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We lift the lid on hampers and gift boxes
We explore some of the alternative types of hampers and the most popular choices of gifts to go inside them. We also look at the process for selecting and building gift hampers and why it is best to seek outside help from the experts to fulfil your Christmas gift hamper campaign.
Hampers were first introduced by the French in the 11th century and their association with Christmas grew during the Victorian era when Christmas cards were also made popular by the Prince Consort. Gift hampers were distributed to the troops overseas during the First World War and typically contained food and confectionery. In the 21st century, gift hampers have become more popular than ever, especially for expressing grateful thanks to clients and welcome recognition for employees. Burgeoning creativity has brought almost endless choice in terms of style and contents.
Popular for use to make hampers, wicker is one of the oldest forms of furniture making and dates back around 5,000 years. Wicker is made from plant material such as willow, reed, rattan, or bamboo and is known for its strength, durability, and attractiveness. Synthetic alternatives are increasingly available. Hampers are produced in a variety of shapes and sizes including the traditional rectangular basket with leather straps to secure the lid.
However, almost any receptacle can be filled with gifts, branded and personalised from a Liberty-printed mini suitcase to a Selfridges hatbox filled with sweet treats. Choose a slim, flat box and you can even deliver letterbox gifts by post. Gift items within hampers are always secured with packaging material to keep items from moving around and to prevent breakages.
A few of our favourites
The style and contents of your gift hamper are limited only by your imagination, and it is possible to achieve excellent value through careful sourcing that delivers within your budget constraints. Some of the most luxurious hampers are made by Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, and Harvey Nichols. Contents include alcohol in a range of sizes including prosecco and gin, or the ingredients and equipment to whip up a festive cocktail or mulled wine recipe. Other hampers focus on confectionery and sweet treats and include everything from delicate creations made by luxury chocolatiers to fun sweet shop items that take you back to childhood Christmases. The John Lewis & Partners Spirit of Christmas hamper has been awarded top spot by Mumsnet this year. Supermarkets such as Aldi offer lower cost options and confectionery brands such as Cadbury provide their own treat selections.
Themes are endless but many of the most popular this year focus on care and wellbeing, offering a range of products to promote a relaxing Christmas break and containing scented candles or room diffusers, hand-warmers, hot water bottles, and cosy socks.
Vegan Christmas hampers are seeing a surge in popularity with Lakeland, Hotel Chocolat and Planet Organic offering gift choices that include items such as nut-based cheeses, fruit preserves and spicy chutneys, dairy-free chocolate, and apple crisps.
If you are planning a gift for a general audience, most people enjoy receiving food and drink-based hampers that include items they might not purchase themselves such as brandy sauce, truffle oil or a bottle of champagne.
What about sustainability?
Wicker baskets are usually made from rapidly-renewal plant materials and are also strong and reusable. Cardboard is easily recyclable, and you can check to ensure that it originates from managed forests. Look for accreditation by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) which works to promote biodiversity, reduce deforestation, and protect fair wages and community rights.
Boxes and hampers can be packed with recycled and recyclable materials such as shredded eco-kraft paper or wood wool, recycled tissue paper, or compostable and biodegradable void fill. Where required, boxes can be sealed with water soluble tape. Cotton rope can be used to create handles. Branded cardboard inserts or sleeves can bring your hamper to life and can be personalised for each recipient if required.
A peek behind the scenes
Hampers are a fantastic way to show your appreciation to colleagues and contacts alike. The finished article looks attractive and impressive, but the complex design, build and delivery process is best left to the experts.
We talked to PDS account executive Steph Govier, who is currently busy leading the project to deliver our own Christmas hampers to clients and suppliers.
When did you start working on this project?
“We like to plan nice and early because hampers fly out of the door towards Christmas and there is always more choice if we make an order at this time of the year. Planning ahead means that we can secure exactly the right items that will delight those who receive them.”
What is the brief this year?
“Every year our agencypds creatives are provided with a different brief – we do not want to give the game away by revealing our theme too early! Our in-house design team always rises to the challenge and is also helping our clients to bring their brand to life as part of seasonal gifting campaigns. The theme will be translated to a ‘bellyband’ that wraps around the lid of the hamper, a gift tag for the handle, a menu card to illustrate the contents and a corporate Christmas card.”
How do you decide what to include? What do you need to consider?
“We look for items from UK-based companies and craft, niche suppliers that have something unique to offer. We try to support local businesses wherever possible. Although we do have facilities for refrigeration, we tend to select ambient items that are non-perishable. It is important to agree a budget up front and make sure that we can source items that meet the total cost. We can put gift hampers and boxes together for even the smallest budget depending on clients’ requirements. It’s all about experience and having access to a broad supply base, as well as clever design.
“We have a licence to handle alcohol and usually include a bottle of ever-popular prosecco or some gin miniatures. Christmas-themed items are regular staples in the PDS hamper, and we have included Christmas puddings, hand-crafted chocolates, or gingerbread figures before. We focus on quality and choose items that will make our clients and suppliers feel really spoilt.”
Where do you source all the gift ideas?
“PDS has a great deal of experience in sourcing items for corporate and employee gifting and we have access to a wide network of trusted suppliers. Pinning down the items we want to include is always a team effort and we work together to find exactly what we’re looking for.”
Where do you keep all the contents when they arrive?
“The hampers and gift contents arrive from multiple sources, and we book them in to our warehouse and keep everything neatly together until the orders are complete. We have plenty of space in our warehouse and can keep everything organised until we are ready to start putting the hampers together.”
How does the process of packing the hampers work? Who gets involved?
“This is where our fabulous fulfilment team swings into action. They will call off all the items and the hampers at the same time and create a human conveyor belt, neatly packing every gift securely within a bed of packaging material. We find it is best to complete the whole job in one session to avoid having to repeat any steps making the process more efficient. There are many options for keeping items secure and well-presented. This year we are going to use zig-zag shredded paper which is available in a range of colours to match the overall design concept. Once packed and secure, the menu card is popped under the lid, and the bellyband and gift tag are attached to seal the hamper.”
How do the hampers travel on their final mile?
“Each hamper is packed into an individual carton to protect it on its journey. When they are all packed up, labelled, addressed and ready to go, we engage the services of a trusted courier network or use our own vehicles to deliver them all at around the same time. Some of our relationship managers take the hampers to their clients premises themselves so they can wish them season’s greetings in person.”
How can PDS help clients to manage their own hamper and Christmas box campaigns?
“Putting together our Christmas hamper is one of our favourite tasks at PDS and our experience means that we are perfectly placed to do the same for our clients. Working with us also provides access to our bespoke web-based management system, PDS+, which means that the entire process can be tracked, monitored, and managed online.