Gift cards preferred choice of Canadians stricken with 'holiday sweater

American Express survey reveals gift cards to be ideal cure for yearly ailment

TORONTO, Nov. 26 /CNW/ - With the holiday season upon us, terrible gift-givers are out in full force, and a recent study commissioned by American Express finds that more than one-third of Canadians say they would take drastic measures to receive a gift card instead of a bad gift this holiday season.

Wearing a tacky holiday-themed sweater (14%) and giving up chocolate for the season (12%) top the list of actions Canadians would be willing to take to ensure they get a gift they can use this year.

"The idea of 'holiday sweater syndrome' is having its cultural moment right now in Canada as we become increasingly sophisticated consumers, particularly around the notion of what our gifts say about our own personal taste," said Chantel Simmons, editorial director for, an online lifestyle portal that recommends products for improving life. "At some point, everyone has received a well-intentioned gift from a grandparent or an uncle that was so off-the-wall that it tends to become family lore."

When asked what type of gift they would actually like to receive from the 'worst gift-giver' in their lives, 56 per cent of respondents said they would rather receive a gift card than a gift basket (12%), home décor (11%), jewellery (13%) or clothes (13%).

In fact, a full 83 per cent of people surveyed said they like to receive gift cards because they enjoy choosing their own gifts.

"Holiday shoppers should also consider the aftermath of an unwanted gift," Simmons said.

Almost one-third of Canadians (29%) have returned a gift they didn't like, while the same number have re-gifted a gift to someone else.

Simmons suggests the following tips for personalizing and getting the most out of your Gift Card this season:

    -   Don't buy the next best thing: If the gift your friend really wants
        is a top-of-the-line music player, don't buy the next best thing to
        keep within your budget. Package your $50 gift card with a magazine
        clipping of the item your friend has been saving for all year.

    -   Not all gift cards are created equally: Look for a multi-purpose card
        like the new American Express Gift Card that gives users the freedom
        to shop at a variety of stores, and can also be used to buy anything
        from basic essentials to luxuries they wouldn't normally buy. This
        kind of card was most appealing to Canadians (36%).

    -   Put the present back in presentation: If your wife plans to use the
        Gift Card on spa services, package the card in the pocket of a plush
        terrycloth robe.

    -   Not all holiday leftovers go bad: Roughly one-in-three people (31%)
        are concerned about the expiry date on gift cards and one-in-four
        (25%) are worried that the receiver will lose the gift card before
        they get a chance to use it. American Express' new card puts these
        concerns at ease by offering Canadians a universal gift card option
        that has no fees for card replacement, plus the funds on the cards
        never expire.

American Express Canada says it commissioned the study to get some unique insights into Canadians' thoughts about the holiday gift-giving ritual this year. The company launched its new American Express Gift Card in Canada this month. Unlike some universal or "general purpose" gift cards, the American Express Gift Card is fee-free after purchase.

"We want customers to feel good about a product that has no fees for the recipient, and the funds never expire," said Howard Grosfield, VP American Express Canada. "This year, American Express is happy to help Canadians wrap up their holiday shopping early with our game-changing, no-fee-after-purchase gift cards."

    Other Research Highlights:

    Findings by gender:

    -   Women are more likely than men to say that "none of the gifts" they
        give this year will be in the form of gift cards (21% vs. 16%), but
        are paradoxically more likely than men to have specifically asked for
        a gift card (35% vs. 22%).

    -   Men are more likely than women to just buy what they think people
        will like without thinking about price (44% vs. 31%), as are 18-34
        year-olds versus those aged 35+.

    -   More men say buying gift cards makes their holiday shopping easier,
        with 88 per cent indicating this is true.

    Regional Findings:

    -   Residents of Quebec are more likely to save their gift cards for
        January markdowns, with 36 per cent indicating they intend to wait
        for sales. Atlantic Canadians prefer the frenzy of Boxing Day, with
        15 per cent saying they pull out the gift cards on December 26th.

    -   The practice of re-gifting is most popular in Ontario, with 39 per
        cent indicating they had re-gifted at some point in the past.

    -   Residents of BC are the most likely to return gifts they don't like,
        with nearly half (48%) indicating they had returned a gift in the

    -   Gift-givers in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the most generous, with
        36 per cent indicating that buying a gift they think people will
        like, regardless of the price, is a "pretty good idea."

    Findings by age:

    -   Thirty and forty-somethings (ages 35 to 44) are more likely than
        their older or younger cohorts to think giving a gift card to save
        money is a good idea (90% vs. 79% among those 18-34 and 80% among
        those 55+).

    -   18-34 year-olds are more likely than those aged 35+ to spend less
        than $50 per person while those aged 55+ are more likely than those
        aged 18-54 to spend between $101-250.

For more survey results, please see the media contact below.

Methodology Details

From November 12 to November 13, 2009, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among a randomly selected, representative sample of 1000 Canadians. The margin of error for the total sample is +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to Statistic's Canada's most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a representative sample. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

About Angus Reid Public Opinion

Angus Reid Public Opinion polls are conducted using Canada's premier online panel, Angus Reid Forum (, which is recruited via an industry-leading process that incorporates a randomized, widespread invitation approach and a triple opt-in screening procedure. The panel is maintained through state-of-the-art sampling techniques and frequent verifications of personal identity, contact information, and demographic characteristics. This premier online survey platform presents respondents with highly visual, interactive, and engaging surveys, ensuring that panel members provide thoughtful and reliable responses.

About American Express in Canada

American Express in Canada operates as Amex Bank of Canada and Amex Canada Inc. Both are wholly owned subsidiaries of the New York based American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc., the largest operating unit of the American Express Company. Amex Bank of Canada is the issuer of American Express Cards in Canada. Amex Canada Inc. operates the Corporate Travel, Travel Services Network and Travellers Cheques divisions in Canada. American Express opened its first offices in Toronto and Hamilton in 1853 and now employs 3,700 Canadians coast-to-coast.

SOURCE American Express

For further information: For further information: please contact: Killeen Kelly on behalf of American Express Canada, Tel: (416) 644-2273, Email:

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