them, in most ways they are the perfect gift. They can’t be the wrong size or color; they can’t be a meaningless gift that will gather dust in the darkest corner of your wardrobe.
If you are in any doubt about what to get someone this holiday season, then the gift card is the perfect choice.