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Event Gifting on Fast Track to Recovery

Based on calls with principles at multiple event gifting companies, the return to group travel and events has revived the event gifting business, which was hard hit by the pandemic in most sectors. 
“Event gifting is back, and this is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Ree Wysong, CEO of GGIWW, an event gifting, master fulfillment, and promotional products firm based on St. Louis. “It started coming back full force in January, and we are staffing up. We had some events postponed in Hawaii, but now it’s wide open.” 
On the other hand, she doubts that group travel has yet fully returned and wonders if some of her company’s exceptional growth is based on her clients and brands, which include beachwear firms such as Coolibar, Wallaroo, Sanuk, and now Scott Hawaii, brands she says are popular in her clients’ event gifting programs. What she has noticed is that groups appear to be smaller than in the past, and that her international program business has not yet returned. Much of her new business, she notes, is coming through promotional products distributors. 

A Return to Near Normal

Joe Jones, CEO of IncentaRewards, a Dayton-based incentive and event gifting business, agrees that “onsite gift events are returning. In fact, we have several Mother’s Day gift events during May. We have Father’s Day and Christmas in July gift events to make our May, June and July schedules look like pre-pandemic calendars.” He says the programs are getting back to normal. “Our gift events are very much like 2019 and recently the mask mandates are lifted for our staff and attendees. It helps to better hear and understand the participants.” 
He says that IncentaRewards offers “multi-brand and multi-product categories. People want choice and our clients come to us because they understand the importance of choice. Most of our events offer multiple brands with some exceptions, like when we offer an event with Tumi products only. Our most popular event is our His/Her Luxury Trunk Show featuring personal accessories.” 
The casino business fared better than other event businesses, says Paul Gordon, Senior Vice President of Sales at Pinebrook, NJ-based Rymax. “Events at casinos never really stopped during the pandemic. There were restrictions regarding crowd size, and we limited access to physically trying on items, but we fully staffed and executed the events.” Otherwise, he adds, “Corporate America canceled everything in 2020 and started to emerge in 2021 with a combination of onsite and virtual events, and in 2022, we are back in full swing. Clients are requesting that their employees and our employees are vaccinated in most cases, and some are also requesting a test 72 hours prior to the event to ensure everyone’s safety. Events are being held internationally and throughout the United States and the reaction of the participants has been great. Fatigue from the last two years has created a strong demand for some type of normalcy and events and rewards trips provide that.”

“Brands Motivate”

Gordon notes some changes in program format. “We are providing a hybrid experience of onsite and virtual rewards that covers all employees, where in pre-pandemic events it was mostly onsite. The product selection in rewards events has shifted towards more practical products along with fitness and wellness products.”  He says his company “offers all the top brands and SKUs (stock-keeping units). We don’t believe that off-brand products motivate, and we are not keen on products that have a client’s logo on it. We feel that this is good for corporate pride but diminishes the value of the item as it is viewed as a premium. People often redeem for things that they want but don’t want to buy. That’s why vacuum cleaners and tools are good redeemers. The selection needs to be eclectic. Assumptions on what is desirable is the wrong course. Give the participants a choice and a deep variety of products and categories.”
Cautious optimism describes the perspective of Stu Birger, Founder and CEO of Innowave Marketing Group, a Hillsborough, CA-based incentive marketing firm. “The business appears to be coming back now but the second half of the year will provide more data points.” 
For More Information

Ree Wysong, GGIWW
Joe Jones, IncentaRewards
Paul Gordon, Rymax 
Stu Birger, Innowave 

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