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.
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."
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.