CHICAGO While gift cards remain the most requested holiday item, U.S. shoppers are expected to pull back on buying them this year because of the weak economy, according to a retail survey released on Thursday.
Shoppers, on average, will each spend $139.91 on gift cards this year, down 5 percent from last year's $147.33, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and BIGresearch. Two years ago, the average was $156.24.
Total spending on gift cards is expected to be $23.63 billion, down from an expected $24.92 billion last year, NRF said.
"The drop could be attributed to the fact that a lot of people, especially in this economy, are more interested in getting two gifts for the price of one gift card, because so many gifts are on sale," NRF spokeswoman Kathy Grannis said.
People receiving the gift cards as presents can expect lower amounts of money on the cards this year as the average value per card this year will be $39.80, off 1.8 percent from last year, according to the NRF.
Consistent with last year, 77.2 percent of people will buy at least one card this holiday season, the survey said.
Department store gift cards will be the most popular at 38.4 percent with gift givers, followed by restaurants at 33.4 percent, bookstores at 24.4 percent, electronic stores at 18.8 percent and discount stores at 16.3 percent, the NRF said.
In addition, 22.1 percent of gift givers will give a gift card issued by a credit card or bank, the NRF said.
Another recent NRF survey found that 22.1 percent of gift givers said the main reason for not buying gift cards is they are too impersonal while almost 13 percent worry about expiration dates or fees.
In the most recent survey, 8,692 people were polled from November 3-10 and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 1 percentage point.
(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)