The most wonderful time of the year is upon us, and while many households are being smarter than ever when it comes to budgeting for the food they eat, we are all looking forward to the special sparkle the festive season imbues on our homes and tables.
Of course, December brings with it a raft of gift-giving, and the cornucopia of delicious food and drink already on Speciality Food readers’ shelves make them a ready-to-roll destination come Christmastime. “Gifting is such a great opportunity for shops like Laura’s Larder,” says business owner, Laura Roberts. “For many people, what we already sell can be seen as special, or an upgrade from the norm, so we’re really the place people come if they are bringing something when invited for dinner or they are not sure what to get a father or mother-in-law as a gift. Therefore, when gifting season arrives we can tailor shelves for our loyal customers by getting new and seasonal items, and also expect to introduce our current range to new customers, which is exciting and rewarding.”
Hampers are the perfect vehicle for delis, food halls and farm shops to deliver the ultimate foodie treat. Ready-wrapped (therefore a convenient option for time-poor shoppers), ripe for personalisation, and buildable to suit a range of tastes and budgets, they are well worth mastering for the festive season – not least because of the opportunity they provide to stand out from the crowd. “Our hampers and gift boxes really set us apart,” begins Laura Roberts. “You can look online and spend a fortune on a hamper which really has a lot of stuffing and not many items, such a disappointment. In contrast, ours are packed with gorgeous items and, more often than not, tailored for the customer.”
At Forage Farm Shop & Kitchen, located on the Penllyn Estate in the Vale of Glamorgan, hampers come with benefits for the retailer, too. “From a business perspective, it makes sense to provide ready-made packaged gifts which will increase basket spend whilst giving added value to the customer,” begins Katherine Homfray, marketing director. “It also allows us to promote certain staple products, whilst upselling some lesser-known items. Forage is a high-quality brand, and many of our customers would expect to be able to pick up a hamper at this time of year as it enables them to give a present that looks amazing whilst being hassle-free!”
While ready-packed hampers are a great time-saving solution, as well as an easy option for customers not confident in choosing their own products to fill one, personalisation is well worth investing time and effort in. “While we have a range of hampers we promote and sell, people really do like to build them with us in-store,” says Laura. “We bulk buy quality hampers and sell them at practically cost as long as people fill them with items from the shop; they really are brilliant.” Do hampers well and you’ll become a seasonal destination. “Because we do this and don’t inflate the price so much, people come back year after year,” she adds.
Offering a raft of indulgent items for customers to pick and choose from to fill a hamper is the ultimate aim, but retailers in 2023 must be conscious of the challenges faced by households across the UK – especially during the expensive last few months of the year. Offering value for money is vital, and telling products’ story is the name of the game. “Budget is really the key thing this year, as it was last year,” says Laura, “so products really need to look and feel like they are worth the money. And if something is a much higher price than they normally find, we need to be prepared to explain why – the quality, the provenance, there will be something – because we don’t overcharge, we sell quality for what it’s worth. I have again this year taken all this into account and capped a buying price, as I’m just not sure people will spend over a certain amount on an item in my store. I’m getting used to what customers are willing and not willing to part with, as we see people’s reactions to products every day.”
Offering a range of price points has proven successful for Forage. “This year we’ve made sure we have a spread of price points to appeal to more customers, starting at £20, with the most expensive being £150,” says Katherine. “Our Luxury Welsh Hamper comes in a wicker basket, but others come in a lovely box wrapped with Forage purple ribbon. This still looks like a beautiful gift but allows us to offer a lower price point.”
For Zoe Roberts, owner of Out of the Box Gifts, sustainability is another key consideration – as it is for many consumers across the UK. To be featured, products need to be “Eco-friendly, plastic-free and made in the UK. Ideally by a small business,” she says. “We work with fellow purpose-led suppliers and have formal targets to increase our purchases from purpose-led business’ year on year.”
Quality is key – a theme that will be very familiar to fine food retailers. “I create gifts to suit the purpose or theme behind the gift, never compromising on quality or our values,” she says. “We want anyone who receives one of our gifts to say ‘WOW’ – and so, our gifts are beautifully packaged (in home compostable packaging) and memorable.”
“Our mission statement is ‘To make people smile by creating thoughtful, ethical gifts that don’t cost the Earth” and in a recent customer survey, 100% of respondents agreed that their gift aligned with our mission statement.”
Thanks to their ability to tick all manner of boxes as required – be it price, message or taste experience, hampers are the ultimate gifting opportunity come the festive season.