A Merchandiser’s Diary

In my earlier article ‘Gifting Shifts Gears’, I had mentioned:

Gifting companies priority should at all times remain to look for products which are innovative, can be connected to themes, can be customised, can be delivered within a shorter time line, can be presented or packaged well, can be transported across geographies and to top it all, if the product can be termed as “priceless”.

  • A merchandiser’s duty is to look for innovation. Every client when done with the requirement of the regular shelf products, will hunt the market for products which are not usually seen or not heard of frequently. A client usually has a picture of a particular product in their mind but finds it difficult to communicate it. It is important for the merchandiser to understand this need of the client and create a product or look for a product which fits into the client’s imaginary picture. Once this is done, it is easier to take the next step ahead and fit it into the theme.
  • Themes are the latest trend and will continue to drive the gifting sales for a long time now. There is always a theme for every occasion when a giveaway is needed, it could be a festival, a launch, could revolve around a product, an agenda for a seminar/conference, to motivate employees, to appreciate the effort of employees or distributors, to welcome guests or a souvenir for guests, could revolve around a partnership and so on. The right idea when turned into a product which fits the theme is the key to all approvals. Theme chosen preferably should not be of a religious frame since it could hurt emotions.
  • A product which can be customised as per a client’s requirement is critical. Customising a product includes the most critical customisation which is to add the client’s branding. It is very critical to give a branding the right effect as per the target audience to ensure maximum brand recall. On occasions, client would prefer a loud branding because the target audience need to be aware of the message involved with the gift. And on other occasions, the client would prefer a very subtle branding depending on who the gifts are going out to. Customising also involves other options like including the corporate brand colours or adding an idea to the product which relates to the client’s portfolio or modifying the product to give it that right look to fit the target audience or including/excluding some parts of the product to fit the budgets and so on. A merchandiser who works with manufacturers can most of the times offer all of the above with added advantage of cost.
  • A client would always call and say, “I want the delivery of the gifts yesterday!”. Every client and every gifting company always have disputes with this aspect of an order. The client is always in a hurry and is always approaching deadlines with respect to the need of the giveaway. Firstly, more often than not, the client takes their own sweet time to approve the product and then complete the necessary documentations required. After which, the client further delays the process by not sending the artworks involved with the branding of the merchandise. I do not intend to blame the person from the client’s office for this since it usually is a long procedure which the client has to follow but speeding up this process will save most of the disputes regarding time lines. A merchandiser also in the spirit of turnover and sales, intends to false promise the clients regarding delivery time, it is always advisable to budget in some extra time for unforeseen circumstances which could further delay the deliveries. A merchandiser who maintains the delivery time as committed for at least three orders can expect a long term relationship with any client.
  • The way a product is presented or packaged directly increases the value of the product by two times. Packaging is a very essential  part of any gifting idea. Even If a regular T-Shirt is given in a well packaged box rather than the plastic cover usually used, the receiver of the gift would appreciate the gesture a lot more. The packaging of a product at times, is either equivalent or even higher than the price of the product itself. Special attention by the merchandiser to a minute detail of the packaging can increase the perceived value of the product to a large extent. There are companies whose business is only to create innovative, unique, classy styles of packaging and their businesses are thriving because packaging is now a very essential part of any gifting idea. There is not gift complete without a gift wrap (read Packaging).
  • While choosing a gift, it is imperative to choose one which can be transported to geographies without breakages or damages. The practicality of the product to be transported from the manufacturer to the merchandiser to the client and further to the final consumer in one piece without damaging even the packaging, is critical. The transport companies usually ignore the ‘Fragile’ sticker stuck on the boxes and throw the boxes around to reduce their burden. If there are damages to a product, not only does the merchandiser suffer losses but also loses goodwill, as the importance of the product reaching on time for an event is defeated. The merchandiser should be willing to replace the products on a priority basis in consideration to a long term relationship with the client. The merchandiser should be willing to pay additional to ensure the products are well packed to diminish any damages or breakages. Hence, products presented to a client for approvals preferably should not be delicate.
  • Priceless – of inestimable worth, beyond valuation, invaluable. A merchandiser must pursue ideas or products which are so unique in nature that once gifted, the receiver finds it very difficult to find the true worth of the gift. If this criteria is attended to, the gift in its true sense will be called a “Gift”.

Gifting Shifts Gears

Corporate gifting has come a long way from those imported Chinese merchandise to specially manufactured theme based merchandise, from gifting which was done by companies alone to gifting done by even an individual in bulk. The word ‘corporate’ is no longer relevant and has now changed to ‘bulk’ gifting.

Gone are the days when pharmaceutical companies or their likes, would hunt the market for novel Chinese gifting ideas which are worth hardly anything,

Gone are the days when the best gifting idea for a corporate to their employees were gift vouchers which are easily accessible and do not need any brain storming,

Gone are the days when the gift revolved around just apparels or bags,

Gone are the days when you had to run from pillar to post to find a vendor who could supply the merchandise,

Gone are the days when the vendor who supplies to a particular corporate was one of the largest gifting company.

No offense to the Chinese made products, but we are to be blamed because the products chosen by us were meant to be sub standard and light to a client’s pocket with maximum revenue for the gifting company. China has given the Indian manufacturer a run for his money, for products which are at least 2X the price in India even though there are freight, import duties and other taxes applicable. Beware Indian manufacturers, you need to pull up your socks if you at the least want to compete when it comes to ideas which are an Indian Speciality. There is no denial that products which are a daily requirement like apparels or bags would at all times attract demand, but there will be a time when the manufacturers would have an army of salesmen who would visit the client directly and eliminate the middle man or reduce the gifting company’s revenue to negligible terms. Revenues on these products are any which ways the lowest since maximum of the so called gifting companies only deal with these.

Not only the future but the current trend too lies with gifting companies who are willing to work as per the client’s need or theme and not according to the stocks available at their own warehouse. Novelty does not always mean it has to be a brand new product but it could also be, how an idea changed the product. Clients today look for products which fit the theme of the event rather than what is available in the market. Events could vary from seminars, exhibitions, festivities, motivation, appreciation, etc. It is time that gifting companies do not ask the first question as, what is your budget, but asks what is the theme for your requirement.

Gifting companies priority should at all times remain to look for products which are innovative, can be connected to themes, can be customised, can be delivered within a shorter time line, can be presented or packaged well, can be transported across geographies and to top it all, if the product can be termed as “priceless”.

To be continued..