Love in the time of Covid: Innovation drives gift market

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Tunde Labiyi, a businessman, like many lovers in this season has been preoccupied with the perfect gift for his spouse. But he is confused because she seems to have it all, from perfumes to lace, switch watches, and earrings among others.

He finally settles for a basket of varieties, packed with a fusion surprise in every detail.

This unconventional, classy, definitely-not-boring-packaging are only a few of the many dimensions gift makers are adopting in staying relevant during a period people would rather not spend on gift items. However, the need to extend love to one another, and showing solidarity of sorts as the world passed through a tumultuous past few months, is keeping the gift industry alive.

While retailers told BusinessDay that, over the years, people consider gifting important in showing love and foster relationships, the pandemic, bad as it is as a concept, made the industry more valuable and created a huge opportunity for the retailers. Innovation in gift packing and customization is keeping the fragile, erstwhile highly seasonal gift market in Nigeria thriving.

Mayowa Adisa, the owner of 5kgiftshop said that right now people are learning the act of giving and showing love especially in the pandemic.

“When I started in 2015, the response was not that encouraging because many people felt that they could source the gifts themselves by going to the market. But they have found it stressful,” said Damilola Taiwo, creative director of the GiftFairyNg. “When they saw how the professionals package the gifts together, especially in combo sizes or gift boxes and the way the recipients of the gifts appreciated them, they began to see the value in it.”

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The gifting industry is segregated into personal and corporate gifting, with the former accounting for up to 80 per cent of the market. Typically, gifting seasons are Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and birthdays. Aside from those, gifting is also done during special occasions in people’s lives such as for new babies, new jobs, new apartments, engagements, weddings etc.

A major selling point for those staying relevant in the business today is in their approach to packaging. The spherical cane-baskets that dominated the scene for decades in more or less a single design, have given way to other more creative materials, and even when the same cane material is used, it is done in very unconventional, eye-popping ways.

“Most of the items in the hampers or packages are items that you hardly find in the market and they are well put together. Plus you get attracted to the colours of the packages,” Labiyi said.

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Ayrinde Akinloye, a consumer analyst at United Capital Plc said, there is a cultural shift in the way people treat the act of gifting and it has become more pronounced in building relationships. “Also, for the corporates, especially the service based ones, giving gifts at the end of the year is a sign of maintaining relationships,” He says.

For the person giving the gift, gift shopping is either a great way to express how much they value someone, or as a social obligation that may or may not be on board with. Whatever the case, the gifting industry is evolving to make recipients feel they have been gifted with the best of intentions.

Yemi Oriade, a banker, said that although he appreciates when gifts are given to him, there is much appreciation from the gift packages because it is an opportunity for him to support others with those items.

In addition, digitisation has played a vital role to the industry. It has made it a customer-friendly space where consumers can choose from numerous options with just the single click of button.

“I did not believe in leveraging on technology but the pandemic proved me wrong. Between the periods of May-September 2020, 100 percent of my sales were from online. Although they were not in large quantities but we still made sales,” said Toyin Ubamadu, CEO, Wuwi Giftings.

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Although data on the worth of the Nigerian gifting industry could not be ascertained, Technavio, a leading global technology research and advisory company stated the global gift retail market was worth roughly $62 billion in 2019.

For Taiwo, however, the Nigerian segment “Is a billion dollar industry because it is a big market that has many aspects such as balloon items, souvenirs, actual gift items, corporate gifts, surprise industry, fresh flower industry etc.”

For Ololade Odunsi, owner of Iwose Footwear & Accessories, it is quite a lucrative business, especially for those selling female focussed gifts.

However, gift retailers face high production/packaging costs as most of the items are imported, and at the mercy of high exchange rates.

“The gift industry has come to stay but it all depends on innovation. We have a lot of gift retailers in the market but only few are doing well based on their ability to innovate especially in this recession,” Ubamadu highlighted.

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