CU estimates that 23.3 million Americans haven’t used last year’s gift cards

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Thinking About Giving Socks This Holiday Season?
Try a Home Entertainment System Instead
Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll Reveals
How Americans Plan to Shop for the 2006 Holidays

Yonkers, NY (October 25, 2006) – What’s in your wallet? If you’re like many Americans, chances are good it’s an unused gift card. Over half (54%) of respondents to a new Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll said they received gift cards last year, yet nearly a year later, 19%, or an estimated 23.3 million Americans have not used them. Why not? Among the reasons: gift cards were lost or expired cards, which should make gift-givers think twice.
The Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll found that despite the abundance of unused gift cards, they are a major component of holiday giving. Close to two-thirds (60%) of Americans plan to purchase gift cards this holiday season.
“Our findings reinforce that consumers should think twice about giving gift cards this holiday season,” said Tod Marks, senior editor, Consumer Reports. “While gift cards can be an easy way for someone to get the ‘perfect gift,’ recipients often have to deal with expiration dates, maintenance or dormancy fees!”
The Reports Holiday Shopping Poll also finds:
Holiday Shopping Has Begun
• As of October 15, almost one-third (29%) of Americans have gotten a jump start on their holiday shopping.
• Nearly half (49%) anticipate that they will have completed their shopping by the second week of December. By December 23, 22% of respondents said they still won’t be done with their shopping with about 6% not completing their lists until after Christmas.
Attention Wal-Mart Shoppers!
• Most (71%) of American consumers intend to buy their gifts for the 2006 holidays at discount mass merchandisers, like Wal-Mart or Target. Department stores come in second place with 62% while 52% of American shoppers this season will buy from independent retailers.
• Only two categories of retailers, discount mass merchandisers and online, will see appreciable increases in gift buying this year. The biggest declines will be seen in department stores and outlets.
Are You Safe Shopping Online?
• Thirty-nine percent of Americans plan on purchasing their gifts online this year, a number driven by 18-34 year olds, of whom 50% said they will do their shopping online.
• Of those who plan on purchasing their gifts online, the majority (72%) are concerned about the security of their financial or personal information.
• Most (86%) of those expressing concern have taken precautions to protect themselves. Among those, more than 80% have taken the basic precautions of securing passwords, using sites with secure connections, only shopping at well known sites, and printing and saving online receipts. But, only 64% make sure to always use the same credit card for online shopping.
What (Not) to Put on Your List
• The number one gift category consumers are planning to buy for the 2006 holiday season is clothing (73%) followed by gift cards (60%), toys (54%) and electronics (53%). Within the electronics category, video game systems (21%), home video entertainment systems (20%), mp3 players including iPods (19%), and digital cameras (18%) are the leading choices.
• Make your list, but check it twice. The most desired gift category among men is electronics (21%), and among women, gift cards (16%) are top, followed by jewelry (12%).
• Buyer beware. In 2005, clothing was the most disappointing category of gifts received (36%) — the biggest offender was socks (11%).
Consumer Reports Holiday Shopping Poll Methodology
The Consumer Reports National Research Center conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative probability sample of telephone households. One thousand interviews were completed among adults aged 18+. Interviewing took place over October 12-15, 2006. The margin of error is +/- 3% points at a 95% confidence level.
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CONTACTS:
Rachel Levy Konik/The Rosen Group
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Lauren Hackett/Consumer Reports
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