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Gift of the Year Award winners revealed at Spring Fair

thabtoCompanies raised their game for The Giftware Association’s prestigious Gift of the Year 2014 competition. There were tough decisions made when selecting the winning and highly commended products – including The Judges’ Choice prize sponsored by Spring Fair International.

There was a significant increase in entries and the panel of retailer judges marking them agreed that most categories were stronger than last year

At a special ceremony at the NEC attended by finalists, judges, GA Retail members and sponsors at the close of the opening day of Spring Fair International 2014 (Sunday 2 February), internationally renowned product designer Sebastian Conran presented the coveted Judges’ Choice award – for the outstanding product across the 19 categories – to Thabto for its Subbuteo Bottle Opener (pictured).

As part of The Judges’ Choice prize, the company will also be given a free stand at Autumn Fair International by the competition’s headline sponsor, i2i Events Group, organiser of Spring Fair and Autumn Fair. The Subbuteo Bottle Opener also triumphed in the Commemorative and Collectable Gifts and Gifts for Men categories.

Remarking upon the importance of the awards, Conran said that winning such an accolade “can transform a company from start-up to a world player.”

The Cadbury Roses Puzzle from Half Moon Bay was a particular favourite with judges, winning Branded/Character and Hot Novelty, while its McDougall’s Flour Shaker took the Kitchen and Dining award.

Heyland & Whittle won the new Home Fragrance category with its Mini Reed Diffuser and Votive Candle Gift Set and was also highly commended in Body, Bath and Spa, and Made in UK.

Jam Jar with Straw took the Garden and Outdoor Living prize for Parlane International, which was also highly commended in Kitchen and Dining. The Kids category was won by Bluesky Designs with Noisy Jugglers! The company was also highly commended in the Under £10 category.

Doodle by Stitch claimed the Occasions award with its Doodle Bunting and was also highly commended in Kids.

Body, Bath and Spa was won by Wild Olive with its Luxury Bath Melts; Whitbread Wilkinson/W2 Products triumphed in Eco Friendly with the Disney ‘It’s a Small World’ offering, and The Monster Factory took the Fashion Jewellery and Accessories prize for its VW Beetle Washbag.

The new Gift Food category was won by Elite for its Aga Shaped Oven Tin Filled with Biscuits, while the Lexon Flip Clock took the Home Accessories award for Lexon UK.

Heather Alstead Design claimed the Made in UK prize for the Goldilocks and the Three Bears Breakfast Range, and Premium/Luxury saw Bolin Webb triumph with its R1 Razor with Stand and Mach3 Gillette Blade. The Stationery category was won by Busy B with the Weekly Planner Pad, and Cracker Cards took the Card and Wrap award with its Comic Range. Apples to Pears was victorious in Under £10 with Car Journey Games.

New judge Zoë York, of Squashed Tomato, said: “There are lots of Gift of the Year lines that I will definitely stock. It’s a really great way of seeing all the best products that are out at the moment. Price points are really important and have been a particular feature when I have been judging. The Under £10 category was probably the hardest to judge as there were quite a lot of very strong entries.”

Mark Jones, director of Occasions Retail, commented: “There are some very strong categories this year – particularly Under £10 – and some good innovation. I’m especially pleased with the more child-focused products – not only in Kids, of course, but also Occasions.”

Jane Hudson, founder and buying director of Presents for Men, said: “There was a much better standard and quality of product than last year in almost every category. Gifts for Men was very good; Garden and Outdoor Living was quite strong – and Cards and Wrap, too, where there was also some innovation.”

Hilary Davenport, of the Original Gift Company – part of Scotts & Co – agreed: “The variety of product has been better this year, with some interesting designs.

“Garden and Outdoor Living was very strong and I struggled to find a winner because there were some really great ideas and good price points, which was encouraging. Gifts for Men was also very good – and from a buying point of view that can be difficult. Price points are really important from a customer’s point of view and I really tried to take all of them into account when judging.”

Dick Mawdsley, a buyer for Utility, commented: “Greeting cards worked for me – more entrants and the quality was a lot better in this category and overall. From my point of view there is more product that we would sell.”

Nat Mobbs, a buyer for The National Gallery, said: “There was a lot of newness and products that will fit in with our customer base. But I had to rule out some products because the retail prices were very high.”

Retail development consultant Jenny Spivey thought that many of the entries she was judging would appeal to Frosts Garden Centres – whom she was representing – as they looked for mid to premium end product. However, she believed that where Christmas gifting was concerned suppliers had to be careful to hit “some magical price points” and some were losing out when they exceeded £19.99. Packaging was also “key”.

Isabel Martinson, chief executive of The GA, commented: “Gift of the Year goes from strength to strength in terms of the level and quality of entries.  We would like to pay tribute to all the suppliers and designers who have once again raised the bar and given our judges a particularly difficult task.

“As organisers we know that we cannot rest on our laurels and must continue to find ways of strengthening the competition and keeping it fresh.”

Spring Fair International is organised by i2i Events Group, headline sponsor of Gift of the Year. Sarah McLaughlin, the show’s portfolio director, said: “It is fitting that the UK’s premier exhibition should host the industry’s most prestigious awards ceremony.

“Once again, the majority of companies that have been successful in the competition have chosen to exhibit at Spring Fair. Their products will be among the hottest and most sought after at the show as buyers from the UK and overseas look to gain a competitive edge in 2014.”

The GA is celebrating the success of winners, with product and company photos on www.giftoftheyear.co.uk and Facebook and Twitter.

Gift of the Year 2014 winning and highly commended products are:

The Judges’ Choice, sponsored by Spring Fair International: Winner, Subbuteo Bottle Opener (Thabto)

Body, Bath and Spa: Winner, Luxury Bath Melts (Wild Olive); highly commended, A Pair of Soap Books (Heyland & Whittle); highly commended, Magpie Pondlife Wash and Make-Up Bag sets (Cubic Products)

Branded/Character, sponsored by The GA’s Legal Helpline Steeles Law: Winner, Cadbury Roses Puzzle (Half Moon Bay); highly commended, RHS Collection, (Dartington Crystal); highly commended, Mr Bean Scratch Map (The Lagoon Group)

Card and Wrap, sponsored by the NEC: Winner, Comic Range (Cracker Cards); highly commended, Little Reminders (Splimple); highly commended, Scratch Off/Rosette Collection (The London Studio)

Commemorative and Collectable Gifts: Winner, Subbuteo Bottle Opener (Thabto); highly commended, Ministry of Games (Talking Tables); highly commended, My First Year Personalised Baby Book (Signature Gifts)

Eco-Friendly, sponsored by T H March: Winner, Disney ‘It’s a Small World’ Eco Plastic Stacked (Whitbread Wilkinson/W2 Products); highly commended, Felt Animal Rugs (Sew Heart Felt); highly commended, Bottle Top Shots (Glass ReFORM, formerly Who’s? Glass)

Fashion Jewellery and Accessories, sponsored by The Laboratory at the Birmingham Assay Office: Winner, VW Beetle Washbag (The Monster Factory); highly commended Juice Cell (thumbsUp!); highly commended, In a Nutshell range (Disaster Designs)
Garden and Outdoor Living, sponsored by GES: Winner, Jam Jar with Straw (Parlane International); highly commended, Orla Kiely Garden Accessories (Wild & Wolf); highly commended, Herbert Planter (thumbsUp!)

Home Accessories, sponsored by Progressive Gifts & Home Worldwide as Primary Magazine Sponsor: Winner, Lexon Flip Clock (Lexon UK); highly commended, Gentlemen’s Hardware Illuminated Globe Light (Wild and Wolf); highly commended, YUYU Bottle (YUYU Designs)

Kids, sponsored by Ravensden: Winner, Noisy Jugglers! (Bluesky Designs); highly commended, Illuminated Canvas Nightlight (Illuminated Canvas); highly commended, Doodle Pencilcase (Doodle by Stitch)

Kitchen and Dining, sponsored by Autumn Fair International: Winner, McDougall’s Flour Shaker (Half Moon Bay); highly commended, Love to Bake Range (Parlane International); highly commended, The Fusion Collection (The Just Slate Company)

Occasions, sponsored by Streamline: Winner, Doodle Bunting (Doodle by Stitch); highly commended, Fabulous Food Displays (Talking Tables); highly commended, Personalised Wedding Illuminated Canvas (Illuminated Canvas)

Stationery, sponsored by Henri Davis: Winner, Weekly Planner Pad (K Two Products trading as Busy B); highly commended, Things Notebooks (Two Little Boys); highly commended, Happy Jackson Pen Orgy Pencil Case (Wild and Wolf)

Under £10, sponsored by GrowthAccelerator: Winner, Car Journey Games (Apples to Pears); highly commended, Elastic Band Shooting Sets (Bluesky Designs); highly commended, Around and About Map Series (Yellow Publications)

Hot Novelty: Winner, Cadbury Roses Puzzle (Half Moon Bay); highly commended,  Pick and Mix – Large (50 Fifty (UK)); highly commended, Happy Birthday Singing Ice Fountain (Talking Tables)

Gift Food: Winner, Aga Shaped Oven Tin Filled With Biscuits (Elite); highly commended, Cheddleton Christmas Ale (Cottage Delight); highly commended, Carmelised Almonds Cone (Cottage Delight)

Gifts for Men: Winner, Subbuteo Bottle Opener (Thabto); highly commended, Gentlemen’s Hardware (Wild and Wolf); highly commended, Ted Baker Beetles and Bikes (Wild and Wolf)

Home Fragrance: Winner, Mini Reed Diffuser and Votive Candle Gift Set (Heyland & Whittle); highly commended, Reed Diffusers by St Eval Candle Company (St Eval Candle Company); highly commended, Tales of London – Reed Diffuser, Westminster (Ashleigh and Burwood)

Made in UK: Winner, Goldilocks and the Three Bears Breakfast Range (Heather Alstead Design); highly commended, London Postcode District Jigsaw Puzzle (Ding Studio); highly commended, A Pair of Soap Books (Heyland & Whittle)

Premium/Luxury: Winner, R1 Razor with Stand with Mach3 Gillette Blade (Bolin Webb); highly commended, Champagne Cork Keeper (Culinary Concepts London); highly commended, Countryside Cushions – Hare Cushion (Carola van Dyke)