In a two-part interview (part onepart two), a spokesperson from the Blackhawk Network, a division of Safeway that operates the Gift Card Mall service found in Safeway and other locations, has some interesting prognostications for gift cards this holiday season. Going along with other industry insiders, they predict growing sales for gift cards, whereas every independent survey (such as from The Tower Group and Archstone Consulting) predicts declining gift card sales. They also are touting new consumer behavior, such as people purchasing store gift cards over time to save up for a big purchase, instead of just putting money in the bank.

I think they are drinking to much of the company Kool-aid. These predictions sound more like fantasies. In difficult economic times, people tend to make smarter choices, and not buying gift cards, especially the kind with high fees, is among those smarter choices. There is just too much information being presented in the mainstream media for customers to ignore the fees any more. And worries about the health of retailers will surely keep consumers from treating a retailer like a bank for fear of losing all if the business goes into bankruptcy.