Gift cards are basically outstanding liabilities, right? If they're not accounted for correctly, when large amounts of people are able to redeem them again, they're left with no money to pay those expenses in the future. Obviously, things aren't as bad if ratio of gift cards to cash spending is somewhat reasonable when the business reopens.
Seems unless you can commit people to not redeeming the cards, you're essentially time-delaying the reduction in revenue.
Also, it's my understanding that gift cards are pretty difficult to account for normally (requiring looking at historical redemption data to prevent liabilities from growing indefinitely on the balance sheet). Some of these places are going to be accepting gift cards for the first time in their history. Is there any room here for a guide to help these places navigate the accounting of them?
- Interest-free loans are valuable. Small businesses that want to borrow would normally have to pay relatively high interest rates to do so.
- A $20 gift card only results in a $20 reduction in revenue if that customer was definitely going to buy something from you even if they didn't have a gift card. This isn't true 100% of the time: X% of gift cards will be given to people who wouldn't otherwise have been customers, X% will be bought by people who aren't regulars, but would like to support a local business, X% will be bought by people who have always thought about going to that business, but wouldn't have checked it out without this push, etc. For gift card holders who wouldn't have been customers without a gift card, your loss is just the marginal cost of serving that customer. Maybe for they buy $20 worth of stuff from you, but your marginal cost to serve them is only $8. That's still $12 you otherwise wouldn't have had.
- In the right circumstances, gift cards can be a cheap way to acquire customers. Some number of customers are going to discover businesses through this and other similar efforts. If this brings in customers at a lower customer acquisition cost than typical channels, then that's a benefit, particularly if the customer sticks around even after they've used up the gift card balance.
- A substantial portion of gift card balances never get used. People forget, they move, they use part of the card and end up with an inconveniently small balance, etc. That ends up being free money (admittedly free money that's difficult to account for).
Regarding the accounting of these gift cards, it appears that this functionality (the ability to sell them) has to be activated in the Square POS system, and upon use, becomes just as easy to redeem as cash. Square does all of the accounting for you.
US Law requires a minimum 5 year expiry on gift cards
Starbucks is particularly fortunate to be based on Washington
> Do gift cards expire?
> Nope, gift cards from Square don’t expire.
Does that mean small business shouldn't track their gift cards? No, they should have some way to track them because they are outstanding liabilities.
Financial reporting and accrual basis taxpayers have a different answer. The difficulty in accounting for gift cards applies to this group of business owners, which is probably a lot smaller than most people realize.
To be safe, though, I plan to wait a few months, and maybe space it out across a couple months.
Otherwise you could antipate that say 1% of your customers will use a gift card on any particular day, and hopefully you have that spaced out far enough that you can survive paying your liabilities over time.
After seeing the local restaurants and shops I remembered how much I like/miss these places.
Feature request: Shopping cart for bulk checkout.
Treat it like a donation. I know not all can afford to do this, but many of us can.
*Exceptions: Large Chain Restaurants