Plastic Over Paper: Gift Cards Increase Sales With Less Effort

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A number of retail studies have shown that consumers are opting for gift cards in a big way. Among the statistics reported: 70 percent of all gift certificates in 2002 were sold in the card format, and gift card sales are at least 15 to 20 percent higher than gift certificate sales. Stores also benefit from the instant electronic data transmission and online reports that a gift card program provides.

Jill Perlstein, ABA's director of marketing, recently spoke to Bookselling This Week about the advantages of the new Book Sense Gift Card Program administered by Givex. "All sales and redemption reports are available online, and booksellers can run them as frequently as they like," Perlstein said. "And stores can track their sales and redemption of gift cards precisely, unlike paper certificates, which require in-store bookkeeping and obligate the redeeming store to mail in the certificates in a timely fashion."

All activation, redemption, and reconciliation reports are available to a bookseller who can immediately analyze how the cards are performing in the stores and what the store's liability is. For state and local regulations regarding unclaimed property, booksellers can immediately determine what amounts have been paid for by consumers but have not been used for merchandise.

"Some states have been enforcing these consumer laws aggressively, and ABA strongly urges booksellers to familiarize themselves with their local and state laws," Perlstein explained.

Generic Book Sense gift cards will be ready to ship this week. Store owners who wish to personalize the generic Book Sense card with their store logo should plan for an additional 10 to 15 working days before the cards can be shipped, and stores needing to see a proof of the card with their store's logo will wait longer than 10 days, Perlstein noted. Stores that wish to create a completely custom card (all cards must include the Book Sense logo) should expect an eight-week turnaround once the design has been approved by the Book Sense marketing department. Perlstein advises those who plan to offer a custom card to also order a minimum supply of generic cards to ensure holiday availability.

One of those planning to create a custom gift card is Karen Spengler, owner of I Love a Mystery in Mission, Kansas. She told BTW, "[Because] we are a mystery specialty store, we'd like to have our identity clearly visible. I think we'll sell more that way. For our customers, our logo is very significant."

Spengler anticipates a very positive response to the cards. "This is going to be much better than the paper certificate," she explained. "It's going to be great to have these at the point of sale and all around the store. It makes us look like a player with the big stores. We want the card in the customer's pocket to remind people that we're here. This is exciting because we can use this as a branding tool along with Book Sense."

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