In the world of gift cards, there have been many innovations over the years. From the introduction of the plastic gift card in the mid-90s, to the adoption of gift cards by mobile applications, loyalty programs that use gift cards, and even the development of fully-online digital “e-gift” cards, there’s always a new way to buy gift cards right around the corner.
And today, Blackhawk Network, one of the biggest gift card companies in the world, has announced a new kind of gift card that may be a sign of things to come for the industry – the gift card “bundle”.
These gift cards bundle together different gift cards from diverse companies, grouping them into a themed “bundle”, such as the “Happy Kids” gift card, which can be redeemed at Regal Cinemas, Jamba Juice, Gymboree, and a number of other stores and destinations.
Currently, these gift cards are available at grocery stores nationwide, such as Kroger, Giant Eagle, Safeway, and Albertsons, and they will likely expand to other stores in the near future.
In this article, we’ll explore the history of gift card “bundles”, and why the new “Happy Cards” from Blackhawk Network could change the landscape of the gift card world forever. Let’s get started!
Some Companies Already Offer Gift Cards That Are Redeemable At Multiple Restaurants Or Stores
One thing that’s important to understand about gift card “bundling”, is that it already exists in some forms. There are a few different basic kinds of gift card bundles that exist today, as follows:
Ownership group bundles
This type of gift card has been around for quite a while. Many restaurants and retailers are owned by the same parent company. In effect, this means that profits made at any one of these businesses flow to the same place – meaning that the gift cards can, essentially, be used at any applicable restaurant owned by the same company. A few examples of this include:
- Fandango gift cards – Fandango owns a majority stake in Regal Cinemas, and also has partnerships with other theater chains like AMC, Cinemark, and Carmike. This means that, if you buy Fandango gift cards online, you can spend them at any one of these movie theater chains.
- Darden Restaurants gift cards – Darden Restaurants is one of the largest restaurant conglomerates in the United States. It controls Olive Garden, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, LongHorn Steakhouse, Yard House, and dozens of other brands.
Customers who enjoy these restaurants can buy Darden Restaurants gift cards, which can be redeemed at any restaurant that is owned and operated by Darden Restaurants, providing additional flexibility.
- Bloomin Brands – Bloomin Brands is another large, US-based restaurant conglomerate that operates Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba’s Italian Grill, and Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar.
Consumers can purchase gift cards for all Bloomin Brands restaurants, allowing them to enjoy all of their favorite restaurants with just one gift card.
Corporate partnership bundles
In some cases, companies who are not in direct competition with one another may offer unique bundles to customers, in order to drive sales for both companies.
The best example of this would be the “Dinner and a Movie” gift card that is a partnership between Fandango and Darden Restaurants. This gift card can be loaded with a pre-selected or customized amount of money, which can be spent at any Fandango movie theater, or any Darden Restaurants location, such as Olive Garden.
This partnership is advantageous for both companies, as they can encourage consumers to spend money at each individual branded location.
“Downtown” or local bundles
This kind of gift card bundle is still quite rare, but it’s being adopted by more urban areas as a way to promote small businesses, and encourage residents of cities to experience all of the local flavor in a given neighborhod or area.
These bundles can usually be spent at a variety of participating small businesses. One example of this would be the “Downtown Gift Card”, issued by the city of Cincinnati. This card can be spent just like a credit card at hundreds of different local and chain restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, and more.
This type of bundle is focused mostly on small businesses, and can only be spent in specific locations in the city where it’s issued.
“Happy Cards” Gift Card Bundles By Blackhawk – Understanding This New Type Of Gift Card
So, if the concept of a gift card “bundle” or a gift card that can be spent at multiple locations is not new, what makes the new “Happy Cards” from Blackhawk Network so special? To understand this, let’s take a look at a few of the gift card “bundles” that are being released by Blackhawk Network.
- Happy Lady – This gift card focuses on stores that are traditionally popular with women, like Sephora, Bed Bath & Beyond, The Cheesecake Factory, and SpaFinder.
- Happy Kid – Designed for both parents and young children, this gift card can be spent at Jamba Juice, Regal Cinemas, Gymboree, buybuy BABY, and Rainforest Cafe.
- Happy Teen – This card is focused on stores that are popular with younger teens, such as Barnes & Noble, Jamba Juice, Sephora, and American Eagle Outfitters, among others.
- Happy Guy – Focused on men of all ages, this gift card can be used at Burger King, AutoZone, Dell, Buffalo Wild Wings, and a number of other stores.
- Happy Eats – This gift card can be used at chains like Panera Bread, Buffalo Wild Wings, Dave & Busters, and Cracker Barrel.
- Happy Dining – This card is similar to Happy Eats, but focuses on a more refined dining experience at restaurants like Brio, Bravo!, Red Lobster, and Mccormick & Schmick’s.
Have you noticed the main difference between these gift cards and the ones we listed in the previous section?
These gift cards contain a number of companies that are in direct competition with each other. For example, take another look at the “Happy Kid” bundle. Gymboree and buybuy BABY are owned by completely different companies – but are still included on the same gift card.
The same is true of most of the other restaurants and stores included on these gift cards. This is a big deal, because there never really have been gift cards like this in the past.
The Added Benefits Of “Bundling” Gift Cards
“Happy Cards” by Blackhawk Network only launched in June of 2018, so it remains to be seen if this new gift card experiment will be successful – and if it will make consumers buy more gift cards.
However, if gift card “bundles” become more popular, there may be a number of different advantages for both consumers and retailers. Here are a few benefits that could come along with widespread adoption of gift card bundles.
- More options for thematic gifts – The existing Happy Cards are all themed. Other cards we didn’t’ mention include Happy Bride and Happy Student.
If these kinds of bundles become more common, it’s likely that we’ll see even more options for thematic gifts. For example, maybe there could be a gift card that’s meant specifically for entertainment – and can be redeemed for a Netflix subscription, movies at AMC or Regal Theaters, or even DVDs or Blu-Rays on Amazon.com.
Or, there could be an outdoors bundle that can be used at stores like REI, Bass Pro Shops, and Cabela’s, as well as brands like Marmot and The North Face.
- Can include restaurants, entertainment, retail, and more – Previously, most gift card “bundles” only included one kind of business, such as restaurants or movie theaters. But these new gift card bundles can include fast-food chains, sit-down restaurants, entertainment venues, retail stores, online stores, and so much more. This means more flexibility and variety when redeeming the card.
- Even more flexibility for gift recipients – As we found in one of our previous blog posts, flexibility is one of the biggest reasons people love gift cards. 93% of American consumers said they wanted a gift card – and the flexibility of redemption was the biggest reason for this.
- Customization may be available in the future – If bundled gift cards become popular, and become widely sold online and in stores, it’s possible that a completely customizable gift card may be available sometime in the future.
This means that you could “build-your-own” gift cards, to personalize them for a particular recipient. For example, you could give your significant other a personalized “Anniversary” gift card to a spa chain of their choice, a clothing store, and a fancy restaurant.
- Higher resale value on the gift card aftermarket – As a rule, gift cards are worth more on third-party gift card aftermarket websites when they can be used for a wide variety of merchandise. A WalMart gift card for $100, for example, will sell for more than a $100 Red Lobster gift card online.
However, if consumers can buy gift cards that are usable at multiple different stores, the value of these gift cards may increase. This means that, if they’re sold, they may be worth more money, which is great for consumers.
- Feels more personal than a cash gift, or an “open loop” gift card – A common criticism of gift cards is that they’re essentially the same as giving someone a cash gift or an “open loop” gift card from a card company like VISA or American Express – but we all know this is not the case.
Gift cards always feel more personal than a cash gift or a prepaid open-loop gift card. And, if you can customize your gift card even further by choosing the favorite retailers or restaurants of a loved one, that feeling of personalization will only increase – making gift cards an even better gift!
- Smaller businesses may be able to “piggyback” on larger companies – One of the main things that holds smaller restaurants and retailers back from starting their own gift card program is how much it costs. While modern gift cards from companies like Square are still relatively inexpensive, the startup cost of creating a gift card program is still too high for some entrepreneurs.
But if this kind of “bundled” card becomes popular, it may be easier for small businesses to get included on gift cards – without having to start their own gift card program. This means that smaller companies would be more easily able to compete with large, national chains.
Some of these benefits are, of course, speculative. But when you think about the history of gift cards and their advantages over gift certificates, cash and other such gifts, it makes a lot of sense that the industry would begin to offer themed bundles that are usable at different stores and retailers.
By doing so, Blackhawk Network is doubling down on the benefits of gift cards – namely, customization, personalization, and flexibility – and creating a truly unique product that’s great for both consumers and retailers. There’s a good chance that this kind of “bundling” will be a big part of the future of the gift card industry.
Got Gift Cards You Don’t Want? Sell Them To EJ Gift Cards Now!
While we don’t yet buy Happy Cards, EJ Gift Cards does buy gift cards from hundreds of different retail stores, restaurant chains, entertainment venues, online stores, and more. Check out our full list to learn which cards you can sell to us.
Ready to get started? Learn more about the process by which we buy gift cards, and take a look at our FAQ if you have any questions. Then, sign up, and sell your first gift card to us!
Got any other comments? Feel free to contact us online! We’re always happy to hear from customers, and we can answer any questions you may have about what we do, and help you with any issues you may have using our gift card marketplace.
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