DALLAS -- 7-Eleven here added a freestanding "gift-card" shop in its stores, according to the company.
The gift-card center features cards with values from $10 to $70 for participating retailers, restaurants and other businesses that includes iTunes Music Store, Blockbuster, Hollywood Entertainment, Bennigan's, Steak and Ale, Bonanza, Ponderosa, Sharper Image, Bass Pro Foot Locker, FTD.com, and America West Airlines, the first airline to offer gift cards.
7-Eleven has been involved with prepaid cards for several years, and gift cards were the first prepaid product the retailer offered. A financial-services kiosk was launched earlier this year. The chain also offers its own prepaid card, the 7-Eleven Convenience Card, which can be loaded with amounts ranging from $5 to $500.
The new gift cards are being offered in addition to the eCash and Convenience Card offerings, confirmed Kevin Gardner, director, marketing communications for 7-Eleven. Sources from 7-Eleven were unavailable to comment further.
"The way retailers are marketing gift cards has changed. They're advertising their gift cards now. It's not just a side service, it's actual product and inventory," said Scott Krugman, spokesman for the National Retail Federation, Washington. This has reached the point where retailers market the cards as an impulse buy in the checkout line, he said.
"Supermarkets have been doing this for the last couple of the years right at the checkout counter. Gift cards for your favorite retailers, department stores, specialty stores, you name it," he said.
Gift cards were the hot gift of the season, according to media reports and studies tracking consumer-buying habits. Leading up to the holidays, the average consumer said they planned to spend 11.5% of their holiday budget, or an average $80.45, on gift cards this year, according to the findings of the second annual NRF Gift Card Survey.
The survey also found that 74.4% of consumers anticipated purchasing a gift card during the holidays, up from 69.9% the previous year. A total of $17.34 billion was expected to be spent on gift cards during the holiday season, according to the survey, and 50.2% of consumers said they would like to receive gift cards.
"The stigma of a gift card as a Christmas gift has gone away," Krugman told SN.
Midway through the holiday season, after the NRF study was released, a 20% growth in sales of gift cards was seen, Krugman said. The NRF study was done too early to reflect that level of sales, he said.
"Gift cards are no longer considered the lazy way to shop or as a last resort for those uncreative types," said Ron Hannah, category manager for payment card development, 7-Eleven, in a statement about the new offering. "Today people are asking specifically for, and hoping to get, gift cards. The cards are small and easy for us to carry."