Experiential gifts

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Experiential gifts also known as gift experiences and experience gifts, pioneered in the UK in the 1990s, now represent one of the faster-growing segments of the $253 billion a year gift industry. As opposed to material gifts, they allow the recipient to have an experience, such as skydiving, kayaking, race car driving or touring a vineyard.


Experiential gifts often fall into the following groups:[citation needed]


The pioneer of the industry[according to whom?] was the United Kingdom-based Red Letter Days, which rose to meteoric[citation needed] heights before crashing down to virtual bankruptcy. Red Letter Days was founded by British entrepreneur Rachel Elnaugh, who reportedly came up with the idea of gift experiences after looking for a creative way to give her father tickets to an England cricket team match.[citation needed] The success of Red Letter Days led to Elnaugh winning the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2002 and a role as a Dragon on BBCTV's Dragon's Den.[citation needed] Red Letter Days was purchased in August 2005 by Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones, who are also Dragons on the BBCTV show.[citation needed]

Experience gift companies launched across Europe following the success of Red Letter Days and the largest Australian experience gift company, RedBalloon, was founded in 2001.[citation needed] By 2010, nearly all EU countries had an established experience gift provider from the larger states such as Germany through to the small countries such as Cyprus.[citation needed]

While popular in both Europe and Australia, the idea of experience gifts did not hit the mainstream in the US until 2004–2005. Between 2004 and 2005, the four largest US-based experience gift companies – Great American Days (2004), Excitations (2005) Cloud 9 Living (2005), Xperience Days (2004) – were founded. All four continue to operate today.[citation needed]

Market surveys[edit]

As of 2009, the experiential gift market is an established, highly competitive multimillion-dollar market in the United Kingdom and in Australia and an emerging category in the U.S.A.[citation needed]

A survey conducted in November 2005 by American Express found that experiential gift giving was on the rise: 30% of those surveyed planned on giving experiential gifts that year versus 23% the prior year.[1] The survey also found that experiential gifts were particularly popular among consumers aged 18–44. A survey published in 2007 by Mintel estimated the UK gift experience market to be worth £98 million.[2]

According to the same American Express survey, the growth of interest in buying experience gifts in the UK is:

Year Growth
2001 18%
2002 20%
2003 20%
2004 22%
2005 23%
2006 30%
2007 34%
2008 35.5%

[citation needed]

Experiential gifts also capitalize on consumers' growing comfort with purchasing gifts online. According to a December 2012 survey, 69 percent of UK experience days were bought online.[3]