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The Giftware Association has been the proud spokesperson for the home and gift industry for 71 years, by collating our members’ views and opinions and presenting to local MPs, councils and the UK government, as well as joining forces with other trade associations on shared issues such as ‘Copywriting’, ‘IP Regulations’ and ‘CE Marking’. As the socio-economic and political environment changes rapidly, and with Brexit on the horizon, the GA needs our industry’s help, voices, views and support more than ever, so we can continue to represent, on an even bigger scale, the industry that we support.

We want to be the go-to trade association, taking your views to the top and where it matters, to councils, government and show organisers. We want to be the association that lobbies your views to a higher level, but we also need your voices to make us be heard louder.

In the last year alone, I have visited the Houses of Parliament multiple times, on issues relating to ‘Access to Finance’, ‘Copyright and IP’ and trading with governments of the commonwealth. Each visit there has been a questionnaire or focus group which has allowed us to take along our members’ opinions from across the industry, whether that’s a microbusiness that is relatively new to trading or a multi-million-pound retailer. All our members’ views are extremely important and valued, and if we want to continue being the voice of our industry for another 71 years, and continue to lobby to government, we need the help of the industry.

If you have connected with me over the years then please reach out and start a conversation on how we can work together and how you can support us. Collaboration is key to our success and our Meet the Buyer events prove that we work with a huge array of companies within our industry. As the current economic climate continues to rock the boat, we are stronger together, and The Giftware Association is designed to be the ship that can withstand the stormy waters.

By joining forces with us, we can take your views and concerns on changes in the industry, to a higher level and can make a change and influence government decisions. But most importantly, your support will help us magnify our own voice, helping us communicate a ranging view of opinions that we can use on our many visits to government, to help and support issues affecting the home and giftware world.

Sarah Ward, CEO, The Giftware Association


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Judge Profile: Sue Marks


Sue Marks is the longest serving trade press editor in the gift industry. She has been at the helm of Progressive Gifts & Home for nearly two decades, bringing a wealth of experience to the role. She is also a regular contributor to Progressive Greetings, Progressive Housewares and Progressive Preschool magazines.

She has been judging Gift of the Year for a few years, and we are delighted to confirm that she is continuing on the 2019 panel.

Previously in consumer journalism, she has been Editor of a diverse range of magazine titles to include Popular Crafts, Simply Crafts and Home Cooking. In addition, over the years, Sue has been invited to be a keynote speaker on gift trends at many of the leading gift and home shows around the world.

With her in depth knowledge of the gift and home industry, and her close connection to retailers, both independent and multiple, she will be judging this year’s Gift of the Year entries with a keen commercial eye.

Gift of the Year Judging

Who, where, when and how… Gift of the Year judging

If you’ve entered Gift of the Year 2019 or are thinking of entering, then you may well wonder about the judging process. The competition is administered by the Giftware Association, so is it the GA that makes the final decision about who wins? Does that mean that only GA members have a chance to win?

The answer to both of those questions is a resounding no! We pick an independent panel of retailer and trade press judges. Some of them happen to be members of the GA; most are not. Between them this panel (around 50 for the online stage of judging, around 20 for the final live stage) has absolute discretion about which products win in each category.

First, in the online stage, judges view a broad slice of categories based on their areas of expertise. They each choose their favourite few entries, and when the judging is complete we take the top ten (really between six and fifteen depending on the size of the category) from the total of judges’ votes, and form the shortlist. Shortlisted products are then sent in throughout the end of December, for judging in mid-January.


For the second and final round of judging, a smaller panel of judges – selected to be the most broad and representative of the industry – is invited to come to Birmingham where the GA is based. The shortlisted products that were sent in throughout the latter half of December are laid out by category, and each judge scores their top three products, ranking them their first, second and third choice.

As the judges go about viewing the categories, the dedicated Gift of the Year team inputs the results into our state-of-the-art vote counting software (an Excel spreadsheet). This automatically calculates the top three products by aggregating the points assigned by the judges (some categories are quite large, so the top four products are calculated instead). The judges then break any (very rare) ties, and the top product becomes the winner of the category, with the other two (or three) being highly commended.

The winning products from every category are then revealed to the judges, who between them vote on which is named the Gift of the Year Judges’ Choice. The winner of this accolade is given a free stand at Autumn Fair.
For more information about the judging panel, you can see them as they are recruited at More judges are added throughout the competition, and if you are a retailer, a buying expert or a member of the trade press, you are more than welcome to get in touch about adding your name to the list – the more the merrier! You can enquire at

If you are a retailer and would like a copy of the 2018 Winners Brochure, featuring product information, pricing and contact details for the suppliers, get in touch at

Winner Interview: Zakera Kali


Zakera Kali, founder of Peace & Blessings, won in the 2018 Greetings and Stationery category of Gift of the Year with her elegant monochrome and pastel greetings cards. Remarkable for their multicultural target market – covering Ramadan, Eid, Hanukkah, bar mitzvahs and the like – the cards truly are something special, and the judging panel recognised not only the excellent design of the cards, but the inclusive ethos behind them.


Six months on from her win (and Gift of the Year is far from the only award Zakera has received), we asked Zakera a few questions about her perspective of the competition.

Why did you enter Gift of the Year?

Someone within the industry suggested that I enter – so it was more of a recommendation and gosh, I am so glad that I did.


When did you first experience the benefits of entering?

After entering, my cards were featured on the GA’s social media followed by immediate support from my social media community once I announced that I was shortlisted.


How did it feel to win?

Humbling (and amazing!), especially as the other finalists were outstanding too.  I was humbled that people within the industry had given the brand and my collection recognition. It has really boosted my confidence.


Has your success in the competition helped your business?

Yes. it has helped to raise our profile and within months, I received orders from some high-profile companies that I hadn’t personally approached. I can only assume that they read about Peace & Blessings from the PR I received after winning.


Is there any advice you would give to someone considering entering this year?

I think it is worth entering even if you don’t win as your products are seen by the judges who have influence within the industry. If you do win, it really is a great opportunity to raise awareness of your brand, not to mention an opportunity to network and meet other people within the industry. I can say that I have actually made friends whether it’s the team at the Giftware Association, the judges, journalists and fellow winners.

You can view more of Zakera’s ranges on her website.

Gift of the Year: Two weeks to go…

The Gift of the Year 2019 competition officially opens on July the 15th, 2018.

Companies have been registering since the last competition closed in December 2017, and will soon be putting their newest and best products up for the coveted Gift of the Year status.

How does it work?

The competition is entered online, at, where entrants fill in information about their products and photos of them. For each product they want to enter, they pick at least one category. There is no limit to how many categories a product can be entered into, but the judges might not vote for a notebook entered into Gift Food!

How is it judged?

The competition is judged in two stages.

First, around fifty judges (a panel formed of trade press editors, retail buyers and industry experts) will be given access to the products all at once, after the competition closes. A judge will have three or four categories to look through based on their areas of interest, and they will each choose a number of products they would like to see shortlisted.

When those votes are counted, the top ten or so products in each category will be shortlisted, and the second phase of judging begins. Products are sent in to Gift of the Year HQ here in Birmingham, and in January a smaller panel of judges looks at the products up close and in person. They vote on their favourite products in each category, and the points are counted up to get the top three (or four) products in each category.

The highest-scoring products in each category are the winners, and from them the winner of winners is chosen: the Judges’ Choice.

What do the winners get?

Every product entered gets exclusive ‘Nominated for Gift of the Year’ branding which they can use online, as well as tent card designs they can print and send to their retail stockists.

All shortlisted products get ‘Shortlisted’ branding and the companies are listed in the Gift of the Year winners brochure, published at Spring Fair.

All finalists are invited to a glamorous event at Spring Fair, where the awards will be given out. Their products will all be featured in a magnificent full-colour Gift of the Year catalogue. They also receive a small trophy to commemorate their achievement.

Winners, of course, receive trophies and prime place in the Gift of the Year Winners Brochure. In addition, their products will be featured throughout the year in Giftware Association news stories.

The Judges’ Choice winner receives a free stand at Autumn Fair 2019, courtesy of its organisers, who are the competition’s headline sponsor (terms and conditions apply).

Of course, entering Gift of the Year is a great way to increase your exposure no matter how far your product gets in the competition, as the trade media pay close attention to the competition as it progresses.

How much does it cost?

The first entry costs £50 for GA members* and £75 for non-GA members; each entry after the first costs £35 for GA members and £50 for non-GA members.

Until the 30th of September, an ‘early bird’ entry rate applies, at least 20% off the prices listed here.

If you have any other questions at all, contact 0121 237 1142 or email


*Also members of NAJ, BTAA, JDA, DesignGAP.