Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ominous Signs for Gift Card Tuesday

We all know about Black Friday -- the day after Thanksgiving where people finally buy enough to put businesses in "the black." In recent years we have had Cyber Monday (the Monday following Thanksgiving in which people make most of their holiday online purchases) and I have been talking about Gift Card Tuesday both on the radio and online.

On the first Tuesday of February 2009, retailers will announce how much they made from gift cards sold in November of this year. Companies don't know based on the cards sold, ironically, but from the purchases that comes from the cards. Gift Card Tuesday will not be very pretty this time I am afraid.

This is due to several reasons. The first reason is obvious -- spending has reached a new low for consumers on this holiday season. People are extremely fearful about their finances and are reducing costs at every opportunity.

A second reason is closely associated with the first and that is the concern about the large number of retail businesses that are going under. There is sense that many more will go under right after Christmas and people will be stuck with cards that have little to no value. What could keep these companies in business -- an influx of new customers buying cards -- may not happen because consumers believe these business may become history. One of those interesting paradoxes of business. Because of this paradox, many more businesses may join the ranks of Circuit City (see video above) that are now out of business.

With the many other more urgent and pressing headlines, we haven't seen much about the economic impact of gift cards lately. I am sure we will in February.

Kevin Price is a syndicated columnist whose articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media. Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business (M-F at 11 AM on CNN 650) and Publisher of the Houston Business Review. Hear the show live and online at PriceofBusiness.com. Visit the archive of past shows here.

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