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Gift Cards Boom winter season


Remember when the holiday shopping season ended when the holiday was over? No more.

"It never ends!" laughs retail analyst Wendy Liebmann of WSL, a retail analyst firm. "It just goes ooooon and ooooon and ooooon …"

In January, the nation's retailers used to rake out the aisles, restack all of the unsold sweaters and throw the sheets on a big table for the biannual White Sale. But now January is growing in importance. Retail sales rose 10.5% in January this year vs. 2005, when they rose 7.5%. In 2004, January sales rose 6.1%.

Retailers are restocking shelves with fresh merchandise and selling early, early spring fashions before most consumers have tossed their Christmas trees out on the curb.
All because of a small plastic card — the gift card.

"January is no longer a dead month," says Dan Horne, a marketing professor at Providence College in Providence. "Now, retailers are holding back hot items to entice consumers coming into their stores in January bearing their Christmas gift cards."

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