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More shoppers are giving services and experiences instead of material goods for Christmas this year

By Diane Ako

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    HAWAII (KITV) — Holiday gift card sales are up, according to Retail Merchants of Hawaii. What’s different this year, though, are that more people are buying services and experiences, rather than actual products you can hold in your hand.

Yogini Emma Salam is getting a jump start on her Christmas shopping. This year, everyone gets a yoga class. “If I buy them a yoga class, students are able to come and find their own healing, their own practice; whatever they need,” she reasons.

She says it’s a zero-waste, mindfully sourced gift that keeps on giving. “You have this experience, and it lives in you- rather than purchasing a product where you don’t know where maybe the materials come from,” she adds.

Yoga Under the Palms owner Summer Rothwell confirms gift card sales are up 15% this year over last. She’s not alone.

Tina Yamaki of industry group Retail Merchants of Hawaii provides the overall perspective, confirming, “We’re also seeing people purchasing things for nail salons, hair salons, massage areas, classes, dining certificates, and a lot of other things as well.”

Yamaki says during the height of COVID, gift cards were a great way to get in and out of a store quickly, minimizing exposure to people. But now, it’s other pandemic problems. “[There are] supply chain issues going on, also shipping [slowdowns],” she says.

Yamaki says movies and dining certificates are some of the top gift ideas, and both Consolidated Theatres and the Hawaii Restaurant Association say they are optimistic.

Consolidated Theatres’ Marketing & Events Manager Kyler Kokubun expands, “Coming out the last couple years where theaters had to navigate capacity limits and other restrictions – to now heading into the holiday moviegoing season fully opened up and with one of most highly anticipated releases of the year, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, heading to the big screen, we’re expecting to exceed our pre-pandemic gift card sales.

“The ease of gift card giving certainly helps with the supply chain challenges that consumers have been dealing with, and they also reflect people wanting to purchase experiences again to share with family and friends. Movies offer something for everyone to enjoy, so in many ways a Consolidated Theatres gift card is perfect for anyone.”

HRA says it expects sales of dining certificates to remain steady this year due to the success of the Hawaii Restaurant Card for the last couple years.

And retailers’ hopes fall in line with trends across the country. The National Retail Federation forecast a generally positive overall outlook on Nov. 3, despite record levels of inflation, rising interest rates, and low levels of confidence.

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