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  • Holly Glowaty

Flourish in a Flash: Making Gift Card History: National Use Your Gift Card Day

Episode Transcript

Please note: Transcripts are computer generated.

Intro 0:04

You're listening to the Flourish in a Flash podcast with the Flourish team: Dez, Holly, Kristen and Erika.

Kristen Thiry 0:14

Alright, welcome everybody to the next episode of Flourish in a Flash. We are very excited to welcome two guests to the show today we have Tracy Tilson, the founder of Use Your Gift card, and Kelly Wahl, consultant on behalf of Use Your Gift Card. So ladies, welcome to the show.

Tracy Tilson 0:30

Thank you, Kristen. Pleasure to be here.

Kristen Thiry 0:34

So happy to have you. So if you can, maybe just quickly introduce yourself, give us a little bit of background on who you are and what Use Your Gift Card is.

Tracy Tilson 0:44

Sure, sure. So this is this is Tracy and basically my whole background has been in in marketing and PR and that's what I've got a public relations company that I started about 25 years ago, but aside from that, I was, this past February, I was actually going through some wallets, just kind of doing some spring cleaning and I found at least three or four gift cards that I had totally forgotten about. I mean they were just they were actually there were some stores that I that I shop that a lot and I just seem to always either put them in and then forget to bring them out and it was like one of those things that I was like man if I feel this way, I bet this is something that happens to a lot of people and just my background in PR and knowing how that all works, I thought you know what we could do a National Use Your Gift Card Day. That would be the core the intention would be just to remind people simply remind people to go through their desk drawers and gather up gift cards that might have been forgotten. And and that's how this all originated.

It was actually my son's gift cards that I found in his drawer that I think finally sent it off because it was a stack of $25 visa cards that I know I must have given him a few years ago. And it was just one of those things where it just seemed to make sense. And I think the biggest thing of it all was that people really related to that everyone I started to mention it to and they go, oh, yeah, you know, that happens to me, I have them I know that you know. So when you start to feel like that's something that everyone can relate to, it just seemed like the natural reminder and day to form to help to help consumers to help shoppers help us all remember to use our gift card. So it came from that place, Kristen, it was like a really organic when it first started was like this is because it was happening to me. And, and I'm down here in South Florida, and it was just I was I did go out and I did try to you know, I did use those gift cards after I found them. But it's I think it's a big it's a big, it's a big opportunity. Let's put it that way. It's an opportunity because I think Yeah, because I think it's it becomes a little bit of a solution. It's that one day that, you know, we can really gear up people to remember. That's what it's all about.

Kristen Thiry 3:07

That's great. Yeah, I would say even being a gift card professional myself, I live and breathe this every day. I certainly have a whole stack of gift cards that I can keep in a separate little wallet. And I, I try to remember to carry around with me when I'm gonna go shopping, but I I'm not even that great at doing it sometimes. So, I'm certainly one of those people who, you know, finds the gift cards after the fact, you know, two or three years down the road. I'm like, Oh, yeah, I should use this, you know, that reminds me to go shop with that brand. Kelly, I know you and I have have known each other for quite a while in the gift card space. How are you involved with Use Your Gift Card and National Use Your Gift Card Day?

Kelly Wahl 3:44

So Tracy just gave me a call one day she she heard about my consulting business and so she just reached out and told me her idea on National Use Your Gift Card Day and I just thought, what a great opportunity to help brands out there which, you know, is a big part of my consulting business, get these gift cards redeemed, we really want the consumers to go in and use their gift cards. So we just partnered and put a strategy together and talked about all the great brands that we could potentially bring on board. And you know, what we could offer to the consumer to encourage them to use our gift cards. I think Tracy had a brilliant idea that National Use Your Gift Card Day happens the third Saturday of every January so you know past the holidays, you put away the trees and decorations all the you know, gifts and you know, it's it's that time where you are putting those gift cards in a drawer and you're forgetting about them. So I just thought, gosh, what a great idea to really kind of help our brands, get those people in the stores to use their gift cards and It's a win win for consumers and brands. So we've had a great time doing it. We have some great brands on board. And we're super excited to see, you know, how how this affects our brands.

Kristen Thiry 5:15

Absolutely. I mean, I think the timing is brilliant because you're you're right, it's right. It's, it's far enough after the holidays, you're not still in kind of that mad rush and hopefully I'll have my tree down by January 18. But I'm not making any promises. You know, you're getting organized, you know, you're getting your life back together, coming back from the holidays. And I do think that's the perfect time to remind people it's not when after that they're gonna they're still kind of in that holiday craze kind of getting back to reality. But it's far enough out but it's not too far that they've forgotten; "Oh, where did I put that and where did that gift card go that I know I got" so I think that's really great timing.

Tracy Tilson 5:55

Yeah, and Kristen that was part of the whole, the whole thought process on this is, you know what , they're, you know January to your point is all about organization and getting set for the whole you know the whole next year and so it just seemed, in fact we actually talked to it and put some blog a blog up talking to a national you know professional organizer because that's that's all part of feeling better in January as you get everything squared away and there's nothing like like not using having unused money or on you, you know, unused things around and so it really kind of all between just the holiday the momentum from the holiday to your point and getting that all squared away it just it just works to get your head around getting organized and utilizing you know, the things that you have to use and do and get them checked off the list so to speak. So I think it was one of those things too where it was just all working it made sense. And of course most of the gift cards are are given the majority are given out over the holidays. So the timing works.

Kristen Thiry 6:55

Right, yeah. And what better feeling Do you have then using free money to get that thing that you maybe didn't get, you know, over the holidays. So I think I think that's great. That's really awesome.

Tracy Tilson 7:07

It's been really encouraging I think from a couple different fronts. Again, the whole core of this has to go back to the intention which was make this just a reminder day the merchants and, and the people, the companies that have that have followed suit and really believe in this too. That's, that's wonderful, but it's really about making us all us you know, as people who receive gift cards really activate and and when it comes to that core place of intention, it just works because it makes sense because then then then a restaurant or retail goes Yes, that does make sense. And let's give them an extra little thing this year, maybe just a reminder next year we'll do some kind of an incentive or something like that, or we'll do it this year. So but the greatest news that they want to be involved. And I think and Kelly's done a really great job and outreaching to, you know, to a lot of fine wonderful retailers and restaurants to who automatically it just seemed like right away they got it. And that's the biggest thing. Everyone kind of gets it. You know, it's not something that you have to try to connect the dots. They're connected. Everyone can feel the pain.

Kristen Thiry 8:16

Yeah. Well, I mean, the numbers are staggering, right? I mean, we just saw Mercator come out with a report that says they're estimating about $3 billion of gift cards go unused each year. I mean, that number is staggering. You know, when you hear about that, so, you know, definitely don't want customers to be a part of that number. And make sure that they're, you know, really using those gift cards. So I definitely see the need and can understand why merchants are so eager to participate.

Kristen Thiry 8:47

In your conversations with the merchants and what you've been kind of talking to them about National Use Your Gift Card Day, what are some of the tactics that they're using or that you're suggesting that they use to remind their customers that they have gift cards to spend?

Tracy Tilson 9:03

So, for example, like Simon, just from a digital standpoint, they're going to be executing a digital, you know, outreach. So that so there's different things. And again, this being the first year, it's kind of like we're seeing what works and what doesn't work where we're seeing that a lot of them internally will be doing their own social, their own, their own, you know, whether it be member or shopper outreach. So I think is this catches on again, this is the first year we'll see a lot of new tactics that are being done. And we ourselves are doing a lot of tactics ourselves to get the word out just because, again, to your point, Kristen, that $3 billion number is staggering, and it's something that media pays attention to.

So we're outreaching now we were just made a trend. The National Retail Federation just came out yesterday, making National Use Your Gift Card Day like one of their trends that they mentioned. Right. And that goes out to obviously, that's a really important resource for both media, as well as obviously for retailers. So it was really kind of gave us, it was it was nice to see as the support of the day come from that group. So they're supporting it. We've we've obviously we just, CBS News, did a piece on it last week, talked to them, I guess, on Thursday, and it's like, people just understand so media can help us get the word out, the more we get the word out about it, it's just kind of one of those, you know, kind of like then one thing to get another then more people hear about it. We had some, you know, obviously a few retailers now there that are reaching out to us almost daily to say how can we get involved you know, and we were trying to get everyone involved that wants to get involved and knowing that this will help set the table so to speak for next year, as we move along, but it's um, it's kind of a it's been an organic, a word of mouth, you know, outreach. And again, media is really helping spread the word on that.

Kristen Thiry 11:06

Yeah. Yeah, I would say one of the one of the emails, I love seeing the most pop up in my inbox being the gift card nerd that I am, was from a brand where I had bought a digital gift card from them. And they're like, hey, do you still have this gift card? Come on in and use it, you know. So I think those kinds of communications are super effective, you know, especially for brands who have issued digital gift cards, because often you have the customers email and you're able to communicate directly to that customer who may be holding that gift card. I think for physical cards, it's a little bit harder, but I think what you're doing with just getting the word out and kind of spreading that message far and wide. The consumers are hearing it, you know, even from that perspective, not even just from the brands because it's hard sometimes for physical cards, you don't know who the recipient of that card was. So you can't necessarily message directly to them, but by you know, getting into some of these larger media outlets, you know, hopefully consumers are, are getting that message right?

Tracy Tilson 12:03

That's it Kristen. It's an awareness that is a total awareness play right now it's awareness on every level like, you know, obviously, we'd love the merchants that are involved to spread the word in their own universe. Yeah, we're we're doing you know, we're doing our own outreach as well. Day Calendar, who, who has, has also working with us on this will be getting it out to I think like 20,000 of their media outlets that cover national days next week. So they'll be another big push next week. So so I think all of that works together. And the more it can be to your point, you know, online is, you know, is a little bit easier from the digital component but but it's like that it's like so many people have those just the real life, you know, the real gift cards, and it's just making them aware and I think this will, it's caught on already in a short amount of time and I think it's could be you know, this will be, again every every year, the third Saturday of January will be National Use Your Gift Card Day.

So we'll really see some momentum after this building up till next year to now that people are aware of it. It didn't take long for them to, you know, accept it. And I think we can really do some fun. We've got some really fun tactics and things planned for throughout the year that we're formulating now that will help to, to keep that in mind to use your gift card after certain holidays and, and then leading up again to 2021 to the National Use Your Gift Card Day. So we're really excited about it. It's been a pleasure working with Kelly and our team here. You know that that's doing the PR behind me is loving it because it's so fun. It's fresh, it's new, and it's been so well received that it's been a fun project for us.

Kristen Thiry 13:50

That's excellent. So when the consumer hears about Use Your Gift Card Day, and they remember "Oh yeah, I had a gift card, you know, where did it go?" What are some tips or tricks that you have, you know, for consumers for keeping track of their gift cards.

Tracy Tilson 14:05

I think the biggest thing is is just organizing I think you'd mentioned it before like again this is a month when you get your gift cards organized in a way that you are going to remember where they are, and what the dates are and when you received them and what the VAT what how many how much is on on those gift cards, it's got to be something and you know, there's all different ways of organizing that you can get you know, whether it be a wallet, its own own separate wallet, or there's an area that you keep it in your house your gift cards I know for us we're we're so guilty of it this year, I'm a changed person. But we had we've like I said that's how I found these gift cards literally in drawers and all over the place. And you know, again with with two boys, they've they've put them different places. So I think keeping things in one area is really, really important and just knowing what the dollar is on them so that you go out and you might use a portion of it, not the whole thing that you've, again put it back into its place and right you know what the what's left on the gift card. Typically that's not doesn't happen usually, you know.

The stats show that you're going to spend more when you take your gift card into a into a retail or restaurant just because that's just the nature of it, that using it if it's something that you're not going to use think about, you know, think about the regifting and it's done in a good way. You know, it's something that you know, you won't use but that someone else would really appreciate as long as it's not a personalized thing. It just seems like it makes you know, it makes a lot of sense to think about regifting on this day really take stock of it said will you really use this card? Or is it someone else who can use it even more? You know, we just I have I have a funny story cuz I had my son was so I had gotten him a back in and he's out in California and I bought him this fall a Lululemon gift card and actually I really wanted to use it because I love Lululemon. And he, he for Christmas also I opened it up and he'd given it back to me so. So I was like, thrilled that it came back. It actually worked out good for him too, because it will take care of my present. It was a son regifting. Family regifting, but it works.

Kristen Thiry 16:24

It definitely works. You know, there's a lot of tactics that customers can take, right? If they they're not going to use that gift card. I was reading an article just this week about United Mileage Program where you can exchange gift cards that you don't want for miles, if that's more motivating for you, right? So, you know, just really utilizing that value in whatever way is meaningful for you. You know, and I think that's one of the beauties of gift cards is that it does give us that flexibility for customers to choose what they want. But in the event that you get a gift card to a merchant that maybe you don't, you don't shop with, there are still ways to, you know, get a meaningful, you know, get some sort of meaningful value out of that gift card. So whether that's exchanging it for miles, using it on one of the gift card exchange sites, potentially to exchange it for another brand that you like, I've even heard of donating gift cards. Is that something that you guys, are you are you proponents of that? Kind of what, what are the details of that?

Tracy Tilson 17:23

Yeah, we encourage that if you're not going to use and we haven't, you know, we don't have a whole program set up yet for donating gift cards. But that's something where that's just especially on a, you know, on a local level, if you can donate your gift card if you're not going to use it, but you know, whether it be a local, you know, children's association or a church organization or a school academic organization that can definitely use you know, might be able to use the card I mean, it makes you feel good. So I think, I think I think what this day could become is just taking stock, whether you use it yourself, use it for your use and pay it forward and use it for somebody else. I mean, that's the whole point is that it gets used. Use your gift card and donating is such a great you know such a great thing that it can really make a difference in someone else. If it's really something that's not that you're not going to use it even if you are I mean even donating on top of that, just because it feels good. So you've got power with a gift card to use it or donate.

Kristen Thiry 18:26

Absolutely. And I think so much like we focus on the holidays as a real push for the giving season. And I know that you know, Giving Tuesday is always right after Thanksgiving and everything. So you know that people still need help throughout the year, not just there's not just you know, November and December, you know, so I think that's a great way to kind of keep the giving going, and kind of continue those philanthropy, the philanthropic efforts throughout the year, so I think that's a great suggestion.

Tracy Tilson 18:56

And we'd like to do more with that too Kristen as this program develops. There's a real you know, just from the heart of it just what what this could do because you can make a difference and it's like, you know, especially with that staggering $3 billion, can you imagine what can be done with that from charitable standpoint? Crazy. And and so I think, I think just thinking about that number and thinking about, you know, the, I guess it all comes to possibilities. And once you start doing something like this, you start to really realize because you hear from a lot of people and you start to go and think about a lot of other things. And that's just how, how things grow is that it really would be so cool is to be able to make a difference in that way. So so that's it that's a consideration but it just feels like it starts it starts with just remembering it starts to finding the card as opposed to using the cards. And then everyone's motives and and, you know, uses are different. Just like the gifts are different. So I think that's where that's where it all starts.

Kristen Thiry 20:00

Well, that's really exciting. You know, and I think we have even more gift cards out there, you know, to be used because recent reports have been sort of saying that, that those holiday gift card sales growth really doubled this year, I think it was they were expecting about 3%, which was the number last year and customers has spent about 7% more on gift cards this year versus last year. So even more gift cards to use on National Gift Card Day on January 18. So definitely excited about that. Tell us a little bit more about the participating merchants who are participating in the program.

Tracy Tilson 20:32

Sure, and Kelly you can jump in, I'll just I'll just list off some. And it's really exciting because they are really great partners and great, great participants, great participants for this first year. So we actually have AMC Theaters that's involved. They're involved this year. We also have Applebee's. We also have BurgerFi, Chipotle, Fandango Kohl's, Life is Good, Macy's, Panera Bread, PetSmart, Red Lobster, Regal, Rue21, Saks Fifth Avenue, Simon and Zaxby's. And there's more growing, there's more I know JC Penney's has contacted us and they want to, they want to get involved and they want they want to be included in the day as a reminder, some are doing, you know, some special offers and as the program grows, obviously, we'll see different changes and how this day is utilized. But a lot again, coming from the first day to just getting like a reminder, remember, you got a gift card from from Simon gift cards, you use it, you know, so it's one of those really kind of supporting and underscoring the whole gift card gift card, giving.

Kristen Thiry 21:58

Well, that's excellent. That's quite a List of merchants that have participating so it's exciting.

Tracy Tilson 22:03

We're excited, Kristen, again and Kelly's done a great job in reaching out to a lot of her, obviously her colleagues and it's been it's been great and it's been something where again the reaction has been it wasn't like explain this to me again tell, it's like, I get it.

Kristen Thiry 22:21

It's very intuitive and it's absolutely needed, so congratulations on on the first annual National Use Your Gift Card Day on January 18. If people want to learn more,

Tracy Tilson 22:34 Kristen, is the is the website and it'll be it'll be a year round, obviously a year round site for tips and tactics and other other things happening, you know, encouraging people to use their gift cards.

Kristen Thiry 22:51

Fantastic. Well, you guys we are super excited to see how this grows and just continues to build momentum and congratulations again. Thank you so much for joining us on today's podcast.

Tracy Tilson 23:03

Thank you Kristen.

Outro 23:05

Flourish in a Flash is produced by K+H Connection, a branded currency consulting firm. You can learn more about K+H at And you can always find out more about Flourish and the Flourish Conference at or follow us on all of our socials on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn it's at flourishcon and on Instagram, it's at flourish_con

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