The rise of the Gift Experience voucher

In this busy 21st century world the trend for giving a gift card or an experience voucher is ever increasing. Instead of choosing to give a physical gift, the convenience and reduced risk of picking the wrong thing, are very attractive to buyers...
By Sophie Menhennett, a lover of giving gifts and an Exclusive Team member.

...However shop or product cards can be quite impersonal therefore the market for gift experiences has grown significantly over the last few years. Treating someone to an activity they have always wanted to do or to give them a treat at a time of their own choosing is just perfect for some.  But when did gift vouchers – or tokens as they were first call come about?

The first ‘token’ was for books. Created in the 1920s by Harold Raymond, an English publisher who noticed that for Christmas his friends had received a collective total of only three books out of 119 total gifts. His idea was that some sort of coupon could be used to take the risk out of book gift giving.  This idea was developed and in 1932 the first gift voucher was created in 1932 and was called ‘The Book Token’.

Having recognised the success of The Book Voucher, Boots launched their version in 1936 and re-named it the Boots Gift Voucher.

1960’s saw the introduction of the Green Shield Stamps,  Green Shield Stamps was a British sales promotion scheme that rewarded shoppers with stamps that could be used to buy gifts from a catalogue or from any affiliated retailer. After a successful few years it suffered when a major retail-chain ceased to use it, as part of a price-cutting policy that became standard nationwide. In a bid to retain business, Green Shield allowed customers to buy gifts from the catalogue with a mix of stamps and cash, but soon the catalogue became cash-only, and the operation was re-branded and Argos was born.

In 1982 the High Street Voucher was launched with Christmas saving customers in mind and has gone from strength the strength with recipients now having over 20,000 stores, restaurants and attractions to redeem the vouchers in.

1997 saw the introduction by ASDA of the first plastic gift card in the UK.  In 2008 52% of vouchers purchased were paper verses 48% plastic gift cards.  The last recorded figures show the rise in plastic gift cards to 72% and 28% paper vouchers.

Historically paper vouchers held a value therefore had to be locked in safe places, however now gift cards can be displayed in-store as the value is added to the card once they are charged at the till.  Stores stocking multi-retailer cards have increased their one stop shop appeal to the consumers.  The next stage in the timeline of the gift voucher industry is the rise in the gift card app’s like Gyft which has the even greater appeal of instant gifting in this technology led and time saving world we live in.

Now we are seeing an increase in experiential gifts with many different companies offering a significant range of exciting opportunities, classes to learn something new, going somewhere different, or spending time in new and exciting ways.  At Exclusive, we too have seen a steady increase in the purchase of cookery classes, golf lessons, falconry and cellar experiences,  not to forget the most popular experience by far... afternoon tea. 

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