Passion for a hobby is an important purchase justifier for two-thirds of consumers. Hobbies such as collecting, crafts, home workshops, photography, sports, and gardening drive many discretionary purchases. Collecting, for example, is a passion for over 40 percent of U.S. households, or in roughly 43 million homes. As birds of a feather flock together, so do collectors, with an average of 1.7 collectors per collecting household. That makes about 73 million Americans passionately driven to collect.

The most popular collectibles include:

  • Coins, collected by an estimated 27 million Americans

  • Figurines and sculpture, 20 million

  • Trading cards, 18 million

  • Memorabilia, 16 million

  • Dolls, 16 million

  • Christmas items, 15 million

  • Plush/bean bag toys, 14 million

  • Crystal figurines, 12 million

  • Die-cast cars and models, 12 million

  • Art prints and lithographs, 10 million

  • Miniatures, 10 million

The typical collecting household maintains more than three separate collections. Out of the 43 million collecting households, an estimated 70 percent purchased one or more items for their collection in the past year.

The main reasons consumers collect include the joy of ownership and the thrill of the hunt. They also like the acquisition of a small luxury that brings pleasure without guilt, the achievement of special knowledge in an obscure subject area, and expression of identity, feelings, and values. As with all hobbies, the act of pursuing the hobby provides as much or more satisfaction and pleasure as that obtained in the completion of the hobby. For example, knitters and needle pointers enjoy the creation of their craft as much if not more than the actual object created. Exercisers and sports enthusiasts enjoy the playing, practicing, and working out as much or more than the toned, healthy body that is a result of their pastime. Collectors prize the search and hunt for the desired object as much or more than the new acquisition. One respondent explains his passion about collecting this way: "Don't you see? Collecting is all about the acquisition." He meant the act of acquiring (the verb), not the thing in and of itself (the noun). That is one reason why hobbyists like collectors are never finished. There is always some new challenge to pursue, some new desired object to find, something else to try.

Demographic Distinctions

Both genders are equally motivated by pursuit of a hobby in their discretionary purchases. Younger consumers aged 18 to 44 are more likely to express importance of a hobby in their discretionary purchases. While collecting tends to be more actively pursued among middle-aged consumers, aged 35 to 64, younger consumers collect icons from their youth that they can find and trade on Internet auction sites. By comparison, the oldest consumers, aged 65 and older, are more likely than any other age group to say that a hobby is of no importance at all. Three-or-more-person households rate the interests of a hobby as an important motivator for their discretionary purchases.


How many of us go out shopping for a gift for someone else and come home with not one gift, but two—one for the person we went shopping for and one for ourselves? Usually the personal gift bought costs more than the gift for the other person. A consumer explained how personal gifting is pursued in the course of gift shopping for someone else: "One for you and two for me." The primary gift-giving occasions are Christmas and birthdays, followed in order by Valentine's Day, weddings and anniversaries, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Easter, and other occasions, such as showers, etc. Gift spending corresponds to the relative closeness or distance in the relationship, except in the case of formal gift-giving occasions such as weddings. Thus, people spend more money on presents for children and spouses than on neighbors or work associates. In the case of formal gift-giving occasions such as weddings, consumers are far more likely to buy with an eye on status. Consequently, they will spend more on such gifts.

Nevertheless, they spend the most on themselves. One consumer explains how she picks the best for herself: "That [speaking of a less fine item] is one I would give as a gift, but this [a nicer item] is something I would keep for myself." The tendency to pick the best for yourself should not be attributed solely to selfishness. Most shoppers are far more attuned to what they like, as opposed to what someone else might like, so they are inclined to be more passionate about the gift intended for personal use.

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Getting It Right


The name is synonymous with gifts.

As the nation's leading greeting-card company, Hallmark's brand image is intimately tied to gift giving. With sales of $4.2 billion in 2002 and holding 55 percent of the total U.S. greeting-card market, Hallmark defines its business as that of "personal expression." Hallmark continues to extend its brand into new areas that support its core mission, including entertainment, the Binney & Smith Crayola brand, and even a corporate loyalty consulting business called Hallmark Loyalty Marketing Group. Because personal expression is a universal human need, the company maintains a global presence with operations in more than 100 countries and product offerings in more than 30 different languages. It boasts domestic distribution through 42,000 retail outlets, including 30,000 mass merchandisers, discounters, and grocery stores, and 5,700 specialty stores, the pinnacle of which is its 4,300 Hallmark Gold Crown stores.

In essence, people buy Hallmark to express emotions. Don Hall Jr., the recently named president and CEO says: "These human needs to connect, communicate, and celebrate are enduring needs, which is why I have such confidence in the future of our company." However, the way consumers express emotions is highly dependent upon the trends at work shifting and transforming the culture. Past Hallmark president Irv Hockaday explained it this way: "Hallmark doesn't look at itself so much as a greeting-card company as it does a company whose job it is to support and enhance relationships between people—parents, children, husbands, wives, friends, people in the workplace, and so on. Those needs I don't think are going to change. How our company responds to the needs is changing and will change."

To enable Hallmark to respond to the changing personal expression needs of consumers, Hallmark employs a trend expert, Marita Wesely-Clough, to head up the trend-tracking research team. Her job is to identify consumer trends as they emerge and help Hallmark prepare for the future. Wesely-Clough explains: "It's essential to stay close to consumers to know what is influencing the thoughts and feelings they want to express. We research emerging trends years ahead so that when people are comfortable reflecting new ideas and attitudes, Hallmark already has 'thought of that,' and exactly the right card is in the store."

While the company holds its "cards" close to the vest in terms of where its future lies, it does reveal it is actively investigating how it can take the "essence of the greeting card" into new arenas. John Breeder, vice president of greeting cards explains: "Hallmark also is expanding into areas that consumers give 'permission' for Hallmark to develop—where consumers trust Hallmark to provide solutions to help them communicate, connect, and celebrate."

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Demographic Distinctions

Men and women are equally likely to indulge themselves in buying personal gifts. All age groups fall victim to this desire, except for the very oldest consumers, those older than age 65. Black consumers respond more highly to this tendency than other racial and ethnic groups. College graduates and those with post-graduate education are more likely than less-well-educated consumers to view giving a gift to oneself as an important motivator for discretionary purchases.