Gift Cards to Fuel Holiday Sales

CHS expects program relaunch to increase sales despite slowing economy

Published in CSP Daily News

By  Abbey Lewis, Executive Editor

INVER GROVE HEIGHTS, Minn. -- Though industry analysts are warning of a potential decrease in holiday sales due to the economic downturn, Deloitte's annual Holiday Survey finds that 17% of consumers4% more than last yearplan on purchasing gas cards as gifts, according to Brandweek.com. In the spirit of these findings, CHS Inc. is relaunching its successful Cenex Winter Gift Card Campaign, just in time for the retailer to capitalize on this expected increase in demand.

"We think Gift Card sales will continue to increase as consumers look for more convenient options and [image-nocss] one-stop-shopping alternatives," Doug Dorfman, manager of marketing at CHS, told CSP Daily News.

"We're seeing signs that consumers will shift some of their holiday-gift-card spending toward necessities such as groceries and gas due to strains on the household budget," Rick Cummings, vice president of CHS refined fuels marketing, said in a press release.

And to help their Cenex-branded retailers take advantage of this upswing in practical gift-giving, CHS has hired a third-party firm to set up display materials at no cost to the individual stores. "For the first time, we've hired a professional installation service to visit each convenience store and set up their gift card display for free," Cummings said.

Last year, the annual National Retail Federation Gift Card Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found that gift-card sales would total $26.3 billion, up from $24.8 billion in 2006. Though CHS is keeping sales figures from last year's campaign proprietary, it is doing all it can to ensure that its stores sell even more gift cards this year, from direct promotional mailers to advertisements in local newspapers.

The cards, constructed of a corn-based plastic to support CHS' agricultural producers and help protect the environment, feature three new designs inspired by items traditionally found in c-stores: snowflakes made of tree-shaped air fresheners, hats made of red licorice and snowmen made of crackers. Display kits were mailed to stores just last week, and Dorfman expects installations to be ongoing over the next two weeks.

Inver Grove Heights, Minn.-based CHS is a diversified energy, grains and foods company committed to providing the essential resources that enrich lives around the world. More than 1,600 retail locations carry CHS' Cenex gasoline brand from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest and from the Canadian border to Texas.