Professor Judy Zaichkowsky admits to a gift closet of her own, but warns that not everyone appreciates gifts from the closet.

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Gifting from the closet? Choose the giftee carefully

December 09, 2015
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By Diane Luckow

Are you one of those people who buy random clearance items, then store them in a closet until you need a handy gift at Christmas or a birthday? Or love to pick up unique finds during your travels, then tuck them away for later?

While these are convenient and even thrifty practices, there may be hidden pitfalls to gifting from the closet, according to SFU Beedie business professor Judith Zaichkowsky.

She and colleague Thyra Uth Thomsen of the Copenhagen Business School have just published “Gifting from the closet: thoughtful or thoughtless” in the Journal of Consumer Marketing.

It’s the first study of its kind to explore gift storage and the possible effects these “closet gifts” might have on your relationship with the giftee.

Their study sample, which skewed toward upper middle-class females, found that 77 per cent had a gift closet, principally for storing “unwanted” or “surplus” items in hopes of re-gifting them. Secondary reasons for the gift closet: saving time and money, and storing special gift items purchased during vacations.

Whether or not people have a gift closet “is very much related to how busy they are, how complicated their life is and whether they need an easy convenient way to reciprocate,” says Zaichkowsky.

It also depends on whether they have a large number of people with whom they exchange gifts, and the closeness of the relationship.

As the busy associate dean of the Beedie School of Business, Zaichkowsky admits to a storage closet of her own.

“Of course I have one,” she says. “It’s very handy.”

But since completing her study, she’ll be a little more careful about who receives her closet gifts.

The study revealed that not everyone appreciates them, and can perceive such a gift as evidence of a lack of caring.

“Saving time and effort may render the gift less valuable to the gift recipient,” says the study, and some people may even feel insulted.

As well, some respondents associated gift closets with low-value products.

“Don’t give a gift from the closet to your significant other—that’s dangerous,” says Zaichkowsky. “It’s best to give it to your grandchildren who haven’t got a clue and have no idea what things cost.”

And don’t bestow closet gifts on people who don’t have a gift closet.

“Our study reveals that they don’t feel special when they receive a gift from the closet.”

And as a business professor, Zaichkowsky can’t resist recommending that, since 77 per cent of her respondents have gift closets, retailers should consider include closet gifting in their marketing plans.

She suggests that such marketing campaigns might also serve to educate the public about the convenience and economic benefits of stockpiling potential gifts and, in the process, de-stigmatize them.