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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

Gift cards marketed to youngest consumers

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Giving gift cards to children for Christmas is a growing trend.
SIKESTON -- Not sure which doll little Susie wants for Christmas this year? Or does Tommy already have the action figure you're planning to buy him?

Then maybe a gift card or certificate is the answer. That's what more and more people are opting to give to children for the holidays.

A study by ComData, a third-party gift card provider, found after last holiday season that 72 percent of people who have kids ages 5 to 8 say their children have received a gift card.

The average amount put on gift cards for that age group was $31 to $33, the study found.

ComData's clients, retailers such as Gap Kids, Gymboree, Toys "R" Us and The Children's Place, noticed a purchasing pattern: relatives, including aunts, uncles and grandparents, were buying gift cards not only for teenagers, but for young children, too, says Bob Skiba, a ComData spokesman.

Although Cindy Dyson of Sikeston doesn't give her grandchildren gift cards for Christmas, she knows they receive them from others.

"My elderly aunt gives all the kids gift cards," Dyson said. "They're at the age where she's not sure what to buy for them. And my mom is getting to that point, too."

The fourth annual National Retail Federation Gift Card Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found that gift card sales (for all ages) will total $24.81 billion this holiday season -- a $6 billion increase over 2005 when gift card sales hit $18.48 billion. And the average consumer will spend more on gift cards than they did last year ($116.51 vs. $88.03 in 2005).

Amy Graham, service desk representative at Toys "R" Us in Cape Girardeau, said gift card sales are high during the holiday season.

"I think a lot of reasons people are buying gift cards is they don't want to buy a toy the child has already got or duplicate one they may be getting. If you get a child a gift card, they can get what they want," Graham said.

Toys "R" Us gift cards are available in designs geared to fit each child's interests --from Dora the Explorer and Cinderella to Batman and Spiderman.

"Kids seem to really like them, and they know what gift cards are," Graham said.

Lori Richardson, assistant manager of KB Toys Outlet at Sikeston Factory Outlet Stores, said gift card sales have increased because of Christmas.

"It's especially aunts, uncles and grandparents who purchase gift cards because they aren't sure what to get them," Richardson said.

KB Toys also offers a variety of holiday- and character-themed gift cards. Barbie, Hot Wheels, Santa Claus, "Happy Feet" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" are just a few of the characters featured.

"Children are getting more picky, and the smaller kids are wanting more high-tech gifts," Richardson said about the popularity of gift cards among youngsters.

Customers are allowed to put any amount over $3 on the cards. Richardson estimated most people put between $20 and $25 on the gift cards they purchase.

KB Toys gift cards are good for up to a year, and if consumers use them after the year is up, cards begin to depreciate, Richardson said.

Giving children choices is why American Express launched a specialty gift card this spring called "Especially for ... Kids." The card is sold nationwide in grocery, drug and convenience stores and is expected to be a big seller this holiday season, said Scott Scovel, vice president for gift cards.

"People joke about it as sort of a credit card on training wheels for them," Scovel said. "We found there was a really big consumer demand for something focused on children."

With bright colors and graphics, the card is obviously marketed to children, and certain retailers, such as Build-A-Bear and KB Toys, offer special deals that take $5 off purchases.

And the children seem to be satisfied with receiving gift cards, Dyson said.

"The kids love it," Dyson said. "They get to pick out what they want, and they're more apt to get what they want. That way it isn't wasted on something they won't use.

"Plus, after Christmas, when the children redeem their gift cards, there's a better selection of merchandise," Dyson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.