Men Emerge as Primary Gift Card Purchasers in the U.S.

gift card

New research from Blackhawk Network (BHN) reveals shifting gift card and gifting preferences among U.S. consumers. Among the most notable shifts found in the research: men have emerged as the primary gift card buyer in the U.S. for the first time.

“Gift cards remain a win-win for both consumers and retailers, but after years of confusion and anxiety around the economy and the rising cost-of-living, it’s important to continue to reassess how consumers are purchasing and utilizing gift cards,” said Jay Jaffin, chief marketing officer, BHN, in a news release. “Our research shows that consumers overall continue to value the convenience and flexibility of gift cards, but we’re also seeing shifts in who is buying gift cards and where. These insights offer retailers and restaurants a valuable look at the trends driving consumer gift card usage and how that will impact the way they manage their gift card programs this year and beyond.”

The Gift Card Buyer is Shifting

As gender roles continue to evolve and men take on more of the household shopping, gifting and gift card purchasing, trends are shifting. For the first time since BHN started conducting consumer gifting research, men are the primary gift card buyers among the consumers surveyed, the company states.

While men and women are similar in the types of gift cards they plan to purchase in the next year (e.g., single brand vs. multi-brand cards), men tend to purchase more gift cards to electronics and video game retailers than women—who reported purchasing personal care and beauty cards more than men. Gift card purchases have also gone from a go-to last-minute gift to a planned purchase with 71% of surveyed consumers reporting that their gift card purchases are planned, according to BHN.

Where gift cards are being purchased also continues to evolve. In-store continues to remain a place where consumers purchase gift cards (men are about 20% more likely to purchase physical cards than women), but half of surveyed consumers are also purchasing gift cards through digital channels, BHN states. When it comes to in-store gift card purchases, consumers overwhelmingly purchase at a store that sells gift cards for a variety of brands (69%). In addition, 4 in 10 surveyed consumers purchase gift cards directly from the brand.

In order for merchants to maximize sales, they will need to meet consumers everywhere they shop for gift cards.

Everyday Gifting Presents Opportunities

Gift cards have been a go-to holiday gift for nearly two decades, but gift cards are also a desirable gift for everyday gifting occasions and a reliable way for retailers to connect with customers year-round. Surveyed consumers plan to buy more gift cards in 2024, with consumers planning to purchase 9 gift cards outside of the winter holiday season on average, according to BHN.

When giving gift cards as a gift, a vast majority of surveyed consumers (88%) also purchased other gifts to give alongside a gift card. Additionally, after receiving a gift card, 58% of surveyed consumers plan to spend more than the value of the gift card, BHN states. For merchants, these trends present an opportunity to capture increased shopping frequency and cart size, cross-merchandise across categories and drive more store visits.

Gift Cards Are Getting Greener

In 2022, BHN made a goal to convert the majority of its own gift card products and support its card partners in converting their own plastic products to paper substrates by the end of 2024. Thirty percent of surveyed consumers report they have purchased a paper gift card, according to BHN. In addition to the shift to paper gift cards, consumers also continue to increasingly embrace digital. Sixty percent of consumers plan to purchase a digital gift card in 2024, a 6% increase over last year.