Buyers are looking for more meaningful gifts during a pandemic

Care packaging, such as those made by Gift Box Love Co., has been a popular gift item on Etsy during the pandemic.

Love Co.

For about two years, Ashley Houck has been composing care sets of items like candles, bath salts and caramels with a personalized note. She ships gift boxes from her Iowa home to recipients across the country to mark milestones, birthdays and breakups upon the death of a relative.

However, business resumed in mid-March, as the coronavirus pandemic ended much of life. Orders have grown from around 15 to 20 a day to around 200, said Houck, founder of Love Co Gift Box.

“It got to the point where we were running all the time just to place orders,” she said. “I brought in my mom. My mother-in-law came in. My brother. We were all packing orders, just to follow.”

The company’s growing sales reflect the different mindset of buyers this year, especially during the holiday season. Traveling long distances to visit relatives poses a health risk. Seasonal traditions, such as cookie swaps and block parties, have been canceled. And meals with family and friends will be celebrated by videoconference rather than around a table.

In an age of social distancing, financial hardship and Covid-19 disease, online research and shopping patterns indicate vacation shoppers are looking for meaningful gifts, from personalized items to handmade products.

“There are so many places you can buy things online – Amazon or Target or whatever,” Houck said. “But people want that connection.”

Shopping earlier and with more thought

Swasti Sarna, Head of Insights at Pinterest said that with the pandemic restricting plans, people are spending more time and effort on making their gifts and small celebrations special.

Vacation-related searches on the social media site typically start to increase in June, she said. This year, however, they resumed in April – just weeks after the spread of the coronavirus began in the United States and about eight months before Christmas.

Holiday searches in April, including for giveaways or other items like seasonal decorations, increased 77% on the social media site year over year. Searches for “Christmas gift ideas” were three times higher in April than at the same time a year earlier, she said.

Personalized care packages and gifts were especially popular on Etsy during the pandemic. HereafterLA, an Etsy store, sells ornaments and notebooks with meaningful messages.


Navigation continued. Searches for “personalized Christmas gift ideas” increased 46% and “sentimental gifts for best friends” doubled in October compared to the same month last year.

“People are just looking for something to look forward to,” Sarna said. “It’s a really tough time for everyone, but the holidays are always a great fun time and just spread a lot of joy. So I think people are really trying to fit that into their lives a little earlier. This year.”

In a recent report, Nielsen predicted that home-made gifts and cooking will thrive this holiday season, especially among buyers on a tight budget or wanting to limit travel outside the home. Sales of related items – such as artist and hobby supplies, cocktail mixers, and bakery supplies – have already surged this fall compared to the same period a year ago, a trend that it says the market research company, will continue.

Gifts that tell a story

Some retailers have adapted their marketing approach or their merchandise to reflect shoppers’ interest in meaningful and memorable gifts. Home Depot, for example, is working with Pinterest to inspire homemade gift ideas for the holidays. Launch of the confectionery and food company Mondelez International a new website where customers can design and order Oreos that can be personalized with the colors of a favorite sports team or a photo of a family member.

Signet Jewelers, which owns mall-based retail chains like Jared, Kay Jewelers and Zales, will sell necklaces and other jewelry items with stories behind them that are destined to resonate during the pandemic. For example, Jared has a collection called “Closer Together” with a design of two intertwined ovals that can signify how difficult times brought a couple together, said Gina Drosos, CEO of Signet.

“Gifts that have a story like that, we expect to be very strong this holiday season,” she said.

Drosos said that many customers also want to personalize and personalize their jewelry in some way, including having a ring or other piece of jewelry engraved with a message referring to the pandemic.

Etsy has a new holiday campaign called “Give as you wish.” In one of her new TV spots, a grandmother and grandfather open a plush doll designed to resemble the scribbled self-portrait of their young grandson. During a video call, he tells them to embrace his likeness, as they celebrate apart.

On the e-commerce site, which offers shops for handicrafts, crafts and other unique items, searches for personalized or personalized gifts increased 156% in the past three months compared to the same period it a year ago.

Care packs and greeting cards, in particular, are in high demand, said Dayna Isom Johnson, trends expert for Etsy and judge of NBC’s “Making It” craft contest show.

As Americans plan to celebrate the holidays away from friends or family due to the pandemic, some are ordering freebies like these personalized tea towels and cutting boards from Zehr Design, an Etsy store.


She said clients were more intentional in other ways as well. There has been a 37% increase in searches on Etsy for eco-friendly gifts over the past three months. Etsy’s searches for eco-friendly gift wrap have increased 110% in the past three months compared to the same period a year ago.

“Often, vacations can only be about excess,” she said. “This year is more about consideration, thoughtfulness and really asking why you are making this purchase and who are you supporting.”

With her own holiday shopping, Isom Johnson said she also has this mentality. She ordered a handmade recipe box for her brother to help him organize sticky notes with their mother’s recipes. She bought a Dr Anthony Fauci Christmas ornament for her mother, who has become a fan of the country’s leading infectious disease expert.

In her small town of Iowa, Houck said she recently set up a group of corporate gifts that were each labeled with a sticker asking employees who received them to wait and open the packages. in a Zoom Together meeting. Meanwhile, sales of gift boxes with a pandemic-inspired note and luscious pairing – ‘quarantine success’ – have resumed with the increase in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations. And she’s stocked up on vacation-themed notes, so she’s ready to put them in care packages as well.

“It’s just a way to deliver love,” she said. “I saw someone unwrap one of our presents a few weeks ago and she just started crying. And it made me cry. It just shows you are remembered. You are precious. We’ve got you covered. “

Disclosure: CNBC is a unit of Comcast NBCUniversal.

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