Magazine Article | February 1, 2006

Order Holiday Gift Cards Now

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Don't run out of the most popular holiday gift.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, February 2006

Seems odd to be writing about holiday shopping trends now — even 2005 holiday spending reports are typically wrapped up by the end of January. But following a Q4 2005 conversation with Arthur Blank Sr. VP and gift card expert Don Volino, I vowed to write this column during Q1 2006 as a service to our readers. In October 2005, I had an opportunity to tour Arthur Blank's card manufacturing facility. The company is the nation's largest printer/producer of plastic cards, typically cranking in the neighborhood of 16 million cards per week out of its Boston plant. While it manufactures credit and debit cards, ID cards, driver's licenses, and virtually every other type of plastic card imaginable, most of last year's shipments were destined to become retail-branded gift cards. Last year, the company's 330 employees manufactured and shipped 1.3 billion cards.

Will Your Card Order Be Turned Away?
Despite the ability to produce such volume, Arthur Blank and other card manufacturers had to turn away gift card orders last fall due to an inability to meet holiday season demand. While it's a painful reality, this should come as no surprise. Gift card market growth holds steady in the ballpark of 15% to 18% annually, making gift cards among, if not the, most popular gift to give. That's great news for retailers, but gift card program management continues to challenge many.

Problem is, many departments in the retail organization have a stake — and a say — in the process. The buying department may place the orders, but marketing, merchandising, and creative folks have to get involved in the process too. Those who wait until late summer or fall to begin planning holiday gift card creative, promotions, and marketing strategies might scramble to have their orders placed in time for the holiday buying rush. Worse, they might not have their orders fulfilled at all.

The sad part of the story is that this time of year, plastic card manufacturers are perfectly capable of taking your orders and fulfilling them quickly. As a matter of fact, the seasonality of the gift card manufacturing business is rough on the plastic card industry. Presses that will be running wild in September and October — the time of year manufacturers begin turning holiday gift card orders away — are sitting idle now. Do yourself, your card-buying customers, and the plastic card industry a favor. Put your heads together now and place your orders for the 2006 holiday shopping season early.