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Shop smart this Christmas season

Brodie Thomas
Northern News Services
Published Monday, December 1, 2008

INUVIK - While some may consider them unimaginative, gift cards are an easy and popular choice for shoppers in the North.

With the recent economic downturn and the failure of many major financial institutions, rumors have been swirling about the possible closure of certain retail chains. Forwarded emails have been circulating warning shoppers to avoid gift cards from certain stores.

Snopes.com, a web site dedicated to debunking myths and urban legends said the emails are based on incomplete information and speculation

For instance, rumors about a possible closure of GAP stores have not been substantiated by Gap Inc.

A handful of American companies including Circuit City, Linens N Things, and The Sharper Image have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, filing for bankruptcy means the company is taking steps to restructure and remain in business. Circuit City continues to redeem gift cards.

The rumors have become so common that some retailers are now placing information on their web sites to dispel the rumors. High-end furniture retailer Bombay put a warning on its site after an American company with the same name closed its doors.

The rumours of financial failure do not seem to have slowed sales of gift cards for one Inuvik retailer.

Alka Vashistha, manager of Rexall Drugs in Inuvik, said the cards seem to be growing in popularity.

The store offers more than 20 varieties of gift cards. Many of them are redeemable at multiple stores or restaurants.

Gift cards do come with certain risks. Buyers should be aware of expiration dates. Some cards must be redeemed within a year of purchase. While there is nothing to suggest a major closure of retail stores, businesses can and do fail. There is always a small chance the card you purchase today may be useless within months. It is up to each shopper to weigh the pros and cons of the cards.