Unwanted gifts

Over 21 million Brits receive gifts they do not want, worth some £5 billion combined

Christmas – a time to spend with family, feast on roast turkey, enjoy the festive atmosphere and of course, receive presents. But as it turns out, you’d better start thinking through the ‘presents’ part of the equation a little more, as more people than you think receive unwanted gifts each year.

According to our survey of 2,009 British adults, we estimate that over 21 million (50.77%) of us receive at least one unwanted gift each Christmas. There’s even 1 in 10 (9.26%) of us who have deliberately bought someone a gift they knew they wouldn’t like. Of those who’ve received these undesired gifts, they receive three on average. That’s three too many!

Quick overview

  • The average amount spent on unwanted gifts is £41
  • Over 21 million Brits receive a gift they do not want, totalling over £5 billion
  • 23% of Brits keep an unwanted gift, with 22% choosing to regift them
  • Two in five Brits say their favourite part of Christmas is spending time with family.
  • More women (54%) have received a gift they did not like than men (46%)
  • Millennials (71%) have received an unwanted gift more than any other generation

    How much are we spending on these unwanted gifts?

    Any amount is too much (except to the one in 10 who do this on purpose), but it averages out at £41.70 being spent on each of these disliked presents. That comes out at an estimated £5.03 billion that’s going down the drain.

    What do Brits do with their unwanted gifts?

    The largest group of people opted to politely keep the presents they disliked (23.20%), so perhaps we’re able to excuse those gift-givers who truly thought they’d bought you the perfect gift.

    Regifting comes in at a close second (22.50%), followed by the caring souls who donated them instead (21.87%).

    Getting into the entrepreneurial mindset, 11.31% of those with an unwanted gift sold it, followed by 9.86% who exchanged them and 6.13% threw them away.

    There’s even 4.68% who went the blunt route and gave the unwanted present back!

    What we do with unwanted gifts Percentage
    Keep them 23.20%
    Regift them 22.50%
    Donate them 21.87%
    Sell them 11.31%
    Exchange them 9.86%
    Throw them away 6.13%
    Give them back 4.68%
    Other 0.44%

    Unwanted gifts: Avoid buying clothing and accessories

    Clothing and accessories topped the list of most unwanted gifts (25.03%), followed by cosmetics and fragrances (17.63%), household items (11.49%), food and/or drink (8.07%), literature (7.47%), music (6.47%), and technology (5.24%).

    Turns out if you’re unsure what to get someone, stick with tech or music! These were least likely to be unwanted. There was also 18.59% counted as “other”, which included toiletries, novelty items and gift vouchers.

    What we don't like to receive Population
    Clothing/accessories 25.03%
    Cosmetics/fragrances 17.63%
    Household items 11.49%
    Food/drink 8.07%
    Literature 7.47%
    Music 6.47%
    Technology 5.24%

    Unwanted Gifts: Statistically, friends are the worst gift givers

    Unfortunately, friends take out first prize for giving the worst gifts. If you have a Secret Santa coming up among your friends, perhaps ask them for a wish-list. We found that almost one in three unwanted gifts come from friends (30.63%). Parents are the worst gift-givers after them (13.92%), followed by parents-in-law (11.31%).

    Next up on the chopping block are partners – almost one in 10 single out their significant other as the worst culprit (9.87%), followed their own children (7.00%) and your boss (4.64%). Other categories include coworkers, ex-partners (including ex-mistresses) and extended relatives, with 18.65% calling them out as bad gifters.

    What do Brits look forward to during Christmas?

    Over two in five (43.80%) of all respondents say they most look forward to spending time with their family during Christmas, while 7.47% claim they’ve nothing to look forward to.

    Getting time off work is the second favourite thing about the holidays for Brits (17.22%), followed closely by the festive atmosphere (13.34%). Food is next (9.26%), then presents (4.13%).

    Maybe concerningly, 2.44% of us who say their favourite thing is getting drunk! The remaining (2.34%) said they look most forward to include relaxing, decorating the house and travelling.

    What do people look forward to during the holidays? Percentage of respondents
    Spending time with family 43.80%
    Time off work 17.22%
    Festive Atmosphere 13.34%
    Food 9.26%
    Presents 4.13%
    Getting drunk 2.44%
    Relaxing 2.34%
    Nothing 7.47%

    Let’s take a look at demographics

    Gender

    Women appear to be less impressed with their gifts, with 54.77% saying they have received an unwanted gift, compared to 46.41% of men.

    However, men are more likely to give the presents back at 7.81% compared to 2.24% for women. Whereas women are more likely to donate them at 26.37% compared with men (16.06%), as well as regift them (25.48% compared to 18.67% of men). Interestingly, men are more likely to buy an unwanted gift, with 11.55% of men saying they have done this, compared to 7.16% of women.

    Recieved a gift they disliked Never received an unwanted gift
    Men 46.41% 53.59%
    Women 54.77% 45.23%

    Generation

    Millennials are the pickiest generation, with almost three-quarters (71.06%) of them saying they’ve received a gift they dislike. They’re followed by Gen X at 54.72% and baby boomers at 40.81%.

    The average number of unwanted gifts are two for baby boomers, three for Gen Xers and four for millennials, with the average cost of these gifts coming in at £18.61 for baby boomers, £35.33 for Gen X and £93.84 for millennials.

    Millennials are most likely to give the present back (9.61%), followed by Gen X (4.83%) then baby boomers (0.94%). They’re also the most likely to throw them away (10.39%), compared to Gen X (6.33%) and baby boomers (2.81%).

    What do we do with the gifts? Millennial Gen Xer Baby boomer
    Keep them 22.86% 20.81% 26.40%
    Regift them 21.82% 23.23% 22.10%
    Donate them 11.69% 20.21% 31.27%
    Sell them 15.32% 13.57% 5.62%
    Exchange them 8.31% 10.71% 9.93%
    Throw them away 10.39% 6.33% 2.81%
    Give them back 9.61% 4.83% 0.94%
    Other 0.00% 0.30% 0.94%

    Region

    Perhaps it’s all in where you live – the top three pickiest regions for presents are London (63.80%), the North East (57.41%), and West Midlands (55.26%). Those in London have the most expensive unwanted gifts at £116.06. The North East follows as the second most expensive at £38.37 as well as Yorkshire and The Humber at £33.28.

    London, once again, tops the list of those deliberately buying their loved ones unwanted gifts at 24.37%. Coming in next are East Midlands (10.29%) and West Midlands (9.87%).

    Unwanted gifts: How do we compare to the USA?

    It turns out our friends across the pond are less likely to deliberately buy someone a gift they knew they won’t like! Only 7% of Americans have done this, compared with 9.26% of Brits. We’re also spending more than them on these unwanted presents, at £41.70 compared to the £36.96 (USD$49.45) that Americans spend on average.

    Regifting seems to know no borders. Both of us tend to give our unwanted presents to someone else the most. We are, however, more likely to return to sender – 4.68% of Brits getting unwanted presents will give them back, compared with 2.56% of Americans. We’re also in agreement on who gives the worst gifts – hands down, friends.

    So what do we do about it?

    Perhaps it’s time to start a wishlist policy. Or better yet, with more people looking forward to spending time with their family than presents, rearrange our priorities. Either way, start getting smarter about gift-giving. Don’t be afraid to ask what people want – it also means you’ll be able to shop around and find the best deal!

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    Matt Mckenna
    Head of UK communications
    T: +44 20 8191 8806
    matt.mckenna@finder.com@MichHutchison/in/matthewmckenna2

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