The news: A new survey validates what you've probably been thinking for awhile: Receiving iTunes gift cards are the worst.
Uber-consulting firm Deloitte released findings Wednesday that only 37% of Americans said they'd settle for a gift card as a present this holiday season, down from 45% in 2012 when they first started asking this question. And 43% of consumers plan to buy gift cards for their loved ones, down sharply from its peak of 67% in 2007.
Recent reports have shown that people simply don't use gift cards. The Wall Street Journal reported that more than $41 billion in gift cards went unspent from 2005 to 2011. That's likely because it's to stores they don't want (JC Penney again?) or because they simply forgot they even had one.
But analyst Brian Riley of TowerGroup estimated that "vast majority of the money put on gift cards gets redeemed."
People who do still spend money on gift cards may subconsciously know that people don't use them. Deloitte's survey, which polled 5,000 shoppers, discovered that those who do end up buying gift cards will spend $159 on them, down $5 from last year and well below its peak in 2007 at $199. (Regardless, that's still a lot of money at Macy's.)
Are gift cards over? Yes and no.
"The novelty of gift cards has worn off," Alison Paul, Deloitte's vice chair and retail sector leader, told MarketWatch. She credits the drop to the improving economy because are "they are less concerned about sticking to a budget and more likely to buy things spontaneously."
But that doesn't mean your aunt isn't going to stop giving you Starbucks gift cards every time your birthday or Christmas rolls around. Consulting firm PwC reported that 58% of 2,200 customers polled plan to get a gift card this year because they're convenient. That's an increase of five percentage points over last year.
Also, retailers will keep thrusting them at shoppers because they lure people in who otherwise might not visit them. It's estimated that by 2016, $140 billion in sales will come from gift cards, an increase from $118 billion last year.