BY | October 30, 2012

By Azera Parveen Rahman

New Delhi, Remember when you unwrapped a gift, put it away and never touched it again? Selecting a gift can be tricky, especially when you are unaware of the person’s taste or collection, the reason why gift coupons are becoming popular this festive season.

Shruti Agarwal, a public relations manager who recently got married, says that she has a closet full of wedding gifts that have been “locked in for life”.

“There were sets after sets of glass bowls and photo frames which we are never going to use. We appreciate the gesture, but I feel bad that all that effort has gone waste because they don’t suit our taste and there is just too much of the same stuff,” Agarwal told IANS.

“I wish we had got gift vouchers instead. At least we could buy something that we really needed,” she added.

Shagun Mitra, a freelance writer, says that after learning from her own experience of getting gifts that have been stacked in her storeroom, she presents gift coupons to her friends and relatives on birthdays, anniversaries, festivals and other occasions.

“Unless you know someone well and know what they want, or what their choice is, it is very difficult to choose the right gift for them. You may have the best interest in mind and put in a lot of effort and money, but there is every chance that the sari you picked, or the set of glasses you bought, does not suit their taste, or they already have something similar,” Mitra said.

“I think gift vouchers are a great option. The person has the choice to select something he or she really needs or wants, and will therefore always appreciate it,” she added.

Most of the big names in retail offer gift vouchers of various denominations, ranging from Rs.500 to Rs.10,000.

“The vouchers can be used for a fixed period, generally for a year from the day of purchase. If a gift voucher is of a particular denomination and the item you choose is more expensive, then you can pay that extra cash. It can also be partially redeemed,” said an employee of Shoppers Stop.

“With the festive season around, we are seeing more and more people use gift vouchers in our store,” he added.

Online shopping is similarly gaining momentum, so much so that the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Assocham) says that the online retail industry is likely to touch Rs.7,000 crore (Rs 70 million) by 2015. It now stands at around Rs.2,000 crore (Rs 20 million) and is growing at a rate of 35 percent annually.

“Online shopping and gift vouchers have revolutionised shopping, especially in smaller towns where all brand outlets are not there. I mostly shop on E-bay and Flipkart,” said Rajashree Deka of Guwahati in Assam.

Some may argue that vouchers lack the personal touch of a hand-picked gift, but those like Ranjana Sarkar, a Delhi-based researcher, disagree. For her wedding gift, her friends have pooled in to buy a hefty gift voucher of Rs.10,000 from a lifestyle store.

“I am going to re-locate to Mumbai after marriage and my husband and I will set up the house from scratch. This (voucher) is therefore a very thoughtful gift because we can use it to buy as per our needs, and remember them whenever we use the things,” Sarkar said.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at azera.rahman@gmail.com)

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