Tag Archives: presents

Many months of merry: the wide range of subscription gifts

Suffering from a pre-holiday “what to give” headache? The prescription may be a subscription.

Subscription gifts, one of the hottest retail trends, literally keep on giving: New installments arrive over the course of weeks or months. Gift recipients can also cancel the subscription at any time, so if you buy the first month or two, they get to make the call on whether they stick with it after the holiday buzz has worn off.

While the idea isn’t new (remember those record-of-the-month clubs?), the breadth and variety of what you can subscribe to is. Everything from Anna Sui makeup to zebra masks for kids. Freshly-pressed records, juices and high-fashion togs. Mystery boxes for people and for pets.

If your loved one is more into content than stuff, consider ordering a subscription for e-books, movie passes or classes in art, cooking or exercise.

“They’re a great improvement on the gift card,” says Neale Martin, a consumer expert and CEO at Sublime Behavior Marketing in Marietta, Georgia. Like gift cards, subscription gifts are easy to buy, especially last-minute, at a variety of prices, but they also can be highly customized.

“The idea of giving a present that will be bringing smiles for months creates a very powerful reinforcement,” he said.

Liz Cadman founded a website, MySubscriptionAddiction.com, devoted to boxes containing a mix of items each month. That improves the odds that your recipients will like what you gave them, she says: “Boxes give you variety. Most include five-plus items, so you know someone’s going to like at least a few of them.”

For ideas, here are some online offerings:

HOME

One place to start your hunt for subscription boxes is Cratejoy, which describes itself as the “world’s first subscription marketplace.” Featuring mostly home goods subscriptions but also branching out into fashion, food and other types of boxes, Cratejoy presents visitors to its site with new and trending subscriptions, rated and reviewed by users so you can hopefully avoid duds (cratejoy.com).

Set your style parameters at Linen Crate and get a monthly box of tablecloths, placemats, towels or rugs, as well as coordinating items like platters and spa accessories (linencrate.com).

Barkbox lets pets in on the subscription-gift game with dog and cat toys and treats arriving monthly.
(barkbox.com )

Food

The edible subscription universe is vast and varied — with too many options to list them all here. 

Some can be almost alarmingly targeted. A Bacon of the Month Club will deliver different varieties of gourmet bacon to you 12 times a year (baconfreak.com). Candy Japan sends two to six different kinds of Japanese candy, twice a month (candyjapan.com). And health nuts may enjoy Pressed Juicery’s packages, sending an array of green, root, citrus and fruit juices to your door (pressedjuicery.com).

Of course, there’s simpler options. Club W seeks to cut out your trip to the liquor store by sending you three to six bottles a month, tailored to your “Palate Profile” (clubw.com). Alternately, the Craft Beer Club aims to do the same for beers, offering 12 world-class beers every month (craftbeerclub). Be advised: Alcohol shipments require an adult signature to accept, so either make sure you’re home when the tracking number says it’ll be there or have your boxes shipped to a workplace.

BEAUTY & FASHION

There are all kinds of beauty, fashion and wellness subscriptions, many of which ask you to describe your personal style and makeup parameters and take it from there.

Birchbox, a subscription pioneer, offers monthly boxes of sample sizes and one full-size product (birchbox.com).

At Quarterly, prominent curators like fashion guru Nina Garcia, actor Will Wheaton and science icon Bill Nye create their own boxes and include a personal note explaining their choices. Nye’s boxes, for example, have included bow ties and cardboard DNA models (quarterly.co).

With Stitch Fix, five new women’s wardrobe items chosen by a stylist, appear at the door. Send an e-gift card that your recipients can redeem; the select delivery dates, keep what they want and return the rest in the prepaid mailing bag (stitchfix.com).

Chicago-based Trunk Club has boxes for men and women and stylists’ selections can be previewed and approved online. When the items arrive, you can nix them if they don’t fit or don’t look right (trunkclub.com).

Cadman recommends Popsugar Must Have as a subscription gift for women, offering a variety of beauty, fashion, home, food and fitness items. October’s box included a satin pillowcase and a gift card for monogrammed jewelry
(musthave.popsugar.com).

For men, try Bespoke Post, Cadman says: “It’s $45 a month and they deliver high-quality items (think ties, barware, grooming kits, shoes, etc.). Each month they announce new box options, and your giftee gets to pick which one they want.”(bespokepost.com).

Or give a gift that keeps on giving. With Dollar Shave, subscribers choose the style of blade and razor they want and refills arrive on a regular schedule (dollarshaveclub.com).

FUN & GAMES

Arts and crafts are a fun subscription gift for children, because each month brings a new box of creative possibilities. Check out Green Kid Crafts and Art in a Box
(greenkidcrafts.com; artinabox.net).

Tinker Crate offers puzzles and engineering challenges for 9- to 12-year-olds (tinker.kiwicrate.com).

Spangler Science Club, aimed at kindergartners through sixth graders, sends enough stuff each month for over a dozen science experiments (spanglerscienceclub.com).

GiftLit sends monthly book boxes, while Brickbox’s niche is — you guessed it — all things Lego (giftlit.com;
brickbox.com).

Expose your budding 3- to 12-year-old traveler to new places with Little Passports. Young armchair globetrotters get started with a little suitcase and a map. Then comes a monthly array of activity kits, gadgets, stickers and souvenirs that explore sciences and world cultures
(littlepassports.com).

Citrus Lane sends boxes skewed to babies, toddlers or preschoolers, full of quality toys, games and snacks
(citruslane.com).

Matthew Reddin contributed reporting to this story.

Toy trends

1. The Force is strong. Star Wars: The Force Awakens has awakened a new enthusiasm for Star Wars toys for children and adults, according to ToyInsider.com, which reviews and recommends toys. The site has published holiday toy reviews and lists, including top tech and STEM toys.

 2. Communication craze. Kids have always talked to their toys, but now their interactive toys — Play All Day Elma, Hello Barbie, Clever Keet — are talking back. 

 3. Cooking up fun. Kids are cooking sweet and serving savory with Girl Scouts Cookie Oven, Yummy Nummies, Easy-Bake Ultimate Oven and Number Lovin’ Oven.

4. Construction with function. Toys to build vehicles, structures, people — Kids First Aircraft Engineer, Super Copter, Mighty Makers: Fun on the Ferris Wheel — now feature lots of moving parts.

5. Content creation. Digital games and app-enhanced toys — Super Mario Maker, Disney Infinity 3.0 Toy Box, Stikbot and Crayola Easy Animation Studio — allow kids to create animated videos and customize content and stories.

Classic toys ‘baby boom’ing

Nana’s list includes an Easy-Bake Oven for Pip.

Papa wants to give Gavin a Slinky.

And Aunt Connie is looking for Colorforms for all the nieces and nephews. 

Many baby boomers visiting toy stores this holiday season will be buying familiar toys for girls and boys. Some toys, like the Duncan YoYo, never fell out of favor as stocking stuffers. Other toys get updated year after year to remain relevant, like the Easy-Bake Oven — which now has both a dedicated heating element that retired the un-green incandescent bulb and gender-neutral packaging.

Hasbro holds the rights to many of the toys loved by boomer kids, their kids and now by their grandkids: Scrabble, Twister, Monopoly, Playskool and Play-Doh sets.

“One of the first Christmas presents I remember is a Play-Doh Fun Factory,” said baby boomer Paul Armstrong of Milwaukee. “I would have been maybe 4 years old. Like 1962. It was marketed by Play-Doh Pete. I loved it. Hours of fun.”

This year, Armstrong plans to buy a Play-Doh set for his 5-year-old grandson. “Of course he wants the Star Wars Play-Doh. It does look pretty cool.” The Play-Doh line features more than one Star Wars-themed set. The Millennium Falcon Playset features Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca and Darth Vader can-heads and fighter-jet molds.

WiG caught up with other early shoppers of the baby boomer age outside the exits of several toy stores and found them with purchases they didn’t know much about: Descendants dolls and Little Live Pets Clever Keet, Click-A-Bricks and Nintendo 3DS games.

“I’m still looking for a Doc McStuffins Take Care of Me Lambie — whatever that is,” Rachel Goodman, grandmother of three children, said as she left a store, unknowingly in search of a plush doll that sings a song when her tummy is pressed.

But many boomers’ shopping bags contained the tried and tested — Erector Sets and Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs and Tonka trucks, Hot Wheels cars and Barbie dolls

“I’ve bought so many toys for the kids and grandkids over the years. The fad stuff. The gadgets. The electronics. Most of it doesn’t last the winter, but some toys last forever,” said boomer Jen Miles, a member of the generation credited with giving rise to a U.S. toy industry. “This year, I’m going with the classics, what I know and what has value.”

‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ will set you back $116,273

The cost of six geese-a-laying spiked considerably this year, while most of the items in the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” saw little to no increase, according to the 31st annual PNC Wealth Management Christmas Price Index.

A set of gifts in each verse of the song would set you back $27,673 in stores, an increase of less than $300 — or 1 percent — from last year.

But shoppers turning to the Internet would see a bigger bump of about 8 percent over last year’s online prices, bringing the set of gifts in each verse to $42,959.

Buyers looking to purchase all the items each time they were mentioned in the song — 364 that is — would spend $116,273, a modest 1.4 percent increase from a year ago.

PNC’s sources for the Christmas Price Index include retailers, the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia-based PHILADANCO and the Pennsylvania Ballet Company.

Here is a look at the full set of prices from PNC Wealth Management:

– Partridge, $20; last year: $15

– Pear tree, $188; last year: $184

– Two turtle doves, $125; last year: same

– Three French hens, $181; last year: $165

– Four calling birds (canaries), $600; last year: same

– Five gold rings, $750; last year: same

– Six geese-a-laying, $360; last year: $210

– Seven swans a-swimming, $7,000; last year: same

– Eight maids a-milking, $58; last year: same

– Nine ladies dancing (per performance), $7,553; last year: same

– 10 lords a-leaping (per performance), $5,348; last year: $5,243

– 11 pipers piping (per performance), $2,635; last year: same

– 12 drummers drumming (per performance), $2,855; last year: same

On the Web…

 http://www.pncchristmaspriceindex.com

Listen up, Santa: Audio gear tops gift lists

Listen up, Santa.

Headphones, speakers and other audio gear are topping the holiday gift lists of many Americans.

Audio equipment is among the top-selling electronics gifts this holiday season, accounting for 13 percent of the $8 billion in consumer electronics sales between Nov. 24 and Dec. 7, according to research firm NPD Group.

Headphone sales rose 14 percent. Sales of sound bars, long, thin speakers that create surround sound, grew 80 percent. And wireless speaker sales nearly quadrupled.

The trend is being driven in part by the economy. Audio gear, which can range from $10 for ear buds to thousands of dollars for a home theater system, is being considered by some an affordable luxury during a still shaky economy.

Americans also have spent the last several years buying tablets, smartphones and TVs. Now, many are looking for ways to squeeze better sound from those gadgets.

“It stands to reason that people at some point want a better audio experience than the ear buds you get in the box,” said Ben Arnold, NPD’s director of industry analysis.

Indeed, Drew Smith, 21, began coveting better headphones when he got an iPhone 5 in August. Now, headphones are the only big present he’s asking his parents for.

“Because of my smartphone, I listen to more music and … I want a good set,” said Smith, a cinema manager who lives in Paragoule, Ark.

Likewise, Adam Daniels, 23, a commercial banker from Sharonville, Ohio, decided to buy a Phillips sound bar for his parents for Christmas after they purchased a 50-inch TV.

“They have a great TV, but the audio on it is terrible,” he said.

The trend this season is a continuation of an audio craze that started last year. That’s when Beats by Dr. Dre, oversize headphones that come in different colors and run about $200 per pair, became the “it” holiday gift.

Beats doesn’t give sales figures. But the company said it grew its share of the market for headphones over $99 from 71 percent last year to 78 percent this year.

Some competitors also have upped their sound game. This year, stores and analysts say Bowers Wilkins, Bose, Jawbone and JBL all are among those offering more products, colors and stylish designs.

“Audio has been really popular this holiday,” said Josh Davis, manager of Abt Electronics, a large electronics store in Chicago. “Last year, it seemed like all anyone wanted was Beats … But we’re seeing good competition this year among other brands.”

At the same time, prices have fallen for some audio gear. For instance, the average selling price for wireless speakers dropped 33 percent to $73 this year compared with last year, according to NPD. And Best Buy, Amazon and other stores have offered deep discounts on some audio gear.

Target, which says sales of headphones, wireless speakers and sound bars have “increased significantly” this year, offered deals on the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday. They included the Beats Solo HD Headphones for $119 from $179.99; Sony Bluetooth speakers for $49.99 from $89.99; and a JBL sound bar for $99.99 from $199.

The deals influenced Rob Patak, 29, to give headphones as gifts for his roommate and friend. Patak, a customer support manager at a software company in Washington, D.C., bought wireless speakers art Marshall’s for $20. And when he saw Amazon was offering $50 off $100 Plantronics Backbeat Go headphones, he snapped up two pairs.

Price was also a consideration for Jeremy Sylestine, 34, a prosecutor in Austin, Texas. He had been searching for a sound bar for his 40-inch TV last year but couldn’t find one for a good price. This year, though, he bought a Samsung sound bar for $184, which was $70 off the original price.

“It was the only thing that was on my list,” Sylestine said, adding that he found “basically an unbeatable price.”

WiG Holiday Gift Guide: Boxed DVD collections

In a world of on-demand video and movies shrunken to the size of smartphone screens, home-entertainment releases need something special to stand out. The following box sets offer more than movies for every cinephile on your holiday list.

For the superhero enthusiast:

– The Dark Knight Trilogy: Ultimate Collector’s Edition includes writer-director Christopher Nolan’s three Batman movies – “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” and “The Dark Knight Rises” – plus two new short features that go behind the scenes of the popular trilogy. Collectors will especially love the three Hot Wheels vehicles (the Tumbler, the Batpod and the Batmobile), collectible art cards of Scarecrow, Bane and others, and a 48-page book of production stills and other backstage shots from the three films. (Warner Home Video, $99.97.)

– “X-Men”: The Adamantium Collection comes with a replica of Wolverine’s claw and all six “X-Men” films on Blu-ray: 2000’s “X-Men (2000), 2003’s “X2,” 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand,” 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” 2011’s “X-Men: First Class” and the summer blockbuster “The Wolverine.” (Fox, $129.99.)

For the traditionalist:

– The James Dean Ultimate Collector’s Edition pays tribute to the enduring screen idol who died in a 1955 car crash at age 24 with a limited-edition set that includes three documentaries about the actor, plus the three films he made during his short career: “East of Eden,” “Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant.” (Warner Home Video, $99.98.)

– The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Collector’s Edition takes fans down the yellow brick road with a limited release, five-disc set that features the film in all formats (DVD, Blu-ray, UltraViolet, etc.), along with a new documentary, set of three collectible enamel pins, a map of Oz and a hardcover photo book. (Warner Home Video, $105.43)

For fans of political suspense:

– The Jack Ryan Collection comprises four films featuring Tom Clancy’s ultra-sharp CIA analyst: 1990’s “The Hunt For Red October,” with Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin; 1992’s “Patriot Games” and 1994’s “Clear And Present Danger,” starring Harrison Ford; and 2002’s “The Sum Of All Fears” with Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman. (Paramount, $29.99 DVD, $49.99 Blu-ray)

For the funny bone:

– The “Anchorman: Legend of Ron Burgundy” Rich Mahogany Edition gift set is a sweet indulgence in the silliness of the Will Ferrell film. It includes a two-disc Blu-ray of the original 2004 film, along with a voucher to see the sequel, “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” plus a coupon for a free pint of Ben & Jerry’s “Anchorman”-inspired ice cream flavor, Scotchy Scotch Scotch, and a t-shirt that reads, “I’m Kind of a Big Deal.” (Paramount, $29.96)

For the kids:

– Rise of the Guardians: Holiday Edition comes with a windup toy elf and various behind-the-scenes features about the making of this story starring a tattooed Santa Claus and other holiday heroes, including the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. (Paramount, $24.99.)