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The Making of the Modern Christmas, Gifting & Wicker Baskets

Continuing our theme of celebrating 150 years of creating some of the finest wicker and hamper products, this post looks at gifting occasions and how they’ve evolved.  

Gifting is big business, even in a down economy, as shoppers get behind a range of gifting events on the retail calendar.  The total value of the UK gift market is £40bn – of which Valentine’s Day contributes one per cent, Mother’s Day two per cent, Easter three per cent and Christmas, the largest of the gift-buying events, accounts for 36 per cent.

Many of these traditions and festivities began with a religious purpose, or like Halloween are rooted in pagan partying.

Whilst many complain about the commercialisation of Christmas, it has always been a winter festival and a spiritual occasion.  The pre-Christian winter festival acted as a psychological boost, a time to slaughter the fatted calf.

Evidently the tradition of giving hampers at Christmas started in Victorian times, when wealthy families would put together a basket of food and drink and present it to their staff. Though wicker hampers didn’t always feature delicious treats, they were primarily given as baskets produced by skilled basket weavers. 

A traditional wicker hamper of food and drink is most popular at Christmas, yet the hamper, with its timeless appeal, has become a year round gift.

Christmas benefits from a long shopping spree, a tradition which began in America when relatives of soldiers posted overseas in the Second World War were encouraged to mail gifts early.  However, for other gifting occasions, such as Valentine’s Day, 70 per cent of consumers wait until the week of the event before buying a present and many shoppers will only buy what they need on the day itself. 

Independent retailers can boost profits out of impulse purchases, and local retailers stand to do well from a prominent retail display over Valentine’s Day – as well as stocking a good range of general gifting items that can see them through from Valentine's Day to Easter. 

The history of Easter reveals rich associations between the Christian faith and early pagan religions.  The custom of giving eggs at Easter celebrates new life. Historically people gave gifts of eggs carved from wood or precious stones. The first sweet eggs were made in the last 100 years from sugar or marzipan, since then chocolate eggs have become popular. Every year, retailers like to create special hampers and fill them with a variety of Easter gifts.

Today we spoil mum with colourful bouquets of flowers and modern gifts, but traditionally Mother's Day gifts included flowers and a Simnel cake. The flowers were picked from country lanes by workers on the way home from work for a day with their mum. At Gadsby, we sell a range of cardboard gift boxes that can be used for packaging up Mother’s Day gifts, as well as for other occasions throughout the rest of the year.

Gifting occasions will continue, plus in the future it’s anticipated that demographic trends will boost the giftware market. According to figures from National Statistics, a large percentage of the population increase is attributable to direct arrivals of immigrants or children born to immigrant families and reports anticipate that this high rate will have some effect on the occasions on which gifts are given and the sort of giftware chosen.

Interestingly, in spite of the explosion of social media gifting is thriving as people want direct connections.

Of course it’s not just about the gift … independent retailers need to be presenting inspiring retail displays and a call to action to a market of shoppers willing to spend more on gifting occasions.

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Posted in: General, Christmas