IRF Study Reveals Positive Outlook for Noncash Rewards

 Budgets for incentive merchandise, gift cards and corporate gifts are expected to increase in 2023. 

incentive merchandise gift outlook

Companies will spend more on noncash rewards next year than they did in 2022, according to the Incentive Research Foundation’s new study, Industry Outlook for 2023: Merchandise, Gift Cards and Event Gifting. The survey, conducted in fall 2022, queried 543 North American and European industry professionals. 

“The study provides a bullish view of the noncash incentive industry both in North America and Europe. Budgets for merchandise, gift cards and event gifts all increased in 2022, and are expected to rise even further in 2023,” said Stephanie Harris, IRF president. “With stubborn inflation and ongoing workforce challenges, noncash incentives are considered more valuable and impactful than ever.”

Among the key findings:

  • North American incentive budgets overall are expected to increase by 44 percent in 2023, with gift-card spending projected to be slightly higher than merchandise spend. 
  • European incentive budgets are set to increase by 52 percent overall. As with North American programs, gift-card spend will be slightly higher than merchandise spend. 
  • In 2023, the average per-person spend on noncash gifts for North America is expected to be $1,060, up from $806 in 2022.
  • Half of North American respondents said high inflation increases the value of noncash incentives, compared with 23 percent who indicated inflation lessens their value. 
  • For North Americans, clothing (66 percent), logoed brand-name merchandise (56 percent) and food gifts (53 percent) were the most popular merchandise rewards, while Europeans favored electronics (51 percent), clothing (45 percent) and office accessories (44 percent). 
  • 62 percent of North American respondents and 50 percent of European respondents anticipate an increase in gift-card spending in 2023.
  • The median gift-card reward is projected to be roughly the same value ($100/€100) for North Americans and Europeans.