Now selling at the checkout counter: breath mints, hand sanitizer and…$25 of Berkshire Hathaway stock?
In a new twist on the bustling gift-card business, retailers such as Kmart and Office Depot this week are starting to roll out cards that give the recipients small amounts of stock in some of the country’s best-known companies. The cards will be available ahead of the holiday shopping season at other retailers, including Safeway Inc., Toys “R” Us and Lowe’s Cos.
The idea that shoppers might want to pick up some Apple Inc. along with their apples is the brainchild of Stockpile Inc., a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup. Avi Lele, a former patent attorney and founder of the company, said he came up with the idea when he wanted to give a Christmas gift of stock to his nieces and nephews, and found the need to first gather personal information such as their Social Security numbers too burdensome.
“It is taking something complicated and expensive and making it accessible to everyone,” said Mr. Lele, who also is Stockpile’s chief executive officer.
The cards work like traditional gift cards but recipients receive stock instead of merchandise when they cash them in. If they want, customers can swap the shares they have received for other stock.
Stockpile is licensed as a broker-dealer, and the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators have blessed the cards’ rollout. Americans could be harder to win over....
Blackhawk Network Inc., which has more than 180,000 retail locations. The cards say “stock” across the top with the logo of the company so that shoppers won’t confuse a gift card for Nike Inc. shares with a card for Nike shoes.
The first group of Stockpile cards to hit the racks will offer shares of 20 companies, including Coca-Cola Co., Facebook Inc., Apple Inc. and Berkshire Hathaway Inc., as well as products that follow the S&P 500 index and precious metals such as gold and silver. Buyers can also choose a more general card that gives the recipient a choice of stock.
The cards will be available in denominations of $25, $50 and $100, meaning the purchase will often be a fractional share of the stock. A $25 purchase of Berkshire Hathaway’s “B” shares, for example, would be less than 20% of one share at Monday’s closing price of $133.40...
There is even a gift card for SPDR Gold Shares (Symbol GLD), which is pretty cool, though gold coins are a better gift if you are going to spend more than $100.00.