With the Gift of the Year live judging taking place during Spring Fair (NEC, 4-7 February), Sarah Ward, ceo of The Giftware Association, looks back at this year’s competition, highlighting some of the tips she would pass on to future entrants, as well as the key trends she’s spotted going into 2024.
“Myself, Chris Workman and the team could not be any prouder of the Gift of the Year website featuring this year’s shortlisted products, with an even split of newness vs companies that have entered previously. We had a steady flow of entries this year, instead of the usual peaks and troughs, and it was evident right from the start how much effort people had put into their entries – from marketing and PR, to quality, lifestyle photography in particular, all of which counts hugely when it comes to the judging process.
It was also interesting to see how many companies invested in entering more than one category, realising that their product or products would fit into multiple categories. In doing so, they have given themselves a higher profile and more retailer awareness, with examples including Cotton & Grey, Best Kept Secrets, Clarity Blend, Fox Under The Moon, AllGoodThings (a newcomer and winner last year) and Fruu.
We also feel that this is, arguably, the prettiest GOTY competition, with florals, nature and light touch designs all trending, alongside themes that include wellness, mindfulness, relaxation, cosiness and sustainability, all of which can be found across the board. There are bees aplenty too, as well as hanging indoor and outdoor signs and boxes that bring the outside in and vice versa. Licensed household name brands too – to include Bagpuss, Barbie, Harry Potter, Shaun the Sheep, Spiderman and Stitch – are another strong feature of this year’s competition, with branded, contemporary giftware ranging from books to LED lights.
On the games front – a category we introduced for the first time last year – we definitely spotted an increasing trend for family and educational games that tie-in with consumer demand, while our new Health, Wellbeing & Accessible Gifts category has also championed inclusivity and diversity – reflecting societal change – with Dotty About Braille’s A6 Christmas cards for the blind and visually impaired among the products that made it to the shortlist.
Sustainability too, was evident across all categories, not only in the products submitted for Ethical & Sustainable Gifts, but every category. A good example is Art on Scarves, whose recycled bottle scarves made it into the Contemporary Gift category. Food & Drink saw a plethora of new names, to include Drivers Pickles and Cajunel, while Design & Craft produced the largest shortlist the GOTY competition has ever seen, with several companies receiving the same number of votes. In the Pets category, companies such as Big Potato Games and Gift Republic have taken activities for humans, such as bowling and scratch cards, and translated them into another concept, making them relevant as pet gifts.
Interestingly, with over 800 entries this year, nothing we received was oversized. Products had clearly been created not only to make it easy for retailers to display for maximum visual effect, but also to ensure that they are easily transportable by consumers, with packaging, always a key driver, attractive and good quality.
I’m often asked if I have a favourite product, something I’m rooting for. Well, this year, I’d like to highlight Worrywarts by Cured, tactile concrete worry monsters, hand crafted by artist Zoe Scott and made in Scotland. They are an innovative way of tapping into the trend for mental health issues, and it’s been great to see them make the shortlist in the Design & Craft category.
Finally, I’d like to urge everyone not to look at the shortlisted GOTY products in isolation. Take time out to have a good look at all the selected products this year, as well as the links, to pick up on the trends and much else besides. As you’ll discover, there’s a message for us all. And if you’d like a copy of the GOTY brochure, then come and see us at Spring Fair. We look forward to seeing you.”
This article appears in the February issue of Progressive Gifts & Home. Click through to page 37.
Top: Judges are shown browsing the shortlisted Gift of the Year products at last year’s Spring Fair.