Bargain-hunting Shoppers Sink Gift Card Sales

Associated Press - December 26, 2008 4:03 PM ET

NEW YORK (AP) - The big bargain appears to have gotten the better of the gift card this holiday season.

After rising in popularity in recent years, retail analysts say sales of store gift cards have fallen off. They are expected to generate $61 billion in sales in the fourth quarter. That's down from $70 billion during the same period last year.

Analysts says with stores offering unprecedented discounts, shoppers realized they could give bigger and better gifts and perhaps even save money by taking advantage of the sales instead of buying cards that were good for future purchases.

Another concern is the financial health of the stores themselves, with buyers wondering which retailer might be the next to go under, leaving their gift cards worthless.

Gift cards from financial institutions like Visa, however, are expected to increase slightly from $27 billion in last year's fourth quarter.

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