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Feature Story

Top gift trends -
see what’s hot
by Amy Bauer

Use this handy guide when weighing your gift inventory options for 2007.

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.

2 Nostalgia/retro:
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 especially popular.
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 look.

3 Western:
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 Western flair.

4 Celebri-gifts:
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.

5 Jewelry/fashion:
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 well.
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.

6 Pets:
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 pal.

7 Collegiate:
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 merchandise.

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 year-round.

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 stresses.
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 belt.

gifts in the mass market: pricing and merchandising right
Michael Russo, chairman and president of the Gift Association of America (, 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 ones.”
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 staff.
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 or by phone at  (800) 355-8086.

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