US holiday gift card market seen flat to down 5 pct - survey

Oct 8 (Reuters) - The 2009 holiday gift card market in the United States is expected to trend between staying flat at $24.9 billion to falling 5 percent, a survey released on Thursday said. While Americans are still buying gift cards, their average value has dropped $6 or 11.5 percent to $46, according to the survey by Archstone Consulting.

Not only are consumers buying gift cards that have less value, they are also redeeming them for necessities and practical purchases at big box retailers, restaurants or department stores versus using them for discretionary items.

“Values per card are down, and the focus (similar to last year) is on the pragmatic not frivolous,” Archstone Consulting’s “2009 Gift Card Trend Report” said.

The secondary market for gift cards through websites like eBay Inc EBAY.O and has survived because it gives card recipients the option of swapping the card or selling it for cash, the Archstone survey said.

American Express Co AXP.N said last week it was getting rid of monthly fees on all its gift cards, attempting to appease holiday shoppers who may worry that their cards will lose value if not used quickly. [ID:nN30220049] (Reporting by Shradhha Sharma in Bangalore; Editing by Anthony Kurian)