by Alex Palmer | December 05, 2017
Thanksgiving weekend was a big win for retailers and consumers this year -- and gift cards were a major driver of that for both sides. That was among the findings from the National Retail Federation (NRF), which reported that more than 174 million Americans shopped in brick-and-mortar and online retail stores -- a jump from the 164 million estimated to have shopped over the same weekend last year. 

The survey, conducted by the NRF in partnership with Prosper Insights & Analytics, drew on the responses of 3,242 consumers about their Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday shopping plans, and found that gift cards were one of the most popular gifts purchased over the weekend, cited by 23 percent of shoppers. This made it the fifth-most popular gift choice, following clothing or accessories (cited by 58 percent of respondents), toys (38 percent), books and media (31 percent), and electronics (30 percent).

The number of gifts cards people expected to purchase increased compared to last year. While the shoppers planned to purchase an average of three cards in the 2016 survey, this year that average had increased to four. 
 
"Gift cards continue to be one of the top gifts of choice since it allows the consumer to get the exact item they want for the holidays instead of having to deal with the struggles of returning or exchanging their gift," Ana Serafin Smith, senior director of media relations for the National Retail Federation, told Incentive

She added that gift cards were also a top gift for individuals to receive, with 61 percent of respondents saying they would like to receive a gift card over the holiday season, compared to 59 percent in 2015 (this year's number was flat compared to 2016). 

While 77 million consumers did in-store shopping on Black Friday and 55 million shopped at brick-and-mortar the following day, Small Business Saturday, online shopping beat out in-store with 81 million consumers going online to shop on Cyber Monday and 66 million doing so on Black Friday. As mobile technology grows in the gift card sector, consumers showed great interest in this sector, with 63 percent of smartphone owners saying they used their mobile devices to make holiday decisions and 29 percent using them to make actual purchases.