Here is a selection of features from Gift Focus magazine.

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Summer of Sport 

'The Summer of Sport' is almost upon us – and what a summer it's set to be. The UEFA Euros, Wimbledon and of course, the Paris 2024 Olympics are all kicking off over the next few weeks. And with them comes a golden opportunity for independent retailers across the UK. With the world's eyes on Europe, the UK is set to enjoy a substantial uptick in visitors and local celebrations. Consumer confidence and spending is also expected to rise as Brits engage in garden parties, community events and a fair few trips to the local pub.

Smooth operator

National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), Martin McTague, looks at how the VAT system operates. Reaching a half century is often a point in life where we take some time to assess our lives, health, and finances, and think about what we want to change. With value-added tax (VAT) having reached that milestone in 2023, we at FSB thought it past time to look at how the VAT system operates – and whether there are ways it could be reformed and rethought, so as to unlock economic potential among the UK's small businesses and the self-employed. There's evidence that VAT is holding back growth among a significant sub-set of small businesses, making an overhaul of the tax all the more urgent as we look for ways to grow the economy.

ACID at 25: What’s next?

Marking 25 years of ACID, CEO Dids Macdonald, shares how the group has become a driving force in empowering designers against intellectual property theft. In the late 1990s, many within the giftware sector and in the design industry, generally, faced a crisis as the rampant culture of copying threatened creative innovation. For designers and designer-makers, the frustration of witnessing their innovative designs stolen, often, by well-known UK retailers and manufacturers prompted action. Collaborating with an intellectual property (IP) lawyer and fellow designers, I formed a group to tackle this challenge, resulting in the creation of Anti Copying in Design (ACID). Over the past 25 years ACID has become a driving force in empowering designers against intellectual property theft. IP isn't rocket-science and our consistent focus has been on education and awareness, to help designers become "IP savvy" and to use IP as a positive force for growth.

A conversational piece

Fine fragrance brand Ampersand Managing Director, David Walker, discusses the genderless, environmentally-friendly scents that are making waves in the market. When did you start up and why? Our Fine Fragrance concept was launched in 2021 – it was really started out of pure frustration towards a very backwards and outdated industry. We've been involved in Fine Fragrance for 15 or so years, and nothing has been done in that time to help consider recycling or to reduce waste – in fact it's pretty much gone the opposite direction. All the fancy bottles cannot be recycled, the coated boxes and cellophane wraps are just landfill, endless vials end up in oceans – and all those things just amount to a larger price tag to the consumer.

Shop local

Local gift cards are driving spend in high streets and downtowns around the world, says fintech Miconex as it shares key insights from its local gift card programmes in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA. The range of independent businesses which accept Miconex's local gift cards – usually alongside a range of national brands – makes the cards unique in the sector. A typical 50 percent, and up to 100 percent, of its local gift cards are redeemed with independent shops, restaurants and venues. Retail was top for redemptions of local gift cards in 2023 in the UK. Primark, M&S, Boots, Argos, TK Maxx, Next, Sainsbury's, John Lewis, Dunnes Stores and Aldi were within the top national retailers. New national retailers including Co-op, Smyths Toys and Lidl joined the economy boosting local gift card programmes in 2023.

Pen to paper

A chance meeting inspired the launch of father and daughter business, Studio Pens. Since then the company has been on an upwards trajectory as a key distributor in the industry. Ian has a background in manufacturing and has been in the pen business for many years. Nikki's background is in marketing. Ian became involved in the pen world quite late in his career, as the result of a chance meeting in 1999 with George Kartsotis, the founder of US pen brand Retro 51

Cybercrime consequences

Martin McTague, National Chair, the Federation of Small Businesses, looks into the impact of cybercrime on small businesses. The Federation of Small Businesses' (FSB) research into business crime unveils a distressing landscape for small businesses in England and Wales, compounded by a surge in both physical and cybercrimes over the last two years. Cracking the Case, published in December, estimates that 81 percent of small businesses have been impacted by at least one crime since January 2021. This a significant increase from the 49 percent reported between 2017-2019. The financial burden of traditional crime is considerable. More than half of these businesses (56 percent) have faced losses exceeding £1,000, while 33 percent have incurred losses of up to £1,000. The situation is worse for one in ten businesses, who have lost over £10,000.

Outsourcing opportunities

Outsourcing is a common practice for many businesses that need an extra helping hand and expertise when it comes to business activities – and SMEs are no different. In fact, over one-third of SMEs actually outsource some form of activity.

Owen Campbell, Operations Director at Kura, says: "Any business, whether an established company or a startup just getting into their industry, can benefit from outsourcing.

"It not only helps manage workloads better, but it can ensure that all businesses have the right expertise and people in place to provide high-quality services.

"This can be especially useful for SMEs who don't have the time and resources to create whole teams within their business structure."

But what can SMEs outsource, and what benefit does it have for their business?

Online design

Dids Macdonald, CEO of Anti Copying in Design (ACID) looks at online design theft, and gives some indepth top tips about what you can do about it... With the expansion of global markets emerges the challenges of finding solutions when copying is discovered on social media and online platforms. It can be daunting discovering knock offs and even worse, knowing what to do. Whatever your design sector, content is king and more importantly, your content. This is all underpinned by intellectual property, which needs to be protected. Did you know that nearly 20 percent of UK SMEs have fallen victim to counterfeit product sales, amounting to severe financial losses for 93 percent of them. Moreover, an astounding £13.6 billion worth of fake goods infiltrated Britain in 2020, causing legitimate businesses to lose sales totalling £9 billion.

Capturing economic potential

Martin McTague, National Chair, the Federation of Small Businesses, shares how we need to think more broadly about innovation policy to capture the full economic potential. To many, the term "innovation" is usually associated with big names such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg. But, in reality, the development and use of new ideas and technology is not confined to the tech industry. We need to think more broadly about innovation policy to capture the full economic potential. A new report by the Federation of Small Businesses – titled The Tech Tonic – found that across all sectors, seven in ten (69 percent) small firms have introduced a new form of innovation in the last three years. This includes the development of an entirely new product(s) to their market (25 percent), significantly improved existing or new product(s) (38 percent), and better staff and customer experience (25 percent).

Constantly creating

When three friends combined their skillset, Crumble & Core was born. Seven years later, the company is going from strength to strength. In 2016 Crumble & Core began its life when three friends Jilly, Lucy and Lou came together with a cuppa around the kitchen table looking at Jilly's beautiful artwork. We wanted to find a way that we could use her incredible art to create a beautiful range of Cards and Gifts.

Winning back lapsed subscribers

Sherwen Studios commissioned research data and analytics group YouGov to survey more than 2,000 UK adults about their thoughts and opinions relating to subscription commerce. Here's some of their findings. Retail subscriptions are continuing to soar in popularity, as UK shoppers take advantage of subscription boxes that promise value for money, as well as the opportunity to try new products. But the very nature of flexible subscriptions mean that customers could choose to cancel at a moment's notice.

Looking forward

What makes GWCC so resilient in the market? According to Founder Ali Shaikh, "When a fan designs for a fan you get fan-worthy products...". In 1995, GWCC was established as a distributor of unbranded apparel. However, in 2002, our business underwent a transformation and we ventured into the realm of souvenirs and gifts. This marked the beginning of what our company has become today. We take immense pride in being a family business spanning two generations, with all four family members actively participating in every facet of our operations. Our obsession with quality and innovation led us down the licensing route.

Check out our March/April bookstand

This issue Gift Focus showcases the latest releases in the literary world, from books for weaving enthusiasts to must-haves for children, Pride Power is a guide for young people aged 11+ to introduce them to the power of Pride and the LGBTQIA+ community - there really is something for everyone! Ramadan Mubarak is filled with insightful words and guidance from a wide range of Muslim figures, including female and lesser-known voices, like Turkish female mystic Hatice Cenan Hanim and the South Asian poet and mystic, Hasan Raja to help your spiritual growth and deepen the inner journey Muslims embark on during this most blessed of months.

Reaping the rewards

A new survey by the GCVA has revealed that reward-based incentives are key to customer loyalty in a cost-of-living crisis. Research reveals two in five (40 percent) UK consumers would be more loyal to a retailer that offered modest rewards or incentives, such as a £50 gift card, as people continue to seek ways to reduce the impact of the cost of living crisis. The survey of more than 1,000 UK adults, commissioned by the Gift Card and Voucher Association (GCVA), found that just under half of households are worse off than they were this time last year, with 12 percent experiencing a significant impact on their personal finances. As a result, people are looking for more ways to earn and save.

Diversity matters

Leading experiential learning company,Impact, gives an insight into the benefits of workplace diversity. FTSE 350 businesses are paying more attention to diversity amongst their senior team candidates than ever before. The percentage of seats filled by ethnically diverse directors has risen to 22 percent. When it comes to gender balance, it has been found that 54 percent of new board seats have been taken by women, showing that companies are moving in the right direction. But why is workplace diversity becoming such a priority? One of the most obvious benefits is that organisations can gain precious insight from people with varied backgrounds and experiences. Impact, a world-leading expert in experiential learning, looks at ways in which diversity can enhance a business's operations and how it can be implemented effectively.

Anniversary milestones

Enesco is always asking what's next, with innovation and creativity key to its success. Enesco Ltd is part of a global company. The company started back in 1994 when Enesco, based in the US, bought two significant names in the world of collectibles Lilliput Lane situated in Penrith, Cumbria and Border Fine Arts in Langholm in the Scottish Borders. With the city of Carlisle being of almost equal distance between both locations, this was the obvious choice for the home of the new HQ for Enesco Ltd., Customer Services and Distribution Centre. 2024 sees the 30th Anniversary of Enesco Ltd.

Creative Freedom

Molly Mae designer and director, Jude Kenney, shares her journey creating beautiful greeting cards, having this year become the sole owner of the company. When did you start up and why? I think my journey to becoming a greeting card designer and starting up a business is not typical. I left art college with a degree in graphic design and my first job was working as an in-house Graphic Designer at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. This was an amazing first job, I learned so much and met so many fantastic people. At the time GOSH's website was a centred page of links in Times New Roman on a Microsoft cloud pattern background! I was keen to embrace any opportunity and took this challenge on, learning website design and coding, I created their first website, or what we might consider one to look like now....

An exciting path

Martin McTague, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, looks at howstartups are a powerful catalyst for economic growth. The term start-ups can be traced back to the late 1990s, when the early tech wave swept across the globe. These small businesses, filled with massive potential, include now-giants like Amazon, Disney, and Google. All these companies started small, in a climate where taking risks and dreaming big were the rule, not the exception. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has guided small businesses through the toughest of times, from the Covid-19 pandemic and now, the cost of living crisis. Still, it was them who took the wheel during our rebound from the economic recession of 2008. And nine out of 10 people who found their way back from unemployment did so either by rolling up their sleeves at a small fi rm or by charting their own course, through a start-up. The latest Small Business Index (SBI) shows a 5.5 percent growth aspiration increase from Q1 to 51.3% in Q2. FSB's message to policymakers is clear: think small first, encourage start-ups and back the 99% of business population on which our recovery will depend.

Adapt and conquer

How can UK businesses adapt to the lack of warehouse space? Slingsby Group Chief Executive, Morgan Morris, tells us more... The number of business premises used for warehousing and logistics has almost doubled in the last decade, according to the Office for National Statistics. This has been largely driven by the massive increase in e-commerce and online retailers such as Amazon – a company that accounts for a quarter of all warehousing space in the UK. In late 2021, property agent Cushman & Wakefield predicted that the UK could run out of warehousing space within a year. Over 12 months later, demand continues to be at an all-time high, with vacancy rates having been sat at less than 2 percent for the past year. This is way below the rate needed to balance fluctuations between supply and demand, which is 8 percent.

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