What Ever Happened to Free Holiday Gift Wrapping?

By Lifestyle and Budget Consumer Reports

How much time will you spend wrapping holiday gifts? Americans typically devote around three hours to boxing, wrapping, taping, and tagging, according to previous Consumer Reports' polls. You can eliminate some or all that time by getting the gift wrapping done for you, but most brick-and-mortar and online retailers now charge for the service.

Continue Reading Below

“Wrapping has become a profit center during the holidays,” says retail expert Jack Abelson of Jack Abelson & Associates in Leawood, Kan. “It was a time-honored perk that used to be done for free, and was part of a combination of services we called value. But like so many other things, merchants have gotten away from it and are nickel-and-diming customers.” 

To get a handle on the latest trends, Consumer Reports reached out to brick-and-mortar stores—including Kohl's, Lord & Taylor, Macy's, and Williams-Sonoma—and their online counterparts. (We selected the physical stores to call at random; so policies listed here might differ from the location where you shop.)

We also got in touch with retailers' media contacts, engaged customer-service reps, and participated in live chats to gather details.

The results: Most department and specialty stores offer gift wrapping for the holidays, but the service can be pricey. Charges ranged from $2 to $16, depending on the bells and whistles and package size.

Discounters such as Target and Walmart offer gift wrapping on select online purchases, also for a fee.

Continue Reading Below

A few free gift wrappers are still out there, including Von Maur, a family-owned department-store chain known for outstanding customer service. This Midwest retailer offers year-round complimentary wrapping (and shipping).

Below you'll find  a rundown of the basics. Retailers are listed in alphabetical order.

—Tod Marks

Our Holiday Gift Ideas page can help you find great deals on great presents for everyone on your list. Also, get the inside dope on outlet malls.

Retailer

Stores

Online

Amazon

Does not operate retail stores.

Price depends on size and shape: $3.50 for items we tracked: a hardcover book, coffeemaker, and sweater. Most items come in a wrapped box or gift bag with ribbon and a card.

Barnes & Noble

Price depends on store. One local merchant said wrapping is always free.

$4 per item for books and boxed products.

Bed Bath & Beyond

Free do-it-yourself wrapping station with ribbons and other supplies.

$4 per order for eligible items. Large or boxed items come in a gift bag. Other goods come wrapped or in a gift box with tissue paper and ribbon.

Best Buy

$3 to $6 for gift bag, depending on size.  

$5 for decorative box with tissue paper.

Dillard’s

$4 to $7 for wrapped box with ribbon, depending on size.

$6 per gift box; no wrap.

Jared The Galleria of Jewelry

Free Jared box with wrapping paper and ribbon.  

Free wrapped box, with option to add personal message.  

JCPenney

Free box. Wrapping paper or gift bag costs about $4.  

$4 per item, which includes gift wrap, a bow, and a personalized message.

Kohl’s

Boxes available free during the holidays.

$6 per box, which comes with color-coordinated wrapping paper and ribbon.  

Lands' End

No wrapping available at the standalone outlets -- called "Inlet" stores -- that we called.

$6 for a box with ribbon. No wrapping paper.

L.L.Bean

Free gift boxes.

$6 for a gift box with ribbon, tissue paper, and a card.

Lord & Taylor

$6 for gift box and ribbon.

Same as at stores.

Macy’s

Price depends on size, location, and other factors. At the flagship store in New York City, for example, options range from $6 to $16.

$6 for a gift box and ribbon.

Nordstrom

Free boxes, paper, and other supplies.  

For $5, a gift box, bow, and gift card with a message; for $2, a gift box with tissue paper and a blank card; or a free eight- to 12-word message.  

Sears

No

$5 for wrap or gift bag, plus a message.

Target

No

$6 for eligible items.

Von Maur

Free.

Same as at stores.

Walmart

No

$4, but free for some items, including jewelry.

Williams-Sonoma

Free box, paper, and ribbon.  

$6 per box, includes wrapping paper and ribbon.

More holiday gift ideas and tips

Visit our Holiday Gift Guide throughout the season to find the best deals, time-saving advice, and much more.

Copyright © 2005-2016 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission. Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers on this site.