In recent holiday seasons, media reports have proclaimed that consumers were favoring experiences over material items when purchasing gifts. Travel, spa services, entertainment tickets, restaurant gift certificates – all luxuries that are largely not possible due to the pandemic. A recent Bloomberg News story carried the headline “Retailers revel as goods rebound over experiences” –  a ray of light in an otherwise challenging year for shopkeepers.

The article states that the average U.S. household spending this season is expected to decrease 7% from last year.  However according to a quote from Rod Sides, a Deloitte vice chairman, “a sharp 34% drop in travel spending accounting for most of the decrease.”

Many shoppers will want to send gifts to those they can’t share the holidays with, which means more demand for shippable items.  Milwaukee Food & City Tours, a company that normally offers group and personal tours, has pivoted to offering beautifully packaged food experience boxes such as 12 Days of Wisconsin and the Delicious Wisconsin Advent Calendar.  I’m impressed that they sold out all 1,000 of the advent calendars, at $139 each, in a short time.

Milwaukee Food & City Tours is right on trend in creating gifts that make a good replacement for an experience.  There are a number of items combined in one box, making the opening of the gift an “experience” in itself.  This has always been part of the appeal of subscription boxes – just look at a few unboxing videos such as this one from Causebox.

A gift doesn’t need to have more than one item in it to create an experience. We sell pasta machines, for example – and giving one to someone who enjoys cooking is an instant invitation to explore the fun of making homemade pasta.  Creative toys are a great a way to introduce children to new experiences, books offer are a mental escape from being isolated at home, and a luxury bath and body product can become an instant spa experience. 

Take a look at the merchandise you have in your store – and think about how you can work the experiential angle into your marketing plans this season.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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