Gift Baskets / Hampers
People often ask me where I get my ideas from, and I answer honestly that they mostly come from my own imagination, and/or looking around myself. Today’s idea is from my original list but I must credit Small business opportunities Magazine for their article (July ’07 p.36) on International Basket Boutique which specifically mentions Diane Bromberg and her amazing success. Diane built a $500 investment into a $300,000 business within a year and now franchises out the opportunity for others, now that’s a great business.
So why gift baskets? Many people (myself included) are too busy to shop for presents, send cards etc for everyone that we should do. Sometimes what is needed is a service where you can make a call, use your credit card and send something that looks nice and suitably expensive without all the effort. Gift baskets are often just the thing.
What you probably won’t do is sell a lot of gift baskets to friends and family. You may want to give some at present giving times (Xmas, birthdays and milestone events such as baby births, retirement parties etc.) but you are looking for quite a specific type of customer, i.e. someone too busy (or lazy) to go and buy presents and with enough cash to pay a premium for convenience; ideally you also want them to keep buying. Whilst one or two people in your immediate circle might fit this target I am willing to bet most of them don’t?
You may find these people through the following approaches: -
Yellow Pages/Local Newspaper
Ebay lists almost 500 gift baskets ranging from baby stuff to coffee. Interestingly a simple search for gift basket does not get you straight into the list; there are about 12 categories that have baskets listed in them from Food & Wine to Weird Stuff (have a look I can’t explain). Clearly people are advertising and based upon browsing a few listings it looks like people are buying and giving good feedback. This may not be a bad place to start, but make sure you highlight something unique about your baskets so that they stand out.
There are over 7 million listings on Google for “gift baskets” and 5 million for “hampers” so it will be hard to get spotted by the search engines. According the to Overture listing tools approximately 226,000 searches were recorded for “gift baskets” in the last 30 days in the USA alone. There are 55,000 websites that have been optimised for these 2 key words. Halve the number of searches to about 100,000 for “food gift baskets” and the competition drops by 90% to about 5,000 optimised competitors. Clearly people are looking for gift baskets but it looks as though you will have an easier life if you find ways to promote your website rather than simply relying on key word searches.
Catalogues are great for this kind of product. They are relatively inexpensive to print and with an ok digital camera and some desktop publishing software you may be able to do the design yourself, or with the help of a friend. Make sure you drop your catalogues in the classier end of town and in the business district. If you want to be very targeted then try to find out the names of the secretaries of the big hitters in town and address a copy to their offices. The benefit of this kind of targeting is that you will get a higher response and thus keep your printing costs down, or at least generate more sales for the same printing budget.
Flyers are cheaper, easier to put together and are easier to file. If you plan to do mass mailings or drop these in every mail box at every office building down town then this is the route for you. Printing costs will be much lower but so will your response rate. Make sure you include a website address if the flyer is not big enough to show all your items and aim to drop around Mothers’ day or mid November for the Xmas rush when you launch.
Advertising in the Yellow Pages or Local Newspaper is great in the sense that is where people look when they want to buy something and don’t know where to find it. Get the biggest regular ad you can afford and over time the orders will just keep coming. Not enough to keep you in business but a healthy trickle on top of your other promotional activities. You can also look at advertising online through gift related websites and even on sites like Linked In which are designed for networking and thus have their share of big hitters.
When you start the key will be deciding what goes into the baskets and where to get the baskets. You can start by buying baskets from your local florist or garden centre and your stock from the local supermarket.
Once you work out what sells well you can start to find wholesalers for the more common items and thus cut your costs. You may want to import baskets and gift boxes from abroad if you cannot find a cheap enough supplier locally.
People expect to pay a premium for nicely presented baskets. Make sure yours still look nice when they arrive.
Send discount vouchers to anyone who orders, or receives a basket. It is a great way to ensure repeat business.
Keep contact details of people that order and receive baskets as you may want to make them a special offer from time to time as well as notifying the of any new products or services that you decide to offer
You can definitely start this business part-time; you find the customers and hire someone else to do the deliveries.