This Christmas, what do you get for the girl who has everything? Or maybe just the girl who, despite how many hours you search, never fails to return your gift?
According to the National Retail Federation, a number of shoppers are turning to gift cards—but not just for ultra-picky recipients.
A recent study by the industry's trade association found that gift card spending will reach an all-time high this holiday, with more than 80 percent of shoppers planning to purchase at least one. What's more, the average shopper will spend an average of $163.16 on gift cards, an increase of 4 percent on the year. That means total spending in the category will reach $29.8 billion.
A desire for practical gifts, customized designs and digitalization are all reasons for the boost, experts said.
"In general, the economy has put the concept of a gift card into a more favorable position," said Kathy Grannis, senior director of media relations for the NRF.
(Read more: Should shoppers brace for a blue Christmas?)
The popularity of gift cards dipped from 2008 to 2010, when shoppers flocked to dramatically reduced items, sometimes selling for more than 70 percent off. The state of mind at that time, Grannis said, was more about quantity than anything else. Shoppers could find a cashmere sweater for $30 instead of $100, often enabling them to purchase multiple gifts for friends and family.
Although price is still the number one reason a person decides to shop at a specific retailer, what has become increasingly more important today is value, she said. This value push often sends shoppers toward gift cards issued by full-priced retailers, where they can be used as a down payment on more expensive items.