When it comes to the holiday gift-giving season, personalized holiday
gifts are really the name of the game. Nothing says I care
better than an ornament personalized with your grandchilds photo
or a tote bag imprinted with the likeness of Aunt Hildas precious
dog. And with todays technology, the skys the limit when it
comes to personalized gift-giving. We see people personalizing just
about anything for holiday gift-giving, says Margaret Johnson, Johnson
Plastics, Minneapolis, MN.
fact that were in the business of personalization gives retail engraving
shops an extra special boost, particularly during the holiday season.
Its not necessarily the giftits the thought that
went behind it, explains Diane Clancy, Gravograph-New Hermes, Duluth,
GA. Whether its a corporate desk set, silver picture frame
or glass decanter set, its the engraved message that takes it to
the next level. Engraving signifies craftsmanship. Chances are one of
the first things the recipient of an engraved gift does is run their fingers
over the engraved message to feel the engraving. This form of art began
in the U.S. 65 years ago, when New Hermes introduced the first portable,
affordable engraving machine. Although computers have simplified the process,
the impression remains of the craftsman and his art.
no secret that technological advances in this industrymany of them
recenthave made the range of available personalizable products enormous.
With sublimation, for example, you can find everything from ornaments
to toys to a complete collection of home decor items. Likewise, there
are more items available for laser engraving than ever before. I
think from the laser standpoint, the availability of materials is greatly
improved in the last, say, year to year-and-a-half as companies have started
to tune their materials for lasers, says Mike Fruciano, LaserBits,
Inc., Phoenix, AZ. And the big thing is using CerMark on bare metal
products. So thats opened up lots of applications as well.
(CerMark is a metal marking solution; when applied to uncoated metal and
lasered, it leaves a permanent black mark.)
trends in holiday gift-buying run the gamut from simple to extravagant,
decorative to functional and expensive to economical. We expect
to see the introduction of more unique holiday-specific gifts this year,
particularly for Christmas and Valentines Day, says Cary Green,
Laser Reproductions, Skokie, IL. Gifts that serve a dual purpose,
both functional and decorative, will be more popular as will gifts that
recognize two or more cultures or traditionsChristmas and Hanukkah,
are thinking both larger and smaller about personalized gifts, Green
adds. Nowadays, they can create personalized jewelry having images
in sizes as small as 1/4" with sublimation or laser engraving.
Ho Ho Holidays To Remember
course, one of the biggest sellers during the holiday season are gifts
that relate specifically to the holiday. These days, what parent doesnt
have a personalized ornament for Babys First Christmas
or personalized stocking hangers hung by the chimney with care?
a wider variety of shapes and media available in holiday-specific gifts
of all kinds, including ornaments and stockings and porcelain, ceramic,
glass and wood products, says Green. Laser Reproductions, a supplier
of sublimation products, supplies, equipment and coating services, has
a selection of sublimatable porcelain ornaments in a variety of shapes,
such as a star, heart and snowflake.
variety of Christmas ornaments made out of fiberglass reinforced (FR)
plastic that can be sublimated with bright, colorful images and photos
are available as well. Johnson Plastics, for example, carries a line of
ornaments in several different shapes, including a bell, tree, star and
ball, which can be sublimated on both sides. For example, a photo or other
personal touch can be imprinted on one side and a holiday message on the
other, making a great gift for parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.
Johnson Plastics has also introduced an attractive pewter ornament shaped
like a wreath that features a sublimatable disc in the center. The beauty
of this type of gift is that a new one can be given each year; they often
are not one-time purchases.
people are using ornaments as collectibles that they can personalize for
gifts, says Diane Clancy. Adults and children enjoy an ornament
with a message or name and date to hang each year. New homeowners, newlyweds
and parents enjoy receiving ornaments signifying their first Christmas
celebrated. Our best sellers are the bronze Boy or Girl in Prayer-shaped
ornaments and our pet ornaments in the shape of a cat or dog.
variety of different styles of ornaments can be found from suppliers throughout
the industry. The most recent TSI holiday-specific gift items are
the six assorted enamel and brass tree ornament/photo frames, says
Rick Rainey, TSI Gifts of Recognition, Huntsville, AL. The assortment
consists of an angel, stocking, snowman, Santa, train and a moon-shaped
has recently introduced a line of acrylic sheet material in various colors
along with different varieties of thin wood sheets that, says Fruciano,
is ideal for laser cutting and engraving, allowing you to create custom
ornaments right in your shop. Thats just gone bonkers,
he says. We also introduced a CD ornament design disc (for more
information see Supplyline page 66) that has CorelDRAW files containing
ornament designs that are laser-ready. So, essentially the creation of
a custom ornament that you would hang on a tree is all done for you.
simply open the file, drop in a name, date, message, etc., and then cut
the ornaments out of the acrylic or wood. You can easily make holiday
ornaments either for window hangings or tree hangings, things like this.
That market is huge. The beauty of this is that you buy a sheet of acrylic
and pay $12 for it and out of that you can make 20 or 30 $6 or $8 ornaments.
So the markup is dynamite. And you can make some really cool looking pieces.
Clear acrylic is very holiday-looking. Its bright, its
shiny and it looks pretty on a tree.
to a market research study from Unity Marketing (The Jewelry Report: The
Market, The Industry, The Trends), consumer spending on jewelry for personal
and gift purposes has not slowed as some other retail segments have. The
consumer market for fine and costume jewelry rose 5% in 2000 to total
$39.8 billion. Personalized jewelry continues to be extremely popular,
particularly around the holiday season when consumers are frantically
searching for that perfect, personal gift.
able to offer custom engraving services is a major advantage for retailers
during the holiday season, says Diane Clancy. For a jeweler expanding
into engraving, its not what they engrave that is as important as
the fact that they provide engraving. You need to get the word out! Up
to 75% of customers want their purchases personalized and once the item
is engraved, its a permanent sale. Many jewelry and gift retailers
have reported they have increased their profits by up to 20% by adding
engraving. This is not just a service but a revenue-generating service.
With small engraving systems like the (New Hermes) IM4 you can set it
up in the front window of your shop and let passers-by watch you engrave.
Weve had customers that once they began marketing their new engraving
services, they had to limit it to customers who purchased the item in
their store because they could not keep up with the demand.
variety of attractive jewelry items are available in the industry, allowing
retailers to capitalize on personalizing and selling engravable jewelry.
Traditional jewelry items are always good sellers, says TSIs Rick
Rainey. Assorted silver jewelry with engraving space for a name,
initials, birth date or anniversary are popular right now, including items
like identification bracelets, earrings, rings, silver chains and charms.
Cuff links for men, as well as other personal items like tie clasps, key
tags, money clips, chains, and yes, earrings for men, too, are current
and stainless steel jewelry products, link bracelets and necklaces and
personalized watch bands are all hot items this year, adds Laser
Reproductions Cary Green.
E. Lepper, Attleboro, MA, has been in business for 50 years and is a long-time
industry supplier of engravable jewelry items. Our items are basically
jewelry oriented, says Robert Lepper. We have a standard line
and we change designs within the categories from time to time. Our merchandise
is priced competitively and its all American-made. John E.
Leppers womens line of pewter jewelry includes cuff bracelets,
lockets, pendants and key tags, and many of these pieces are embellished
with hand engraved accents around the edges. For example, some of
our cuff bracelets have what we call a feather-cut edge around the edges
and the center of the bracelet is an engravable area. Others have engraved
flowers or other ornamentals, says Lepper. The companys mens
line includes brass-plated money clips, key tags, tie bars, tie tacks,
etc. We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 different designs
of our money clips, explains Lepper.
of the most popular engravable jewelry items this year are military-style
dog tags, says Lepper. Im not sure if its because of
the military situation or what, but we are selling a lot of plain tags
that are being laser engraved with photographs as well as dog tags.
Fruciano agrees that this is definitely a current trend. One popular
jewelry item this year is the traditional style dog tags. The anodized
aluminum styles come in lots of different colors and are very popular,
especially as gifts for teenagers, he says.
E. Lepper also carries a line of jewelry items such as pewter pendants
and earrings that are silk screened with a theme image. Im
working on an order right now thats for a New Hampshire gift shop.
The items are based around a theme; one piece Im working on has
a silk screened loon which is the state bird of Maine. Another piece is
a pendant that features a covered bridge, which is big in New England,
he says. This is a little bit of a variation from our engravable
line, but many people do engrave on the backs of these pieces.
of the hottest jewelry gift items to hit the industry and one of the biggest
sellers for the upcoming holiday season are Italian charm bracelets. The
Italian charms are where its at, says Mike Fruciano. Weve
introduced quite a few new styles of the charms rather than the traditional
stainless-looking style. Theres a huge growth market there.
only are they a major hot fashion item, the fact that the charms can now
be easily laser engraved (with the help of a metal marking solution) with
anything from an initial to a soccer ball to an actual photograph makes
them an appealing and profitable item to sell in a retail engraving shop.
Italian charms are a huge, huge application for laser engraving.
Lots of people with lasers are just now getting into that, says
Gifts R Us!
are so many holiday-specific gifts available in the market. However, we
also look for items that can be presented as a gift or an awarda
quality item that can be personalized and is practical and will be used
by the recipient all year, and not just during the holidays, says
TSIs Rick Rainey. Beyond holiday-specific gifts and engravable jewelry
items, the industry has much more to offer in personalized gifts.
year there seems to be a larger selection of personalized gift items available
in the market, says Rainey. The items can be engraved, lasered,
sublimated, pad printed, screen printed, etc. With the increased variety
of equipment that can be used to personalize products has come the increased
demand for additional materials or surfaces to be imprinted in order to
meet the requirements of a particular customer or to enhance the quality
of the object. TSI Gifts of Recognition sells an assortment of engravable
gift items that, in the past, were made only in brass. Nowadays, the products
come in a variety of materials like brass, silver, natural wood, acrylic
of TSIs new items include engravable silver photo frames (for 2-1/2"
x 3", 31/2" x 5", 5" x 7" and 8" x 10"
photo sizes) and laserable natural wood photo frames (available in the
same standard photo sizes as the silver and the brass frames). Other new
items are nickel silver bookmarks, key tags, a horseshoe-shaped money
clip, a note holder and a coaster.
has recently introduced mouseMATES mouse pads (distributed by Johnson
Plastics), a different take on the traditional soft mouse
pads. The new mouseMATES feature a high gloss white sublimatable surface
laminated to a rubber backing. The attractive high gloss surface sublimates
with rich, vibrant colors. Also available are mugMATES coasters. These
can all be personalized with photographs to make beautiful gifts,
says Margaret Johnson.
Johnson Plastics carries a selection of other merchandise that makes great
holiday gifts. Some examples include wood picture frames and gift boxes
with a high quality lacquer finish and a velvet-look lined interior. The
boxes are designed to accept a personalized sublimated tile in the center.
Plastics line of sublimated tiles can be used for a variety of other
gift purposes, as well. For example, by applying a cork backing, the tiles
become attractive coasters; sublimating the back side of a tempered glass
tile and attaching rubber feet creates a personalized chopping board.
Individual tiles can be sublimated on the back and used as a trivet or
dropped into a frame to create wall art.
Industries, Sioux Falls, SD, offers several gift-related products, including
several styles of name bars, sublimatable mugs, piano finish clocks and
much more, says Mike May. The newest offering from JDS Industries
is a line of sublimatable mugs including 11 oz. and 15 oz. ceramic mugs
in white or four different color options, and stainless steel sublimatable
travel mugs available in two different styles.
Reproductions stocks a large selection of sublimatable products for the
holiday season. Some of the newer, more unique items include: dog and
cat bowls, dolls and bears with sublimatable faces, pillows and pillowcases,
stadium cushions and much more. We just introduced frosted glass
candle votives and vases to the imprintables market, as well as glass
tiles that can be used to make stunning framed pieces, trivets or murals.
Boxes and serving trays are always great gifts and we carry beautiful
solid oak products that hold sublimated tiles, such as pegged frames,
bookends and Lazy Susans, says Cary Green.
The Business of Corporate Gifts
major part of the holiday gift business for retailers in the Recognition
and Identification industry lies in the corporate market. Businesses hand
out large quantities of gifts customized with company logos to top employees
and valued customers. Gifts for these occasions range from high-end pieces
to smaller, more functional items. The corporate customer may prefer
items that represent their focus in the market, attractive and meaningful
gifts that can be imprinted with the company logo, to give to special
clients or to staff and employees, says TSIs Rick Rainey.
Plastics carries a variety of products well-suited to the corporate market,
such as pewter goblets, glassware and wine glasses. I do see that
corporate buyers are more interested in a quality product and Im
seeing that, thanks to todays technology, many of our customers
are much more confident in taking on a piece of Waterford knowing that
if they laser engrave into it or sandblast it theyre going to feel
confident that theyre going to produce a quality finished product,
corporate gifts are still popular with clients, items like desk clocks,
solid brass paperweights, golf sets, letter openers and card holders,
says Rainey. TSI carries many items for the corporate market, including
clocks, desk accessories, business card cases and card holders. Another
idea for a corporate gift that fits the corporate theme or focus in the
market could be an assortment of personalized products presented in a
gift basket or a gift assortment. TSI sells a selection of gift items
that can be combined with other products to create a gift assortment that
appeals to the corporate market.
the more expensive items are lower cost options that still have quality
appeal yet serve as an appropriate thank you to clients and
employees. We have our anodized business card cases that are popular
during the holiday season. Lots of companies hand them out as gifts with
the company name or company logo on it. And those are easy to laser,
says Mike Fruciano. There are lots of smaller giftware products
such as bottle openers, wine openers and multi-tools. A lot of these are
available in anodized or stainless and are very popular corporate gifts.
LaserBits online catalog features a category called CerMarkables
that includes a wide variety of metal products that can be personalized
with a laser and metal marking solution. Thats almost exclusively
corporate gift items, from stainless steel coffee mugs to knives and golf
tools and all sorts of things.
charms are the exciting new item and are sure to have huge growth
potential. Photo courtesy of LaserBits, Inc., Phoenix, AZ.
newest offering from JDS Industries, Sioux Falls, SD, is a line of
sublimatable stainless steel travel mugs, perfect for personalized
holiday gift giving.
Promoting The Holiday Spirit
general, a retail business could increase sales during the holiday season
by 50% or more, depending on the type of products the retail engraving
shop sells to customers, says Rainey. The retail engraving
shops can take advantage of some good sales during the holidays, and thats
something that will help the cash flow to begin the new year.
the most out of this potentially profitable season in your shop means
kick-starting your marketing program early and with gusto. First,
know your market, says Cary Green. Know what and when they
buy. Items that serve dual holidays (Christmas and Hanukkah) or dual purposes
(functional and decorative) will increase the likelihood of sales.
Rainey also stresses the importance of tailoring your products to your
clients. For starters, know what your customers like when it comes
to selecting appropriate holiday merchandise to sell. Keep the traditional
good sellers in stock; however, look for some popular new items to present
to the repeat customers and to the possible new customers, too,
you know what merchandise you plan to stock, be sure to order early. Order
soon, says Margaret Johnson, advice that is strongly echoed throughout
the industry. November and December are big sale months for both
corporate and retail sales in our industry. The holidays represent a good
percentage for many retailers, especially if they hit on a hot item. This
time of year can really be good for them.
Lepper says that his company actively encourages early orders. Generally
in the fall we try to encourage our customers to order early, he
says. We sometimes provide incentives, like a discount if they order
by a certain date and that type of thing. This is the biggest season for
usSeptember, October and November.
Fruciano agrees with the earlier, the better. He says, September
isnt too early because a lot of people make their buying decisions,
especially corporate customers, in the September-October time frame. Sometimes
even earlier than that.
should order holiday merchandise as soon as possible, or when it's economical
to order early, says Rainey. In most cases, a supplier that
sells a specific holiday item(s), prefers not to carry these items in
inventory after the first of the year. Items that are more generic, not
holiday themed, can be ordered later in the season, or when the items
are needed by their customers.
in this industry start buying for the holidays in August, so if you havent
ordered your products by now, you might have a hard time getting some
of the most popular merchandise, says Cary Green. Deliveries
to you and to your customers could be delayed, especially between Thanksgiving
and Christmas. Be prepared to pay expedited shipping costs if you need
something in time for the holidays. Begin purchasing plans for next year
as soon as this season is over and youve assessed buying trends.
Reproductions, Skokie, IL, just introduced frosted glass candle votives,
vases and glass tiles that can be used to make stunning framed pieces,
trivets or murals.
significant part of holiday gift business comes from the corporate
segment. These examples from Crystal by Design Co. Inc., Arcadia,
CA, are just the tip of the iceberg in whats available.
you have the merchandise on your shelves, its time to promote it.
While this takes some effort, time and money to do effectively, itll
pay off in the long run. If you dont market it, people dont
buy it, says Johnson.
importance of showing finished products to your potential customers cannot
be underestimated. (Yet another reason to order early is to give yourself
time to create finished samples.) Make a special display that focuses
people towards these special holiday items and encourage them to customize
it with names or things like this, advises Mike Fruciano. If
you dont have a display thats special, itll get lost.
Customers dont know that you can laser cut ornaments out of plastic.
You have to show them the finished product. A special display or a section
of your showroom or a section of your Web site highlighting those productsthats
what is really required.
Clancy says that in addition to showing off personalized merchandise,
show off your actual craft as well. Get a small system like the
IM4 that comes complete with jewelry fonts, software and accessories and
put it in your window and start engraving ornaments, jewelry boxes, pen
and pencil sets and charms. You can add a Ring Engraver and mark the inside
of rings right in front of your customers eyes. People have a perception
that it takes weeks to get an engraving order filled and it may hold them
back from taking the extra step. When they see it being completed easily
in your shop, youll be their jewelry and gift shop of choice.
Rainey says that many retailers successfully utilize a rotating theme
display in their stores. For example, create a display with a back-to-school
theme, then the same for Halloween. Next would be one for Thanksgiving,
then a display for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. During the month of
a particular holiday theme, build on that theme with appropriate mailers,
E-mails, newsletters and advertising.
todays digital technology, creating your own promotional pieces
to highlight holiday merchandise and services is as easy as point-and-click.
You can do that so easily now with a digital camera. Then mail your
flyers or E-mail them to customers, says Margaret Johnson.
Rainey agrees that a good marketing plan includes advertising. Send
out mailers to customers with information about new items. A newsletter
would be a good way to inform customers of the latest store news, an open
house, product specials or just to keep the company name in the minds
of the clients during the holiday season. E-mails with the same information
can be sent to special customers, and advertising in the local media are
good ways to promote sales during the gift-buying season.
Green says that creative marketing strategies really pay off. Hold
a Holiday Open House for your best customers early in the
season to showcase products, he suggests.
customers, Green adds, require special care. Corporate buyers want
to feel special, not mass-marketed. Learn who the buyers and gatekeepers
are. Send them targeted samples and/or messages. Tell them how you can
help them solve holiday gift problemsdont just show them what
you have to sell. Provide added services like help with gift selection,
delivery services, presentation options, etc.
off your actual craft! These unique laserable items from Universal
Laser Systems, Scottsdale, AZ, have taken engraving to the next level.
take your popular sublimated tile to the next level, Lavivrus Woodworking,
Troutdale, OR, offers an extensive line of frames, bookends, Lazy
Susans, trivets and other items specially designed for your tile designs.
agrees that tapping into the corporate gift-buying market often involves
slightly different tactics. Retailers can get involved in the corporate
holiday gift market by getting involved in community activities and by
providing a service in the area where the store is located. These tactics
can be a great advertising tool. Many corporations are out in the public
and they, too, understand the importance of being involved in the community.
If the retailer is visible on the corporate gift buyers radar screen,
then it could be easier to make an appointment with the corporate gift
buyer, and probably easier to make the sale.
kiosks and carts are another way to sell during the holiday season, and
one that has proven successful for some retailers. Mall kiosks,
in my opinion, are a good way to generate additional market sales,
says Rainey. During the holiday season, many people will go to a
mall or a shopping center looking for several gifts. Displaying items
in a kiosk for several months during the busy season can be good exposure
for the main store, and it can create additional sales of items that will,
in most cases, be sold only during that time of year.
do caution, however, that the value of a mall kiosk depends on your business
and the amount of time and money you can give to it. It is, in essence,
a separate business of its own and requires separate resources. Its
really almost a full-time business. There have been people who have been
successful at itbut its really a different animal. It takes
a lot of concentration and focus to be successful, says Mike Fruciano.
addition, mall space and carts/kiosks can be expensive to lease. (In some
malls monthly charges are estimated at at least $800 per month; in addition,
some malls charge an additional percentage of your monthly sales on top
of your monthly lease.) You also have to have the right product to sell
out of a cart and you have to keep it staffed with reliable personnel.
you do decide to try a mall kiosk, there are several ways you can run
the business. For example, promoting the business as an on-the-spot engraving
service is one option. Youll need the necessary equipment and supplies
on-hand, as well as employees who are able to personalize merchandise
quickly and with quality results. Another option is to take orders and
have customers return, say 24-48 hours later, to pick up their personalized
merchandise. Thats a good way to go if you want to try the
waters with a mall cart, advises Fruciano. You could take
orders for custom products, but you dont need to produce them on
you choose to promote your holiday business this year, keep in mind that
planning is key. In addition to getting an early start, give your staff
a once-over. Whether you need to hire temporary help or expand existing
employees hours, be sure youre ready to handle the holiday
all, be prepared to give your customers good, friendly, fast customer
service. Consumers will be stressedit goes with the seasonbut
if you make their gift-buying experience an enjoyable one, theyll
be back throughout the year.
your plans now and have a happy, healthy and profitable holiday season!