Gift-giving season to be strongest in years, says survey

Christmas 2003 will be one of the strongest gift-giving seasons in recent memory, according to new research on ‘gifting’ from Unity Marketing. “Gift shopping is the ultimate in ‘emotional consumerism,’ since gift giving is about emotionally connecting gift givers and gift recipients,” says Pam Danziger, Unity’s president and author of Why People Buy Things They Don’t Need.

“An examination of gift-giving behavior, which is not rational, but emotional, shows that 87% of consumers have spent more (32%) or the same (55%) on gifts over the past year,” Danziger says. “Combine this finding with the fact that 85% bought more or the same number of gifts in the past year, and 89% are giving gifts to more or the same number of people, and the coming Christmas gift shopping season promises to be the best in years. We could see sales increases from 5% to 10% in November and December, with only the potential for rampant discounting moderating results.”

Danziger adds, “Gifting prospects for 2004 also appear strong. The trend driving the growing gifting market is consumers’ need to connect in meaningful, emotional ways with those they care about. After spending the past 20 years at home in their ‘cocoons,’ today’s consumers are like butterflies emerging to seek to reconnect with the outside world. They find new meaning in relationships that is often expressed through gifting.”

Based upon a survey of 950 ‘serious’ gift-givers, (people who spent $250 or more buying gifts in the past year), the Unity survey is the first to examine gift-giving and shopping behavior throughout the year.

Here are other major findings of the gifting research survey:

* Gifting is a $253 billion market and represents about 10% of the consumer economy. The trend will continue as more spending is directed toward things to give away, rather than things that fill their own home.

* Gifting is major reason to shop not just at Christmas but throughout the year. With an average annual gift budget of $2,062, gift-giving represents an important reason for consumers to shop, not just for the holiday season but also throughout the year. Christmas gift giving accounts for about 40% of the serious gifters’ annual budget, or $843. Birthdays with an average annual budget of $349 represent 16% of the total. Overall, holiday spending, i.e. Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, Father’s Day, etc., totals $1,089 (53% of annual budget) and gifting occasions, including anniversaries, weddings, friendship, new baby, housewarming, etc., accounts for 47% of spending or $973.

* Finding good gifts at good prices is top criteria when selecting stores for gift shopping. Good prices are the number one criteria for 65% of the gift shoppers in selecting a store to shop for gifts. The next most important criteria rated as “very important” are ability to find things easily (54%); offers a wide selection of gifts (49 percent); convenience (49%); and ease of return (47%).

* Gifters go shopping to find gift inspiration. When shopping, gifters look for something the recipient will like, as well as one priced right. But they also want to find something that the recipients are not likely to buy for themselves. They value emotion in the gifting equation and want a gift that carries a surprise factor, as well as emotional meaning. The serious gifter is always on the lookout for a good gift. They are not last minute shoppers, but buy things when they see it and store them to give at a later date. The way the gift is presented is also very important, so they buy cards and wrap the gift to make a good impression. They often go to the store without a specific idea in mind, but look for inspiration from the displays, often shopping in several stores to find the right gift.