What is it?
We all like getting presents. Admit it. Even if you're someone who tells their friends not to bother with a birthday present, you still feel a twinge of excitement when that gift-wrapped package inevitably finds its way into your hands.
Giving gifts is a tradition that spans all sections of society, no matter what age group, income group or region of the UK, helping to celebrate almost every major occasion of the year.
On top of the domestic market, the gift industry in this country is boosted by the tourist trade. Planeloads of foreign visitors come to Britain each year to visit our seaside resorts, stately homes and historic cities, and most of them will want a souvenir to take home.
If you're someone who adheres to the adage that it's better to give than to receive, you will have undoubtedly spent many hours in gift shops searching for the ideal present. But have you ever thought what it would be like on the other side of the counter?
It's difficult to define the gift retail sector for the simple reason that it's almost impossible to restrict the definition of a gift. From CDs to theatre tickets, plants to cuddly toys, anything can be bought and given as a present.
In fact, as more high-street retail outlets set up gift services and add gift products to their core range, the market is becoming increasingly fragmented. Nevertheless, three distinct breeds of pure gift shop still survive:
- Traditional -stocking a range of local products, often drawing on the reputation of the area. Also may stock traditional gifts such as candles and soaps.
- Design-led - stocking well-designed gifts and accessories, often at the higher end of the price bracket.
- Card and gift shops - placing a much greater emphasis on cards with a smaller selection of gifts. High-street chains dominate this sector.
Gift giving in the UK is so popular that an entire industry sector has developed to serve it. Manufacturers and specialist suppliers serve thousands of gift retailers all over the UK, selling gifts of every description.
According to the Giftware Association (GA), the national trade body for the UK gift industry, the sector is worth an estimated £10 billion per year. The Gift market is large and there is potential for considerable profit.
However, there's a good chance the credit crunch will spell trouble for the industry, as the sector receives much of it sales from tourists. Past examples include the after 9/11, when a survey conducted by the GA showed 31% of gift retailers had experience a drop in sales, and foot and mouth, when 44% experienced a similar drop.
Unlike economic downturns, though, businesses are long-term prospects - so if you believe a good idea remains a good idea no matter what the economic climate, then gift shops are still worth investigating.