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When you look closer into the world of hampers, you will likely find that the earliest representations of hampers were indeed wicker baskets designed to carry a charming picnic or a quaint selection of sandwiches – represented through the media and fairy tale stories as a “must have accessory” for a day out. Of course, in the modern gifts and occasions industry, hampers represent something a little different – though they are still largely presented in the same way, often with a wicker construction and a variety of delicious treats found inside.
Particularly popular around Christmas time when the gift of fine food and drink is commonplace both in the corporate world and the private gifting sector, finding the perfect hamper has become as much about aesthetics and presentation as it is about produce – encompassing different vouchers and deals not only in the purchase of the hamper itself but as part of the treats encased within the hampers.
Did you know that the word ‘hamper’ originally comes from the French word ‘hanapier’ which means ‘a case for goblets’? Dating as far back as the 11th century when William the Conqueror brought hampers over to England, it wasn’t until the Victorian era when hampers really began to take their place within the gifting industry – with wealthy families putting together baskets of food and drink to present to their staff at Christmas.
What is interesting in comparing this early use of hampers alongside the modern gift hamper market is the way in which hampers still represent a large section of the working and corporate gift industry – with hampers being used even now by bosses to present their teams and colleagues with treats to enjoy at Christmastime. True proof that despite the vast steps and developments that the retail industry has celebrated over the last century, much of our behaviour still stems from the actions and motivations of our ancestors.
Going back to the history of hampers, the age of transportation and global shipping made it easier for goods from all over the world to be imported, gradually increasing the range and diversity of items which made up these gifting hampers – and ultimately raising their value and turning them into something which could well represent the kinds of luxury hampers which dominate the market today.
Gift hampers are designed to evoke and entice the senses, relying not only on the visual splendour of presentation but also on the inclusion of various treats for the eyes, the tastebuds and the nose in order to create something which really does feel like a celebration – and something deserving of various occasions and gifting opportunities. What this means is that over time, gift hampers have expanded both in their use and in their demographic, and while still serving the corporate world have also been developed to draw in the private buyer and take a place in the private gifting and celebration industry.
One of the ways in which this has been achieved is through the widening of the target audience for hampers. For example, while once upon a time hampers were filled with foods and drinks and presented at Christmas, a wide variety of retailers have now entered the marketplace with hampers tailored to all different occasions and celebrations – including new baby gifts, birthday gifts, new home gifts and wedding gifts, to name but a few. These retailers range from the big names which occupy large footprints on the high street and in the department store industry, down to the smaller businesses which operate online as well as through marketplace sites and on the shelves of some of the larger retailers which stock third party and external branded products.
Some of the top high street retailers in the hamper industry include:
While many of these retailers are department stores and so are able to draw on a wide variety of branded contents and items from different sections of their stores, others are exclusive to a particular industry and so operate in a very specific area of the gift hamper industry – for example the food sector or the drinks sector.
Meanwhile some of the top online and ecommerce hamper retailers include:
When compared with the high street variety of hampers on the market, these ecommerce selections tend to be more varied – serving the hamper industry exclusively rather than simply offering gift hampers as an upsell alongside their existing collection and stock.
One of the key things to note is that when it comes to the hamper industry in particular, there is an inevitable crossover. Brands which offer their produce and stock to gift hamper creators, particularly those who don’t make their own hampers but instead fill the baskets of others, tend to work with more than one hamper brand or retailer – in many cases, cropping up across multiple retail sectors and areas both in stores and online. Some key examples of this include biscuit brands, alcohol brands, and other small gift produce brands – many of which operate their own sites but rely on the marketing opportunity of gift hampers in large stores to drive extra advertising and sales.
The rise in ecommerce and the demand for a variety of hampers for different demographics and occasions has widened this even further, leading even the most specific industry retailers to reach out to other brands in order to create hampers which appeal to the gifting market as a whole. One example of this is the ‘new baby’ hamper sector, where it is no longer enough to simply fill the basket with baby clothes – a baby clothing retailer, may find that in order to pull together a relevant and popular hamper, the best move is to work alongside and partner with health and beauty brands, and new mum brands as well in order to create an all-round product which appeals to the buyer.
The presentation of a hamper is what elevates the overall product to gift-worthy status – however it is the contents and the products inside which defines the sector that any given hamper has been made for, and which allows the buyer to distinguish between the high end luxury hampers and those which are more affordable.
Some of the most popular hamper sectors and occasions include:
The list goes on, but do you notice how many subsections there are just within the Christmas hamper industry? What separates each of these products is not the occasion that they are designed for, but the quality and type of produce which is used to fill the hamper.
While food and drinks hampers resonate well with colleagues and clients and even neighbours, the personal nature of gifting hampers to family and friends means these are the hampers we are likely to put more time and effort into – with an increasing number of retailers and hamper brands picking up on this trend and using it to drive forward the concept of personalised hampers (something we will look at as part of the trends section of this article).
Popular products which commonly appear in gift hampers across a range of buyer demographics and industries include:
The fact is, when it comes to gift hampers, innovation and versatility are the driving forces in ensuring that the gift concept of hampers remains relevant and attractive to the buyer who, now more than ever, has an extremely wide selection of gifting options to choose from. This means giving them the chance to swap out items that they don’t want to include. It means offering discounts and deals on seasonal hampers and throwing extra deal tokens into the hamper itself for free advertising to the end recipient as well as the buyer. It also means juggling predesigned and occasion-specific hampers with ones which can be tailored according to the gift recipient.
One of the most popular and influential trends which has sparked a huge boost in the gift hamper industry is the rise in “design your own hamper” tools – both online and in stores – giving buyers the opportunity to fill a gift hamper with items hand selected from a vast range on offer. This is a trend which speaks heavily to the buyer who is looking for a hamper with more personalisation, and tends to pop up across retailers who are able to offer a wide selection of different items that can be selected to sit inside any given hamper – for example the gift hamper niche retailers which offer the widest variety of hampers for different occasions and so can easily mix and match items from different sectors to pull together one personalised creation.
Some examples of underserved gift hamper occasions and demographics include:
And while there is likely now a retailer somewhere which creates the perfect hamper for every one of those sectors, the majority of buyers will achieve these perfectly personalised hampers through the “design your own” function available across the top retailers in the industry.
Another overriding trend which has lent itself to the success of the gift hamper industry is the idea that by buying a hamper, you are in fact receiving a greater value of goods at a reduced overall price – that is, rather than paying for the goods individually, you pay one umbrella fee for the hamper and get everything inside it as part of the package. This is one of the main reasons why hampers tend to be advertised and marketed at different package price points and is also why the marketing content for many hampers will actually detail the value of all the contents as well as the cost price. However, in terms of a trend, it is difficult to escape the thrill for a buyer of being able to take home or gift a selection of branded treats all for a hefty discount.
As with so many other retail sectors, climate change and the environment is another trend which is making waves in the sector, though hampers have always been on the green side of climate change owing to the fact that the basket itself can be reused again and again as a decorative feature, as a recycled gift hamper or simply as a storage solution in the home. Some of the ways that this is impacting the sector is in the decoration and wrapping of the hampers – with retailers and brands moving away from plastic wrap to use more eco-friendly products – and in the way that the products themselves are packaged.
And then we have the growing trend for branded hampers – primarily found in the corporate gifting sector which boasts its own unique selection of retailers who focus primarily on designing and producing branded goods which are specifically designed to go inside corporate hampers and gifts. Some examples of these retailers include:
Of course, branded doesn’t have to mean corporate – it could just as well refer to hampers which are themed around a certain colour or product, or even a specific flavour such as coffee or chocolate. Whatever it is, being able to find the perfect hamper for a gift recipient is a great way to band different brands together in one large marketing drive – all cleverly concealed and wrapped up inside a delicately woven basket. And needless to say, the results are almost always a treat for the senses – and appreciated by the end recipient.
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