The Power of Plastic
What has been dubbed “the most wonderful time of the year” can often be a primary source of headaches for consumers. In the approaching months, hours of valuable time will be spent searching through clothing racks; sleep will be lost as parents rush to the toy stores at 5:00 a.m.; and generosity will be rejected after consumers are sent to return unwanted presents. However, the quick purchase of a single item can remove almost all pressure from the gift giver — a gift card.
The gift card-giving trend continues to gain popularity. In fact, the gift card replaced apparel as the top gift purchase in recent years. According to a survey from the National Retail Federation, more than two-thirds of consumers polled last year intended to buy at least one gift card as a holiday gift. As a result, manufacturers of plastic products are capitalizing on this latest niche. “Everybody I talk to in the industry is gearing up for that market. The larger companies such as Wal-Mart and K-Mart have already purchased enough [gift cards] last year to hold them over, unless they’re running a new marketing campaign,” said Terry Hardy, vice president of sales and marketing for Plastilam, Salem, Mass.
Dean Boustead, sales manager for Allegheny Printed Plastics, Cranberry Township, Pa., shared Hardy’s sentiments. “The gift and loyalty card market is experiencing double-digit growth, and this trend is projected to continue over the next few years,” he noted. Boustead went on to describe the most recent growth area, the “gift card mall,” where a single retail location, such as the local supermarket, offers gift cards from a variety of retailers.
Another niche market involves an alternative to petroleum-based plastic cards. Larger manufacturers, such as Boston-based Arthur Blank and Company, are finding success with eco-friendly, biodegradable, corn-based cards. The cards can be composted, incinerated and mechanically recycled in industrial facilities. However, Hardy explained that corn cobs are currently only for manufacturing gift cards. “They don’t use [corn] for credit cards yet. Banking associations have standards set for Mastercards, Visa cards and American Express cards that require the use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC),” he said. PVC is valued for its durability and compatibility with other thermoplastics.