According to the National Retail Federation, Americans were predicted to spend roughly $30 billion on gift cards during the 2023 Christmas season. While these cards to restaurants and retailers make great gifts, more than $10 billion worth will remain unused.
In 2010, a federal law mandated that a gift card cannot expire for at least five years from the purchase date. Certain states have even longer time requirements. And though cards don’t expire quickly, some will accrue fees if they are not used within a year, and cards from stores that go out of business will not be able to be redeemed. So using gift cards soon after receiving them is a good idea. To encourage immediate spending, retailers established National Use Your Gift Card Day, on the third Saturday of January.
What happens to the money on unspent gift cards depends on where you live. Retailers in 19 states are mandated to return the funds to consumers, and money that cannot be returned must be spent on initiatives that benefit the public. According to Misha Werschkul, executive director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, finding the owners of unspent gift cards is challenging. Consumers can search for their name on MissingMoney.com to see if they are entitled to money from gift cards.
Companies do benefit from those who lost their gift cards or forget to redeem them. In 2022, Starbucks reported over $200 million in revenue in cards that were not cashed in. Consumers who think that using the cards as intended is far better than seeing the money returned to the public should be sure to participate in National Use Your Gift Card Day.
Retail giant Target is experimenting with a new self-checkout policy. In select stores, Target is now limiting self-checkout to customers purchasing 10 items or fewer, redirecting those with more items to full-service lanes manned by cashiers. This change is hoping to address concerns that cashier-less technology alienates customers. John Mulligan, Target’s Chief Operating Officer, emphasized the importance of customer relationships, noting, “Our guests tell us they enjoy interacting with our team.”
The change in the self-checkout system is aimed at understanding shoppers’ preferences and reducing wait times. Self-checkout lanes were designed to streamline processes and cut labor costs. But recently, Target has seen a 6% increase in customers utilizing full-service cashier lanes, since the self-checkout systems often breakdown and error out, causing them to be cumbersome and time consuming.
The impersonal and unreliable nature of self-scan machines has led many retailers, including Walmart, Costco, and Shoprite, to reevaluate their self-checkout strategies.
Additionally, research in the retail industry has revealed that self-checkout leads to higher losses due to theft and customer error. Target emphasized that while theft is an ongoing concern, it didn’t drive their new self-checkout policies.
Hershey, the maker of popular candies like Reese’s, Kit Kat, and Twizzlers, is gearing up for Halloween sales. This year, it appears that customers are shopping for trick-or-treat candy closer to the holiday. Last year, due to supply chain and availability concerns, many customers bought their Halloween candy early. Although it’s too early to predict this year’s outcome, so far, Halloween candy sales have been slower than last year.
As Halloween approaches, Hershey is hoping for a strong performance this weekend to meet its sales targets. In recent years, Halloween has become a critical period for the company, accounting for 25-30% of its annual business.
Hershey is experiencing difficulties on several fronts. Cocoa prices are on the rise, supply chain issues have plagued the cocoa industry, and many consumers are now facing budget constraints and are more sensitive to pricing.
To cater to budget-conscious consumers, Hershey is expanding its presence in dollar stores and discount outlets. They are also exploring the option of selling smaller-sized candies at more affordable prices.
But Hershey executives remain positive that Halloween will bring the candy buying boom that the company needs. Last week, CEO Michele Buck said, “With Halloween next Tuesday, we still have several important selling days to go”.
California is the first U.S. state to ban four potentially harmful food and drink additives that are linked to disease. The California Food Safety Act now prohibits the use of brominated vegetable oil, potassium bromate, propylparaben, and red dye 3, commonly found in candies, fruit juices, and cookies. These substances are already banned in many countries.
Supporters of this law are reassuring consumers that popular products are not going to suddenly vanish from stores; rather, companies who use these ingredients are going to have to change their recipes to include healthier alternatives. The law will take effect in 2027, which will give the manufacturers time to reformulate their products.
There was a false claim that California aimed to ban Skittles. Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel clarified that Skittles with alternative ingredients are already sold in the European Union, where these additives are banned. The law doesn’t ban foods but requires companies to use safer alternatives.
Other countries, including the EU, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, and Japan, have banned these additives. Major brands like Coke, Pepsi, Dunkin’, and Panera have removed them from their products voluntarily.
September 18th is National Cheeseburger Day. In honor of this momentous occasion, fast food chains across the country are offering deals to hungry customers.
Through September 22, patrons who buy one item from the menu at Wendy’s will receive a junior bacon cheeseburger for just one cent.
At Burger King, customers who sign up for the Royal Perks program will get a free cheeseburger once they spend at least one dollar.
Several other chains, such as Smashburger, Krystal, and Carl’s Jr. are also using this annual event as a means of attracting business.
In the fast-food business, profits are generally low and customer loyalty is hard to come by. According to CNN, “Chains unveil big giveaways, typically tied to their mobile apps, to help drive business. Pushing people to the app has helped to drive more repeat customers.”
Wishing you all a Happy National Cheeseburger Day!