Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A seal of security for gift cards

Sales of gift cards are expected to be bah-humbugged this year by fears the issuing restaurants will go bankrupt, leaving card holders with worthless plastic. Today several major chains revealed they’re hoping to allay those worries by promoting what amounts to a Good Shopping Seal of Approval.

They’ve formed a self-policing trade group, the Retail Gift Card Association, that will extend membership solely to restaurant and retailing brands with “longevity in the marketplace” and a commitment to “customer friendly practices.”

In addition, participants are required to meet “a set of principles” that protect card buyers, according to the announcement.

The charter members include Applebee’s, Subway and Marriott. Their partners are the retailing giants Best Buy and Home Depot.

The association said it will be strict in enforcing its membership requirements, but expressed hopes that all retailers will meet those standards and qualify for inclusion.

Research from the National Retail Federation indicates that 3.1 percent of shoppers are cutting back their gift card purchases this year because of fears that the issuing store or restaurant will go out of business. The NRF is forecasting that sales of cards will drop 5% overall from last year’s levels, to about $24.9 billion.

1 comment:

Peter Romeo said...

The Restaurant Association of Maryland is also looking to help members' gift-card business by touting the one-card-fits-all system it launched 14 years ago. A promotional message issued yesterday notes that a card purchased through the association is redeemable at any of 500 restaurants throughout the state. The implication is clear: One restaurant issuing a card could indeed go under in this environment. But 500? Nah, you'd be safe if you bought a card. It's a very good idea.