The U.S. Labor Bureau of Statistics tracks gifting expenditures in its annual reports. In 2003 it showed that the value of gifts of education, health and money well outweighed gifts of apparel, home goods and jewelry. And this phenomenon is not concentrated in one group. Fifty percent of tangible gifts are sourced from the baby boom generation with household incomes over $70,000, or roughly 25% of households. In contrast, gift shifters are everyone (e.g., all ages give cash; elderly give healthcare and baby boomers pay for a portion of hefty tuitions).
Everyone receives these gifts–teens receive gift cards, young families get tuitions, camps and vacations that gifters join in on, elderly get health gifts and baby boomers get priceless experiences. Even kids get trips to Disneyland and “bring your pet” event parties. And there’s even self-giving.
Much of the money given makes its way back to retail, and retailers are aware of this opportunity by having plenty of fresh merchandise in store for Dec. 26. But an increasing number of gift cards get redeemed for gas, and much of the cash is applied to rents and ordinary life expenditures.