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Retail Gift Set Packaging – should you consider foam this Christmas?

Ian Heskins: Last Updated 17th February 2022
Posted In: Guides & Advice | Increase Sales xx 31628

Enhance Your Christmas Gift Packs

Make your festive retail packaging / gift sets stand out with foam inserts

The Christmas gift market is big business, with £26.9 billion spend on presents for loved ones in 2019, and consumers forking out £24.2 billion during the COVID hit 2020 festive period.

And whilst Amazon is now the de facto leader in where shoppers will start their Christmas gift shopping (with 30.1% consumers heading here first), the much-maligned high street still sees almost the exact same number (30%) visit physical stores.

This means that the on-shelf appearance of your retail gift set packaging is as important as ever. But can using presentation foam inserts help give your brand a unique appearance? Or are other materials a better bet for displaying your products within festive gift packs?

This guide provides:

  • An overview of the UK Christmas gift set market
  • The 5 main objections to using gift foam, and how you can overcome them
  • 7 key advantages of foam packaging inserts
  • How using foam can fit with your brand and existing packaging

Please use the contents section to jump straight to your particular area of interest, or continue reading below for the full article.

Quick Reference / Contents

01: Introduction

The Christmas gift market in the UK

As highlighted at the very beginning of this article, Christmas is a period of significant spending by UK consumers.

With 97% of Brits reported as celebrating Christmas in some way, it is hardly surprising that spending in 2021 could top the (almost) £27 billion spent in 2019.

Retail gift packaging
Spending on gifts could top £27 billion in the UK this year

And whilst there are fears of supply shortages, transport difficulties and potentially even new lock-down restrictions affecting shopping habits this year, the likelihood is that individuals in the UK will spend approximately £500 on average when purchasing gifts for family, friends, and colleagues.

Special edition and seasonal gift sets – everything from personal hygiene to food, gardening to alcohol, toys, and even various homewares – are a significant driver of a lot of this activity (how this affects Christmas packaging can be seen in these facts).

The effects of Coronavirus and lockdowns

There are a number of ways in which the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has impacted shoppers’ behaviour.

Whilst for many, job losses and furlough have meant reduced spending overall, many shoppers are still wary of visiting physical stores. Stock shortages – due to Brexit and a lack of lorry drivers – are also causing issues (something also reportedly affecting Black Friday deals).

On the flipside, pent up demand, accumulated savings, and a lack of opportunity to celebrate in 2021, is likely to see increased activity this year.

A final, under-reported factor is that a lot of individuals have taken up new hobbies during lockdowns and COVID restrictions. In fact, as many as 36% of the UK population has had the chance to develop new interests in 2020.

The result? An increase in gifts tailored to these new-found pastimes.

Brand differentiation
With approximately 36% of consumers having taken up a new hobby during lockdowns in 2020 / 2021, a focus on gift packs relating to these could increase sales

Not just for Christmas

And before looking at why foam gift pack inserts could be worth considering for your festive packaging, it should also be noted that gift giving is not limited just to Christmas.

In fact, birthdays, Father’s Day, and Easter represent as much as 39% of the UK’s spend on gifting.

This means that any foam gift packaging you develop can potentially used at other points throughout the retail calendar (depending on your market / products).

02: Retail Gift Packs with Foam

Overcoming the 5 main objections to the use of foam in gift packaging

With a business’ retail packaging being absolutely critical during the highly competitive Christmas shopping season, any missteps can result in lost sales, harm to your brand equity, and even consumer backlash (in extreme cases).

This is why many will stick with the tried and trusted seasonal packaging formats.

But this can be an opportunity for other products and brands to do something different, and stand out from the crowd amidst all the noise.

And whilst foam inserts can help with this, there are typically five main objections businesses have when it comes to using them.

5 objections to foam inserts

In no particular order, these objections to foam gift packaging are as follows:

  • They are not environmentally friendly
  • They can’t carry branding
  • They are expensive
  • They are not available in brand colours
  • They are not suitable for specific products / markets

But there is a strong argument against these various issues. Please continue reading below for a brief overview on each.

Foam is not environmentally friendly

There has (rightly) been an increase in consumers that are more concerned than ever regarding the sustainability of their packaging (which has given rise to a backlash against Christmas packaging waste, as well as solutions such as FSC® packaging options).

And it is undeniable – foam is plastic based, and not as easy to recycle as paper-based products.

But foam can be recycled, with more and more specialist centres becoming available all across the UK. And foam can also help prevent damage in transit, minimising the volume of broken products that then end up in landfill.

It is also now possible to source recycled foam materials for use in your Christmas packaging.

Retail foam packaging
Foam is becoming easier to recycle, with a number of recycled grades now available too.

Foam is not available in brand colours

Obviously, grabbing attention is hugely important in retail markets. This is why Christmas gift packaging is a mixture of seasonal colours, bright hues, and eye-catching designs – something that often extends to the inserts inside the gift packs.

However, whilst many will picture packaging foam as only available in black or white, Plastazote is actually available in a huge range of colours. And whilst it is not possible to match specific pantones or other colour references, the foam can be layered to create eye catching and visually unique designs.

Foam can’t carry branding

Similarly to the above, many will the cite the fact that foam is fairly boring in appearance, even with the excellent surface finishes it can provide.

Another criticism is that it cannot be branded. But this is actually incorrect.

Using advanced laser etching techniques, your gift box foam can include logos, branding, slogans, instructions, and even detailed graphics as required.

Branded foam
Foam can be branded using laser etching techniques, and is available in a broad range of colours

Foam inserts are expensive

Being completely honest, foam will typically be more expensive than card or corrugated inserts.

However, as there are no minimum order quantities (MOQs), for short runs foam can often be the lower cost option (as you do not need to purchase a huge amount, only exactly what you need).

It is also perfectly suited to high end products or limited-edition gift sets that require a more luxurious feel / appearance – it can provide an air of quality and uniqueness that paper-based inserts cannot.

Foam is not suitable for my products

The final objection to foam inserts doesn’t really make a lot of sense. If your business sells anything but the most low-cost items (or those which are incredibly durable to start with) then foam can be a great option to present them.

In fact, if you are considering festive retail packaging, or offering items in a gift set, then foam with definitely be a great way to present them.

Foam gift set packaging
Foam can be used to enhance almost any gift set or promotional pack

03: Benefits of Foam Gift Packaging

7 additional benefits of using foam in your festive gift packaging

Answering these 5 objections to foam gift pack inserts does not tell the whole story, however. There are in fact a number of other significant advantages that can be realised by using Plastazote or other foam inserts for your Christmas packaging.

7 benefits of retail gift set foam

So, without further ado, the additional advantages you can expect to see from using luxury / retail foam in your festive retail gift sets includes:

  • Protection for products
  • Minimises returns and associated costs
  • Exactly tailored to your items
  • Can be added to almost any packaging
  • Provides differentiation from competitors
  • Adds value (and leads to retention of packs)
  • Offers excellent appearance

Please continue reading for further info on each of these points.

Protects products

The first point here is arguably the most important. Put simply, foam inserts will offer the highest levels of protection for your products.

This not only includes protection from impact, vibration and mishandling on the way to the retail outlets, but also when consumers are taking them home or to their families / friends’ houses.

Besides this, foam also protects against surface marring, blemishes, and scratching. This can be very important for high end, luxury products (such as fragrances). Foam far outperforms corrugated cardboard and similar materials here, which can be surprisingly abrasive (although there is a coating – Nomar – that can be used to alleviate this somewhat).

Foam minimises returns and associated costs

But besides protecting products, presentation foam also help reduce costs to your business. This is achieved through reducing product returns due to items being damaged (even just aesthetically) during transit.

Beyond this, minimising returns also helps foster customer loyalty (your brand is perceived as reliable and of higher quality), and can help to drive repeat business (aiding future sales).

Exactly tailored to your items

Foam inserts – unlike cardboard cradles and similar inserts – can be tailored precisely to your products.

And whilst arguably the key benefit of this is to eliminate the damage as highlighted above, it also ensures that your retail gift packs appear of the highest quality. Again, this is something that can be critical for high end and luxury brands that must convey a sense of the highest quality.

Tailored foam packaging
Foam inserts can be precisely tailored to the contours of your product(s)

Provides differentiation from competitors

Chances are, very few of your competitors are using foam insert for their Christmas gift packaging. It may be because of the objections listed above. It may be simply because they just aren’t aware of it.

Whatever the reason, if you are the only brand using foam packaging inserts then your gift packs will instantly stand out from your competitors. This could help drive awareness and, ultimately, sales of your products.

Foam can be added to almost any packaging

Foam inserts are also versatile in that they can be added to almost any form of packaging.

Outside of the standard solid board and corrugated cardboard packs you are likely to see in typical retail environments, foam can be added to light weight carry cases (think tools, sets of products and DIY items), clear plastic boxes, and even retail Correx® packaging.

This versatility also makes it useful for brand consistency, if for example you sell products in a range of different packaging.

Gift set foam insert
Foam can be added to almost form of packaging, enhancing its perceived value

Adds value (and leads to retention of packs)

Another benefit of including foam in your retail gift packaging is that it adds value to the end consumer.

What is meant by this, is that the recipient of the gift is much more likely to retain the packaging to store the products that they have been given on an ongoing basis.

The 2 benefits (to your business) of this, is that firstly it leads to a higher perceived value of your products – increasing the price consumers are willing to pay – and secondly provides ongoing brand awareness as your box remains in the individual’s home.

Excellent appearance

And finally, foam can provide a truly unique and high-class appearance.

The aesthetic quality of foam makes it perfect for higher end and expensive products in particular, but works well in complimenting a huge range of products.

In short, it is perfect for retail gift set packaging.

Foam is suited to packaging high end products such as fragrances. Please note: image provided by

In Summary

Retail gift set packaging – should you consider using foam this Christmas?

The answer should be a resounding yes!

Whilst foam will not be the right choice for all markets and products, it can provide your brand with a real point of difference, help you to exceed your customers’ expectations, and add value to the retail gift set packaging and products you sell.

If you are unsure of whether gift pack foam could work for your business, what volume you would need and the various options, please get in touch with a member of the GWP team who will be happy to discuss your exact requirements.

Further Reading...

About the Author

Ian Heskins

Ian Heskins

Business Development Director | GWP Group

Ian is one of the founding Directors of GWP, using his broad knowledge acquired over more than 30 years to oversee new business strategy [Read full bio…]

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