NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- I hope everyone had a good holiday season. Like many Americans this year I received, and gave, a few gift cards. According to the National Retail Federation, eight in 10 shoppers purchased a gift card this holiday season. Sales of gift cards are expected to surpass $118 billion this year, an 8% increase over 2012 sales according to Corporate Executive Board.
With $118 billion in sales this year it looks like much of the retail space stands to benefit. Moreover, CEB isn't expecting growth to slow anytime soon. Open network branded card sales including those from American Express, Visa and Mastercard grew from $41 billion to $44 billion this year. Retailers also saw strong growth with gift card sales increasing by 10%. CEB is predicting sales to rise to more than $140 billion with the help of the e-gifting trend.
So who stands to benefit?
Well the retailers of course. One company in particular stands in an interesting position. Blackhawk Network Holdings (HAWK), a subsidiary of Safeway (SWY), offers investors great exposure to the gift card industry. The company's Gift Card Mall, which you may have seen in your local grocery stores, pharmacies or convenience stores, offers an array of gift card offerings.
In addition to brick and mortar exposure, Blackhawk has built up online partnerships through a growing network including Amazon.com, ebay.com and drugstore.com.
So if you recently bought a gift card on Amazon or eBay, Blackhawk was responsible for the transaction. Over the last year, management has actively focused on expanding its e-gifting exposure through partnership agreements and social media adoption. According to CEB, e-gifting is key to industry's growth. Last year $300 million in e-gift cards were sold and now it is expected $3 billion were sold this year.