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SARAH WARD, CEO of The Giftware Association gave an inspiring and positive speech to a captive audience at the 2019 Gift of the Year awards on Sunday 3rd February. Please see a full transcript of the speech below:

Look in the right direction and the future looks bright….

The Giftware Association is the voice of the Giftware Industry and, as we all gather here this evening to celebrate the best new products for 2019, I can proudly state that the industry we all love is in a very good place indeed. This, despite reports about the failing high streets, empty shopping centres, rising operating costs, and the B word. I want to replace Brexit with other B words, which I think are more relevant to this trade show and this evening’s celebration: BOLD, BRAVE, BRILLIANT and BRITISH.


Inside Retail’s authoritative guide to the UK retail market provides us with some convincing reasons for focusing positively on the UK, and I want to address this with my own reflections on what we, as the GA, are engaging with, supporting and providing opportunities for. All, of course, driven by a very positive outlook – if we look in the right direction.

  1. The Economy: The UK remains resilient despite uncertainty and despite retail sales growth slowing in December 2018 compared to the year before.

There is a definite argument to be made that in challenging times, real growth comes with risks, and moving into exporting is a risk worth taking. We have been supporting a significant number of our members with their move into international trade, advising them on this enormous and very exciting step. If it is backed up by a brilliant e-commerce platform, then growth is all but assured.

Equally, for British manufacturers and retailers, the increase in focus on Buy British and Buy Local products presents an additional sales opportunity with foreign visitors and proud Brits. Transparency with regards to the British Made mark of quality are vital now and will provide businesses with the chance to tell their stories and really engage with their customers.

  1. The UK Consumer continues to love shopping: they are harder to please but happy to buy new and interesting products.

What drives innovation, apart from necessity, is retailers being in tune with what consumers want. We have been staggered by the Gift of the Year competition this year. There was a clear sense from some of the most exciting entries of a story being told – of the ways in which these products can benefit consumers: from simply bringing them joy, to helping them relax or creating experiences that they can share with friends and family.

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When businesses know, understand and love their consumers, they bring to market products that ensure the industry thrives. Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium says that: “Fundamentally, successful retailing will always be about understanding the customer. With the support of public policy, it will be the resilience of our retailers, that will see the industry thrive.”

  1. A growth in entrepreneurial independents who know and love their customers

Many lessons can be learnt from those leading the independent sector. They cultivate their own style, and combine products to form a unique buy and give their customers a point of difference. The best independents truly understand who their customer is and how to engage them, always keeping them in mind when creating or buying.

  1. Booming e-Commerce: The UK is leading the world in e-commerce sales which is boosting demand for new products, thus opening up enormous market potential.

Now is the time to update your website. It is vital that businesses stay on top of the digital revolution and embrace change. As daunting as this may seem, it is via organisations such as the GA that you can learn, understand and access resources for supporting this change.

Key to the e-Commerce revolution is understanding that selling is about more than just selling. Consumers by and large make their final buying decisions with their hearts not their heads. Does your imagery, messaging, marketing clearly communicate the WHY? Your WHY. Show passion for your products and your customers and the two will find a way to connect and relate now and into the future.

  1. World Class Retailing: Having learnt how to operate in bad times, UK retail is transforming to be ready for the new retail landscape.

During a celebration such is this, isn’t this exactly the message we want to be shouting from the rooftops about? We are a nation of world class retailers – here right now in front of me are world class retailers. And our innovative suppliers as well – just look at the products we are here to celebrate, born from a unique understanding of your customer and a creativity and retail awareness that deserves all the accolades coming your way.

As Henri Davis writes, “As retailers and suppliers to the retail market, our job is to continue to give your customers a reason to keep spending money by offering a great selection of products that are well priced against the competition. Make sure everyone feels welcome when they contact your business.” Food for thought certainly as we progress further into 2019.

And what is the Giftware Association’s role in this positive future?

Our team spends a good portion of the year visiting every trade show in the country, speaking to our members, understanding what their needs are, offering advice where needed and encouraging them to take on some of the further retail opportunities provided by the organisation.

Make sure you visit us in Hall 5 this year – for the second year we have partnered with Buy-From Britain to bring 10 businesses new to the trade show, here to exhibit for the first time. These new members reflect just how diverse this industry is and features two shortlisted products and two finalists in this incredible 2019 Gift of the Year competition.

We have been on the front line of retail now for over 70 years and totally understand the challenges faced by our members. That is why collaboration and education are key – driven through organisations such as ours, determined to provide opportunities for learning and inspiration via our seminars, workshops and blogs and opportunities to meet buyers and understand market trends via our Meet the Buyer events. Now, more than ever, we recognise how vital it is for us to engage, support and drive growth in the industry we care so passionately about.  The Giftware Association is your voice, your network, your champions. Together we will grow, develop, inspire and engage more than ever before.

It is competitions such as Gift of the Year, that celebrate Independents alongside larger brands, equals in every way. Celebrating the best in home and gift retailing, the Gift of the Year Awards are the most highly-respected industry accolades aimed at recognising the best new products.

So here we are…. Ready to hear who the winners are from this incredible range of finalists. My last point to make to you all is to once again encourage you to keep looking in the right direction. So, congratulations for reaching the finals – you all deserve to be here and we look forward to seeing what 2019 will bring for all of you.

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We are incredibly excited to share this video we made to celebrate our Gift of the Year competition, from previous years winners, current entrants and the awards night.

This year was a great year for us with a record number of entries from over 250 companies.  The opportunities are amazing and we love hearing your success stories from the winners and highly commended,  about how the award evening and the display on our stand at Spring Fair brought people across to their stands and placed orders, which is always great to hear.

Watch the video to find out the real benefits of the competition.





The Giftware Association is busy planning its series of Meet The Buyer events for 2019. The events have been a huge success in the past with hundreds of products on display from over 200 companies

Come and meet buyers in a more relaxed environment where you can showcase your products and get to met buyers from across the giftware industry.   Perfectly timed so as not to disrupt any major shows and a networking lunch included.

These events have been really popular with buyers and we have already worked with John LewisOcadoTK MaxxThe National GalleryBoots and many more.


The Giftware Association is pleased to announce it will again be working with Mantons Cards, the multi award-winning Port Erin store is the Isle of Man’s largest supplier of quality greeting cards and gifts.  Manton’s are particularly on the lookout for bath bombs and candles. The cost to attend this event is £50 + VAT.

The Giftware Association is once again working with Choice Marketing and The Scout StoreScout Stores are looking for Clothing, accessories, gifting, christmas and novelty items. Choice Marketing, who look after 39 independent garden centre’s are looking for new innovative niche suppliers and large brands reaching out for distributors. This event will cost £125+VAT



The Giftware Associations first event of the year will once again be working with Find Me A Giftafter their successful event last yearFind out more and what Find Me A Gift are looking for here. The cost to attend this event is £75 + VAT



The Giftware Association is very excited to be working with The British ShopTHE BRITISH SHOPis the largest online shop in Germany, featuring high-quality British fashion in the country style, typical English homewear, British perfume and popular British specialties. online. The British Shop is looking in particular for Gifts, Gardening equipment, Home Textiles, Kitchenware and lifestyle products.

The cost to attend the event is £85 + VAT


If you would like more information on how these events work or if you would like us to approach any retailers that you have on your target list then please get in touch with

Thank you

The Giftware Association Team


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Imitation is NOT the highest form of flattery! Counterfeit goods damage brands, ruin reputations and, worst of all, can harm unsuspecting customers.

The Giftware Associations newest service provider ‘Snapdragon‘ held a breakfast seminar on our stand during Spring Fair and offered some helpful insights into the world of IP copying and design protection.

  • Register your trademark in as many territories as possible, and definitely in China. As 90% of copies are found in China, it is worth paying to protect.


  • Register products and trademarks with the EUIPO enforcement database and its equivalent elsewhere (This is a free service and helps protect your brand at ports of entry)


  • Translate your brand into as many direct and slightly indirect variants as possible and search regularly for these on online platforms. Report sellers for infringing activity and get listings removed


  • If you find counterfeits, buy a sample and get to know it so you can help others – including customs – tell the difference – Be super aware in terms of customer safety


Snapdragon is a company that simply put, fights fakes online. With the rise of counterfeit goods within the home and giftware industry, Snapdragon’s mission is to reduce the number of fakes around the world, enabling brands to thrive and customers to be kept safe. They work closely with in-house lawyers, IP firms and other legal experts to ensure your registered IP works for its investment, protecting your business and your customers.

The Giftware Association have partnered up with Snapdragon to raise awareness of this issue that many of our members face, so if you are looking to learn more about fighting fakes or have been affected yourself and want to know how to protect your brand in the future then speak to a member of the team.


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The Giftware Association would like to invite you to our Gift of The Year awards evening at Spring Fair, NEC. Starting at 6.30pm on Sunday 3rd February, The winners to our annual Gift Of The Year competition will be announced in Hall 20 at The Main Stage. The event is free to attend, you don’t even need to be exhibiting at the show or be a finalist in the competition.

We want to extend the invite to the whole of our industry so come and raise a glass of champagne, network with your peers and celebrate the best new products and winning companies in style.

But wait there is more…

To continue on with the celebrations, The Giftware Association is hosting a ‘Curry Night’ at Pushkar Indian Restaurant in Birmingham. The fine dining Indian restaurant is located on Broad Street, about 20 mins journey from the NEC*, in the centre of City and will begin at 8.30pm. Birmingham is home to the curry, so it would only be right to celebrate with our cities favourite dish.

We would be delighted if you could join us, the cost to attend is £40 + VAT, which includes a three-course dinner and drinks. Please book here, once we have received your booking, we will send over the menu options and request any dietary requirements.

For more information on future events with The Giftware Association, please contact Simone Rose on


*Please note we will not be able to provide transport to the venue but buses, trains and taxis all travel into Birmingham and are readily available at the NEC.