Safeway Inc. (NYSE:SWY) announced today that its subsidiary, Blackhawk Network, will expand its gift card business to the United Kingdom this year.
Blackhawk Network was established as a separate business unit in 2001 to capitalize on store traffic at Safeway and other retailers, and is now the largest provider of third-party gift cards in the United States and Canada. To support its entry into the United Kingdom, Blackhawk Network has opened an office in Peterborough, England.
"The gift card program has become a very important feature in our stores and is the fastest growing category in the store," said Safeway Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Steve Burd.
Blackhawk Network provides a turn-key gift card solution to a broad network of top North American grocery, drug and convenience store retailers, with a gift card offering of more than 100 brands from best-in-class retailers such as Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Best Buy, iTunes Music Store, Pizza Hut, Starbucks Coffee, The Home Depot, and Sears. Blackhawk Network also distributes prepaid debit and gift cards from American Express, MasterCard, Visa, and offers regional sports and entertainment gift cards for a range of venues and teams such as Universal Theme Parks, Paramount's Great America, the Oakland A's, the San Francisco Giants, the Seattle Mariners and the Chicago White Sox.
Blackhawk Network's Peterborough office will be run by Russell Atkinson, Managing Director of Blackhawk Network, UK. Mr. Atkinson was formerly Director of ePayments for Travelex and is the current chairman of the UK Electronic Money Association, the main trade body for prepaid products in the United Kingdom. Previously, he also held senior sales and marketing positions with Scholl, Johnson & Johnson and Brita.
Since 2001, Blackhawk Network has grown its market-leading position in North American third-party gift card sales, and has become a worldwide leader in card-based financial solutions. Its business launch in the United Kingdom represents its first expansion outside of North America.