Companies raised their game for this year’s prestigious Gift of the Year competition, according to event organiser The Giftware Association (GA).
At a special ceremony held during Spring Fair International at the NEC in Birmingham, internationally renowned product designer Sebastian Conran presented the coveted Judges’ Choice award (for the most outstanding product across the contest’s 19 categories) to Thabto for its Subbuteo Bottle Opener.
As part of the Judges’ Choice prize, Thabto will be given a free stand at Autumn Fair International by the competition’s headline sponsor, i2i Events Group, organiser of Spring Fair and Autumn Fair.
The Subbuteo Bottle Opener also triumphed in the Commemorative and Collectable Gifts and Gifts for Men categories.
Gift of the Year awards are given to the most original and innovative new-to-market products which are seen to make great gifts while also being commercially viable.
The judges awarded points to each product based on its design innovation and originality, quality of manufacture, sales potential and commercial viability, presentation and packaging, customer appeal and value, retail profit and potential, marketing and merchandising support to the trade and the consumer and finally, the ‘X’ or ‘wow’ factor.
The judging panel included Judith Harris, senior buyer at Notcutts Garden Centres; Hilary Davenport, manager of Scotts & Co’s Original Gift Company catalogue; Mark Jones, founder and owner of online store Occasions Direct; Dick Mawdsley, founder of three-strong design-led homewares chain Utility; Simon Woolgrove, senior buyer with the online private sale club Achica; and retail development consultant Jenny Spivey, who is currently working on buying and sourciong projects with Frosts Garden Centres.
The Cadbury Roses Puzzle from Half Moon Bay was a particular favourite with the judges, winning Branded/Character and Hot Novelty, while its McDougall’s Flour Shaker took the Kitchen and Dining award.
A selection of the winning and highly commended products are listed below.
The Kitchen and Dining category winner was McDougall’s Flour Shaker (Half Moon Bay). Highly commended was Love to Bake Range (Parlane International) and The Fusion Collection (The Just Slate Company).
The branded/character category winner was Cadbury Roses Puzzle (Half Moon Bay). Highly commended was RHS Collection, (Dartington Crystal) and Mr Bean Scratch Map (The Lagoon Group).
The commemorative and collectable gifts category winner was Subbuteo Bottle Opener (Thabto). Highly commended was Ministry of Games (Talking Tables) and My First Year Personalised Baby Book (Signature Gifts).
The eco-friendly category winner was Disney ‘It’s a Small World’ Eco Plastic Stacked (Whitbread Wilkinson/W2 Products). Highly commended were Felt Animal Rugs (Sew Heart Felt) and Bottle Top Shots (Glass ReFORM, formerly Who’s? Glass).
The garden and outdoor living category winner was Jam Jar with Straw (Parlane International). Highly commended were Orla Kiely Garden Accessories (Wild & Wolf) and Herbert Planter (thumbsUp!).
The home accessories category winner was Lexon Flip Clock (Lexon UK). Highly commended were Gentlemen’s Hardware Illuminated Globe Light (Wild and Wolf) and YUYU Bottle (YUYU Designs).
The occasions category winner was Doodle Bunting (Doodle by Stitch). Highly commended were Fabulous Food Displays (Talking Tables) and Personalised Wedding Illuminated Canvas (Illuminated Canvas).
The hot novelty category winner was Cadbury Roses Puzzle (Half Moon Bay). Highly commended were Pick and Mix – Large (50 Fifty UK)) and Happy Birthday Singing Ice Fountain (Talking Tables).
The gift food category winner was Aga Shaped Oven Tin Filled With Biscuits (Elite). Highly commended were Cheddleton Christmas Ale (Cottage Delight) and Carmelised Almonds Cone (Cottage Delight).
The gifts for men category winner was Subbuteo Bottle Opener (Thabto). Highly commended were Gentlemen’s Hardware (Wild and Wolf) and Ted Baker Beetles and Bikes (Wild and Wolf).
The home fragrance category winner was Mini Reed Diffuser and Votive Candle Gift Set (Heyland & Whittle). Highly commended were Reed Diffusers by St Eval Candle Company (St Eval Candle Company) and Tales of London – Reed Diffuser, Westminster (Ashleigh and Burwood).
The made in UK category winner was Goldilocks and the Three Bears Breakfast Range (Heather Alstead Design). Highly commended were London Postcode District Jigsaw Puzzle (Ding Studio) and A Pair of Soap Books (Heyland & Whittle).
Retail development consultant Jenny Spivey thought that many of the entries she was judging would appeal to Frosts Garden Centres – whom she was representing – as they looked for mid to premium end product. However, she believed that where Christmas gifting was concerned suppliers had to be careful to hit “some magical price points” and some were losing out when they exceeded £19.99. Packaging was also “key”.
Isabel Martinson, chief executive of The GA, commented: “Gift of the Year goes from strength to strength in terms of the level and quality of entries. We would like to pay tribute to all the suppliers and designers who have once again raised the bar and given our judges a particularly difficult task.”
Spring Fair International is organised by i2i Events Group, headline sponsor of Gift of the Year. Sarah McLaughlin, the show’s portfolio director, said: “It is fitting that the UK’s premier exhibition should host the industry’s most prestigious awards ceremony.
“Once again, the majority of companies that have been successful in the competition have chosen to exhibit at Spring Fair. Their products will be among the hottest and most sought after at the show as buyers from the UK and overseas look to gain a competitive edge in 2014.”