If you're a small business owner, retailer, or entrepreneur, chances are you've probably heard of The Gift of the Year Awards. With a legacy spanning over 4 decades, these prestigious awards are a hub for innovation and excellence in the giftware industry, consistently showcasing the best of what independent businesses have to offer year-on-year. Notably, many brands on CREOATE have participated and found success in these awards.
In our conversation with The Giftware Association's Marketing and PR Manager, Chris Workman, we explore the many advantages that come with entering these awards as a small business owner, and shed light on what makes a perfect gift.
What inspired the creation of the Gift of the Year Awards, and how has it evolved over the years?
The awards are now 46 years young, and were created back in 1978 under its original name – The Gift Awards. The original concept was created for members of The Giftware Association only, to celebrate all the fantastic products that were being created. It was felt there wasn’t competition or awards that celebrated all things exclusively gift-related, and that the association should champion its members and industry. The very first incarnation received 85 entries, and was made up of three categories – Home, Fashion Accessories and Original Gift.
Much has changed as the awards have evolved. We have added 20 new categories just this year, and gathered more entries and exciting brands. The awards are still all about celebrating new and innovative products in the home and giftware world. They’re also about bringing a new audience to giftware suppliers, and the judges themselves are all buyers and retailers. This in turn connects the supply chain and creates relationships, exposure, and a direct line to help businesses grow.
Can you highlight a few standout trends or categories in the 2024 Gift of the Year Awards, and what makes these gifts particularly special?
We introduced a wellness range this year due to popular demand, and it proved to be really popular. Ethical and Sustainable is also another huge category with a lot of crossover. We don’t see being sustainable as a trend, since it's part of everyday business. Whether it’s where products are sourced, or the packaging and materials used to make the product, I would say that 90% of the awards finalists have sustainable elements to their brand or products. Another hotly fought-over category is Games, which we announced after lockdown when games were really growing in popularity.
As far as trends, many of the shortlisted products are especially pretty this year, with stand-out intricate designs and florals featuring heavily.
From your perspective, what distinguishes a great gift from a good one? Are there specific criteria or qualities that make a gift truly exceptional?
It's a really tough one having seen so many fantastic products. Our judges work with a set of criteria to ensure fairness across the board. The first round of judging takes place online, and the following round is in person. So, for your product to be successful in round one, great imagery is a must. It’s something we have seen great improvement in over the years. The judging criteria we go off are as follows:
- Design, innovation and originality
- The WOW factor
- Presentation and packaging
- Quality of build and design
- Customer appeal and value
- Sales potential and commercial viability
- Retail profit potential
- Marketing and merchandise material
The judges will all have an idea of what makes a great product, and what would work in their shop.
I think consumers are looking to buy more into a brand's story and the emotional connection behind products. Buyers realise that consumers are more conscientious in their choices, and this can be seen across various product ranges and categories.
The awards cover a wide range of categories. What considerations go into ensuring a diverse representation of gifts, and how do you keep up with evolving consumer preferences?
We are always in a dialogue with our entrants and monitoring trends. Being run by The Giftware Association also offers us the unique advantage of having insights fed through from our members. Our membership base flags things up to us, and our many touchpoints with key industry experts help shape the award and categories.
We continue to evolve the competition as the global landscape shifts, and love seeing success stories of brands being picked up through the awards, or finding their dream buyers.
In the last three years, we introduced the People’s Choice award, which focuses on brands getting end consumers to vote for their products. The winners often turn out different from what the judges have picked, it’s always interesting, and we’re grateful that there’s appetite from the public, too.
Can you share some success stories from previous Gift of the Year winners? How has the award impacted their businesses or the industry as a whole?
We have a great section on our website where we have added success stories over the years. I was recently notified by a shortlisted company that they have been speaking to new clients because of the announcement. So, just being shortlisted is such a fantastic achievement to hold and share.
Stand-out companies include Gingko, Clockwork Solider, Cotton and Grey, plus many more. It’s all about opening those doors to new buyers, giving them a stamp of approval to attract attention – walking around a trade show these days, we spot so many more brands proudly displaying a GOTY badge, and we love to see it.
In a world with rapidly changing trends, how do you think the definition of a "great gift" has evolved, and what do consumers seem to be looking for in 2024?
I think a great gift will be well-designed and innovative. As mentioned before, brands need to be aware that many consumers are more conscious of what, and where they purchase now. Many look for a story behind a brand and buy into that. So, I think a great gift will have this, too.
Giving back to the community and environment is also high up there. More of us care about where a gift has come from, as well as the thought behind giving it. The act of gift-giving is selfless, and we often see this reflected in the products that get nominated.
How can businesses benefit from participating in or winning the Gift of the Year Awards, and what advice do you have for those considering entering their products in the future?
Just by entering the awards, you are guaranteed to have your product reviewed by a panel of respected retailers. We will promote those brands that enter early enough across social media, email campaigns, and offer them blog spots, too. So it’s in a brand's interest to get their products entered early, and then tweak if they need changes.
Through each stage of the awards the shortlisted companies and finalists get more material to share. Using the awards logo on your packaging and as part of your product marketing is guaranteed to increase interest in your brand. We also showcase shortlisted and winning products at various shows up and down the country, even if the brands are not exhibiting which is a great way for a brand to get exposure without having been there.
If you have a great product that you are proud of, don’t hesitate to enter. Your passion will come through when creating your entry, as it really gets you thinking about your products.
Want to get involved?
It's clear the Gift of the Year Awards are about more than just recognition, but a valuable catalyst for business growth and networking opportunities, as the awards continue to shape the landscape of giftware.
Think you have a product that would be the perfect fit? Don't miss a chance to showcase it! For entry enquiries, contact email@example.com, or 0121 237 1105.