At Christmas we love to give, and re-give

A quarter of young adult British Columbians expect to re-direct an unwanted present this season.

By: Mario Canseco

There is no time more important for the retail industry than the holiday season. Ernst & Young recently predicted a 3.3-per-cent increase in holiday-related sales across the country, with British Columbia and Alberta leading the way in purchases and Atlantic Canada lagging behind.

Insights West recently found that, across the province, 84 per cent of residents intend to buy gifts for friends and family this holiday season. Still, only 23 per cent include “giving and receiving presents” as one of their three favourite aspects of the holiday season — way behind the 83 per cent who mention “being together with friends and family.”

How we buy presents may have changed over the past two decades, with fewer people visiting malls and relying more heavily on online shopping. But the situation is not as great as it was two years ago, particularly for bargain hunters who shop in the United States. Back then, a strong Canadian dollar meant more trips across the border for the one-in-four Lower Mainland residents who have a mailbox in Washington state. Now, the Canadian dollar is losing strength, making cross-border trips less enticing.

But regardless of the way we choose to conduct these transactions, there is no certainty about the success that a gift will have, and no guarantee that the person who receives it will appreciate it.

Across the province, 41 per cent of residents say they expect to receive gifts they do not like during the holidays, a proportion that climbs to 47 per cent among residents aged 18-to-34. This is a staggering statistic — practically half of our province’s young adults are already expecting to grin when a sweater they don’t fancy or a box of chocolates they will not eat comes their way.

So, how are we dealing with the unfortunate situation of finding things we don’t want under the tree? There are two options: re-gifting and exchanging.

In British Columbia, 42 per cent of residents say they do not expect to re-gift Christmas presents to other people. For 21 per cent, the practice of replacing gift labels is something they expect to do “regularly” or “occasionally” this year.
Re-gifting is more common among residents aged 18 to 34 (27 per cent) and women (23 per cent). Those over the age of 55 are considerably less likely to take a present meant for them and offer it to another person.

Exchanging Christmas gifts because recipients did not like them is also an option. As long as the proper receipts are there, it is remarkably easy to deal with these modifications at the store where the purchase was made. Both genders engage in this behaviour at the same level, with 20 per cent of men and women in British Columbia saying they will “regularly” or “occasionally” exchange gifts this year. Once again, age tells a different story. British Columbians aged 18 to 34 are more likely to take the gift and the receipt to the store for an exchange or store credit (26 per cent) than those over the age of 55 (12 per cent).

B.C.’s youngest adults will be having an easier time buying presents for their older counterparts, who are less likely to say they received gifts they did not like, and less likely to re-gift them or exchange them. In fact, half of British Columbians aged 55 and over say they expect to “never” re-gift this holiday season.

For those who are still pondering what to give their friends and family, the survey offers some comfort. If you are getting something for younger siblings, don’t feel bad if the gift you thought was perfect ends up back at the store or even in another home by Boxing Day. Parents, uncles, aunts or grandparents are more likely to truly enjoy what you give them, and keep it for themselves.

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Photograph: m01229