Gift cards remain popular in the UK

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One in four people prefer to receive vouchers, gift cards or tokens compared to a particular product, according to a study commissioned by Royal Mail. A fifth of gift givers prefers to purchase a voucher too. On average, almost three quarters of Britons buy gift cards, vouchers or tokens as presents.

Gift cards always seem a bizarre present to me – you take a perfectly good £20 note that can be spent in just about every shop in the country or paid into a bank account and exchange it for a voucher (whether paper, plastic or digital) that can only be spent at one retailer, has an expiry date, and as is only too often seen in recent times could be rendered worthless if the retailer goes into liquidation. If that wasn’t bad enough, some £300 million worth of gift cards purchased each year are never redeemed!

The average amount that people spend on gift cards is £20. Those in the 55 years and over age bracket tend to spend £23, compared to 18-24 year olds who spend £17. Northern Ireland residents are the most likely to buy gift vouchers and they spend the most on average (£23) per person.

Gift vouchers for general retailers are the most popular (39%) purchases, followed by clothes retailers (21%).

Vouchers driving online shopping and home delivery

With the advent of the smartphone, digital vouchers and voucher sites have flourished, creating an integrated experience that makes it easy for customers to redeem their gift vouchers. According to Royal Mail’s survey, the majority of people spend the full amount received on their gift voucher in one go (that’s not really surprising, the last £20 gift card I received was for Next and they don’t sell many jumpers or pairs of jeans under £20 so I ended up paying for part of my own birthday present!)

Vouchers and tokens through the years

The UK’s first voucher – the Book Token – appeared on the scene in 1930. In the years that followed, retailers like Littlewoods and Co-op began issuing coupons and vouchers. Luncheon Vouchers appeared in 1955 and Green Shield Stamps in 1958, taking their place in British cultural life alongside Milk Tokens and Theatre Tokens. Since then, we’ve seen the emergence of highly successful voucher schemes from retailers including Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Next.

Over the years, vouchers have evolved from paper to plastic and then into digital form. According to the UK Gift Card & Voucher Association, more than 30% of vouchers were still paperback in 2012. By 2017, this had fallen to 9%. Conversely, digital vouchers grew to take up 9% of the market by 2017.”

Marketplace gift cards

One of the more obvious gift cards available today are Amazon Gift Cards. Amazon have a generous expiry period giving up to 10 years to spend the value and of course, once added to your Amazon account, are almost impossible to lose.

Notably, eBay don’t have a gift card programme in the UK, although you can buy PayPal digital gift cards on Perhaps once they convert to Adyen for eBay Payments eBay gift cards will be introduced around the world?

“Ever since first appearing on the UK scene back in 1930, the humble voucher has proven to be an enduring gift choice for many people over the years. The explosion in digital vouchers has helped drive online shopping habits and the growth in home delivery. UK sales of gift cards and vouchers will likely continue to experience strong growth as online shopping increasingly becomes part of our daily lives.”
– Royal Mail

One Response

  1. Gift vouchers make no sense. How about I take your money (which you can spend in any shop), limit you to only spend it in my shop and give it an expiry date. You know, like money doesn’t have.


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