Top gift trends -
see what’s hot
by Amy Bauer
Use this handy guide when weighing your gift inventory options
Consumers may be feeling the continued pinch of higher fuel
prices, but their spending on gifts hasn’t flagged, according to
anecdotal evidence shared by Michael Russo, chairman and
president of the Gift Association of America. Gift retailers he
spoke with at recent markets reported their sales were up for
the first half of 2006 between 5 percent and 30 percent. “The
buyers are upbeat,” he reports.
Mr. Russo notes that this enthusiasm is mirrored among
suppliers, more of whom are considering expanding their product
lines in the near future. “Over the past couple of years,
product development was a little bit slow,” he explains. “You
didn’t see a lot of really new, creative merchandise because the
economy was so
difficult everyone was playing it close to the vest.”
While the trends that Mr. Russo and John Saxtan, editor in chief
of Giftware News, have identified going into 2007 are largely
continuations of ongoing themes, the categories are expanding in
new ways. For those in the floral industry, among the best news
is that the garden gift segment remains hot, with items being
stocked year-round rather than just seasonally—allowing
customers to extend the comforts of home into the garden and the
feeling of the garden back into the home.
Check out these trends that are tops in the giftware market and
our tips for making them work in your department.
10 gift trends for 2007
1 Retirement gifts:
With the first wave of baby boomers reaching age 60 in 2006,
more and more people will be celebrating retirements, with all
the parties, novelties, giftware and accessories this can
entail. Those with retirement gifts both classic and kitschy can
cash in on this trend.
Use this trend: Consider stocking mugs and balloons with the
“Happy Retirement” theme, and provide partyware and items for
remembering the occasion, such as brag books.
This trend takes many forms, with shoppers looking to recapture
the happy memories of childhood or the simpler pleasures of
bygone eras. Classic characters such as Betty Boop and classic
television, like “I Love Lucy,” from the 1950s and ’60s are
Use this trend: Any prior decade can make a great theme around
which to merchandise your wares. Or stock retro china and
kitchen wares that can easily be accessorized with florals.
Consider licensed items with retro characters to complete the
The romance of the wild West has been taking hold again over the
past few years, offering an aesthetic that is a bit more
masculine and is in keeping with the nostalgic desire for days
gone by. It remains a popular decorating theme among some
customers, particularly in the Western region. Mr. Saxtan, of
Giftware News, says Western characters also are seeing a
resurgence, including John Wayne and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.
Use this trend: Items such as tooled leather photo frames or
rope wreaths capture this trend. Western styles and themes also
offer options in gift-giving for men beyond the often-used
sports themes. Dried flower and foliage assortments and cactus
plants all lend themselves to arrangements that can be given
The culture of celebrity has grown stronger in recent years,
with nonstop buzz about the Hollywood set. Retailers are tapping
into this fervor with items either that feature the endorsement
of a particular celebrity or with which celebrities have been
seen. This cachet carries over to noted designers as well.
Use this trend: Whether it’s FTD’s latest “designer”
arrangements by Todd Oldham or Laura Ashley or perfumes carrying
a star’s seal of approval, consider diversifying your gift
offerings with such personal picks. For example, pair specific
flowers with perfumes from your health-and-beauty section that
have those same notes—a perfect combo not only for gift-givers
but for shoppers who want to indulge.
In the “giftware to wear” category, fashion jewelry remains
strong. The excitement over charm bracelets seen in the past
several years has cooled, but fashion jewelry and accessories,
particularly purses, still are highly in demand. Consumers are
not only buying these items as gifts but treating themselves as
Use this trend: While your department may not be the first place
shoppers seek out for such purchases, consider surprising them
with some items along these lines for impulse buys, perhaps
those fitting a floral theme or with a floral motif. Also look
for gift and floral containers, such as woven plastics or even
some baskets and felt bags, that can double as funky purses or
be used by your floral designers to upgrade potted plants.
Shoppers’ desire to continue pampering their pets is unabated.
Fashion accessories, gourmet treats and care tools such as
dishes and brushes that go beyond functional to fashionable are
part of this trend. Some experts credit the demand to an
increasing number of empty-nesters who are transferring the
attention once lavished on their children to their animals.
Use this trend: Animal-lovers will enjoy not only accessories
for their pets—dogs and cats are the top two—but also giftware
that celebrates their favorite animals, such as cute figurines,
cards and stationery, and picture frames to show off a special
Fans are rooting for their area college teams with an intensity
once reserved for professional sports. And that extends beyond
alumni to fans in the broader region. Licensed collegiate logos
and themes are popping up on everything these days—from desk
accessories to clothing to music boxes.
Use this trend: Consider carrying licensed gift items if you’re
in the vicinity of a regionally popular college team. Those
trekking to the stadium or arena on game days could be ripe for
impulse purchases as they stop by the store for tailgating or
traveling treats, so think of merchandising these items in a
themed section along with food and supplies from general
8 Local pride:
Following the collegiate theme, consumers also exhibit strong
affinity for their hometowns and home states, and that is
showing up via an interest in gift items emblazoned with the
city or state name or those of local high schools, for example.
Throws and pillows, Christmas ornaments, clothing and even plush
accessorized with local pride are among items to look out for.
Use this trend: Customize arrangements and gift baskets in local
high-school and college colors, and consider such pushes
particularly at homecoming, prom and holiday times. Play up the
local connection with any flowers and plants that are grown in
your state, and check with your state’s commerce department for
homegrown products to consider stocking.
9 Outdoor living/entertaining:
This trend has shown staying power, with backyards, patios,
porches and gardens all being seen as extensions of a home’s
indoor space. With high fuel prices and anxiety about terrorism,
travelers are staying closer to home, and the stress of everyday
life has consumers looking for ways to decompress. “People are
looking for things that give them the feeling of getting away
from it all,” Mr. Saxtan describes.
Use this trend: Serving sets, tablewear and candleholders that
can be used both indoors and out extend the outdoor season, and
accessories that allow more enjoyment of the garden, from handy
tools to colorful chimes and windsocks, are in demand.
Garden-themed giftwear also can bring the outdoors in
10 Candles/aromatherapy/personal care:
The relaxation theme remains very strong across the gift
industry, and supermarkets and mass markets are taking advantage
of this trend more and more. The popularity of candles and
personal care gifts again highlights a desire to escape daily
Use this trend: Highly scented candles remain a top seller, and
in your department you can easily feature upgrades and add-on
sales such as seasonal faux or fresh floral candle rings.
Luxurious soaps and lotions, especially those geared toward
gardeners, make a great gift option for shoppers interested in
all things floral.
Regional trends: Experts note that many trends that wax
and wane nationally are always strong sellers in particular
regions, such as nautical gifts along the East Coast, Western
gifts in Western states and the Southwestern theme in the sun
gifts in the mass market: pricing and merchandising right
Michael Russo, chairman and president of the Gift Association of
says buyers face increasing pressure as rising fuel prices and
related costs squeeze margins. He advises retailers that every
item must be evaluated on its own merits and across-the-board
markups don’t work.
“Once you determine what your retail [price] is going to be, you
have to look at the item as a customer now and determine whether
the value is there, and if it isn’t, you have to rethink your
plan,” he explains. “You can’t just apply a mark-up in a
broad-based fashion to every single thing you buy. ... It might
be that one item comes in at a tighter margin and other items
that come in at higher margins will help offset the tighter
As for merchandising gifts, Mr. Russo noted this is an area
where supermarkets and mass merchants have room to grow. Just
having a gift section isn’t enough to spark sales, Mr. Russo
explains. “You have to nurture it, and you have to nurture it in
a way that the customer recognizes that you do have this
section, and when they are in there doing their regular
shopping, they should tool by there.”
Marketing gifts alongside floral items and within the floral
department makes sense because the items can be more
attractively merchandised and also can benefit from the cachet
created by the expertise and creativity of the floral department
Too often, Mr. Russo observes, gifts are lined like toy soldiers
on standard grocery shelves, which in some cases can detract
from the value of an item. For example, if an item priced $10 is
merchandised in a way that it is perceived as a $20 or $30 item,
customers will see extra value in that item and a great deal;
but if the $10 item is merchandised as a $2 item would be,
customers will see the same item as overpriced.
“You always make the merchandise look the best you can, and then
your pricing will blow them away,” Mr. Russo explains. “The
pricing can be low end, but not the way you reel them in.”
You can reach Amy Bauer by e-mail at
email@example.com or by phone at (800)
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