As much as £300 million worth of gift vouchers bought this year could go unspent according to research by the UK Gift Card and Voucher Association (UKGCVA). Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson is today (27 December 2014) urging consumers to spend and enjoy any vouchers they get for Christmas before they expire.
Every year 6% of vouchers bought by consumers go unused as they lay forgotten in people’s wallets and drawers.
In 2013 some £2.5 billion worth of gift cards and vouchers were sold in UK retail stores as gifts and £2.25 billion were purchased by businesses as staff or customer rewards. Meanwhile a UKGCVA report shows that in the third quarter of 2014, the gift card and voucher industry grew by 10%. The UK industry as a whole is now worth £5 billion.
Consumer Affairs Minister Jo Swinson said:
Cards and vouchers are a popular gift choice at this time of year, but many people do not even realise that there is an expiry date and fail to check the details. Hundreds of millions of pounds is going unspent, which means consumers are losing out.
I would urge people to look carefully at the terms and conditions on the voucher or gift card and if it is not perfectly clear how long it is valid for, they should contact the retailer who issued it so that they know when they need to use it by. It is a real shame to miss out on a gift because a card or voucher is left hidden in a drawer.
Modern technology may provide the answer as digital vouchers, such as those that can be loaded on to a mobile phone, are becoming more popular according to the UKGCVA, and may be more likely to be used because the recipient does not have to remember to take a physical piece of plastic or paper with them to the shops.
Andrew Johnson, Director-General of the UK Gift Card & Voucher Associations said:
Whilst money does of course go unspent on gift cards and vouchers due to them being left in drawers or forgotten about, it is important to note that retailers actually prefer customers to spend their gift cards and vouchers, as opposed to leaving them unspent. Firstly, people using gift cards spend 40% more than the value of the voucher on purchases in store or online. Secondly, gift cards and vouchers provide multiple benefits to retailers, such as introducing new customers and increasing footfall.
The majority of customers spend vouchers within the first 3 to 6 months of receiving them and it is important to remember that the vast majority of consumers that use their gift vouchers do have a positive experience of the process, and greatly value the flexibility and choice that this option provides.
To make sure that you get the most out of your gift voucher you should:
- check the expiry date and the terms and conditions - if it is not clear, ask for clarification and don’t be afraid to challenge the retailer if things are still unclear
- when passing on as a gift – make sure that you point out the value, terms and conditions, and in particular the expiry date
- remember they are like cash and make sure you keep them in a safe place
- ask for an extension even if they have expired – sometimes this is possible so it is always worth asking