Fashionable and high-tech merchandise is commanding the interest of award redeemers, according to members of the incentive industry -- although more functional gifts are also making a comeback.
Rymax Marketing Services, Inc. Senior Vice President of Sales Paul Gordon has seen "a noticeable increase in interest" in fashion-focused brands such as Michael Kors and Calvin Klein, as well as tech-focused offerings, including 3-D printers and even drones.
"A few categories that do consistently well are accessories for travel and commuting, and reasonably priced electronics, such as fitness bands, headphones, and cameras," Gordon says, noting that Rymax has added a number of these brands in the past year, including Gucci watches and outdoor transportation accessory brand, Thule.
On the tech side, "wearable fitness is still extremely hot and in demand," according to Eric Anderson, director of sales for Power Merchandising Corp. (PMC), adding that Garmin's Vivo activity tracker devices are doing particularly well with PMC's clients and incentive award recipients.
However, Anderson has also seen an interest in more practical, home and kitchen products like coffee makers, mixers, and outdoor furniture, which he describes as "skyrocketing" in redemption.
"We have a brand called Hanover and it is doing very well," says Anderson of the outdoor furniture maker. "This past season was our best yet with outdoor furniture." He emphasizes that "people are looking for convenience, and these products fit the bill."
These more practical products may see even more of an uptick in demand if the economy continues on its recently shaky path in August.
"When the economy is suffering, we tend to see more functional and practical products, such as cookware, being redeemed," says Gordon. "Once the economy has rebounded, more trending, tech-savvy products [gain a lot of traction]."
For now, luxury goods still show strong appeal. Spencer Toomey, CPIM, senior vice president of Luxury Lines by MMSC and president of the Incentive Marketing Association, has seen particular interest recently in the company's handbag and luggage lines, helped by the introduction of Calvin Klein handbags. He emphasized that when it comes to fashion, "continuity is a challenge," and it is getting more important for brands to ensure they keep popular items available longer than the usual three-month season for consumer fashion.
"Luggage is also a strong category for us," adds Toomey, pointing to its brands such as Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and G.H. Bass. "There is more interest in nested sets at a good value from a brand-name product. It is a challenge to meet the price points sometimes, but our brands understand the market and do everything they can to help us satisfy the customer."
Whatever the current economic situation, as fall begins, incentive participants will start to think about the upcoming holiday season.
"The annual Swarovski Ornament is always a favorite," says Toomey. "It is different every year and it ties in with the star at the top of the tree in Rockefeller Center. Because it is a limited-edition collectible and is only sold for one year, it creates a natural continuity program."