Thinking out of the box for new gift ideas

By Xiao Ma (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-03-14 10:44
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SHANGHAI - With so many reasons to give gifts, for many Chinese, especially those living in municipalities such as Beijing or Shanghai, the problem often lies in the "what?" rather than the "for what?".

"Precisely what should I buy?" is the question many Chinese ask themselves, wracking their brains each time the appropriate occasion arrives.

Thankfully, a savvy company from France has come out with a new gift experience concept and crossed the world to bring it to China.

"We hope our products will bring Chinese customers a new concept for gifts, something that offers leisure, tourism and experience," Pierre-Francois Bouvier, overseas operations chief executive officer of France-based Smart&Co, told China Daily.

The company's Smartbox is a gift package that entitles buyers to choose from a range of leisure activities. The recipients can use the guidebook inside the box to decide on the time and the location of their selection.

Valued from 150 to 1,500 yuan ($23 to $230), each Smartbox lists activities under relevant themes. They vary from visits to a spa, hiking and outdoor adventures.

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The concept, first initiated in 2004 in France, has so far received a warm response in Europe and the United States. In 2009, a total of 3 million Smartbox products were sold globally.

Now Europe's leading gift experience company is entering China, hoping to cash in on the country's growing gift industry by providing a range of experiences to the growing middle-class populations in coastal cities.

"In our view China should become one of our top markets worldwide within the next five to 10 years, and we are expecting very much from the Chinese market," said Bouvier.

After entering China at the end of last year, Smartbox products can so far be found in more than 40 retailers, including Target and Tesco in Shanghai. According to Bouvier, that number will grow to 100 "quite soon".

"Aside from Shanghai, we will also develop further into the Yangtze River Delta, Beijing and Tianjin in the north, and Guangzhou in the Pearl River Delta area," he added.

By bringing the business to more than 30 countries and regions, the company said it is expecting a global sales volume of 1.3 billion euros ($1.9 billion) by 2012, becoming a global leader in the gift experience sector.