Personalised gifts are the perfect present if you’re looking to show care, consideration, and thoughtfulness – so why are they so damn hard to find in Asia? Amy Read from Gifts Less Ordinary saw there was a gap in the market and swooped in on the opportunity.
There’s no better feeling than giving someone a truly thoughtful gift. Especially if that gift is socially conscious, sustainably sourced or from a unique local supplier. That’s the feeling that Amy Read wanted to enable when she started her online marketplace Gifts Less Ordinary. We speak to Amy about the rise in personalised gifting and the sustainable brands she works with. Also, we find out how corporates are involving themselves in ethical gift-giving. Best of all, her online shop ships free to Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the US.
GITNB: Gifts Less Ordinary is all about the opportunity to give personal and heartfelt gifts. How did you develop the business?
Amy Read: I started the business after I received a beautiful personalised baby gift. Then, I realised that there were very few options for people wanting to buy similar things in Asia. So, I wanted to enable people to have the same experience as me and launched Gifts Less Ordinary in 2015 an online marketplace. It curates some of the best local and international products from across the world.
One of my main aims was to make the experience enjoyable. Online shopping can be particularly laborious as you have to sift through pages and pages of mass-produced products. We wanted to create a browsing experience similar to a luxury boutique. Specifically, one that allowed people to choose from a range of thoughtful and personalised gifts. We’ve found that a lot of people who don’t normally buy online use our site because they can’t get similar gifts elsewhere. Local stores don’t offer the level of personalisation that they’re after.
You work with a lot of small businesses across the region. What do you look for in partners?
It’s really important to me that we hand-select the products that sit on the platform. We’re very careful to make sure that we work with original suppliers who are producing unique, high-quality goods.
It’s been great to see how the platform is enabling our small, local partners. Over half of e-commerce sales across the region happen in online marketplaces, so it’s a real growth driver. We’re able to provide the brands with that essential e-commerce presence as well as the customer service and infrastructure to manage their sales.
The marketplace is also a great launchpad for new brands and products as they can test demand and see what the opportunity is. Socially conscious brands have been really successful on the site. Our customers care about where the gift has come from, they want to know the background on what they’re buying, who made it and where – the story behind it.
Speaking of socially conscious gifting, a lot of the products on the site are sustainably sourced. Is this something you’re passionate about?
Very much so, but it’s not just me, it’s what our customers want too. From the very beginning of the site, we always watch what products are most popular and we look to find new and exciting partners that cater to these customer needs. Sustainably-sourced gifts have grown massively in popularity as we become more socially conscious, so we have been looking at how we work with suppliers that are creating these kinds of unique products.
One of our best-sellers is Eden+Elie, a Singapore-based jewellery brand that works with individuals with autism, providing them with skills in bead weaving to create quality designs. ReHyphen is also a top-seller – the brand started as an upcycling initiative that collects discarded cassette tapes from the local community and weaves the rolls into MusicCloth® which is used in their art and prints. Hunter + Boo makes sustainably-sourced, 100% organic cotton baby clothes and is one of our most popular baby gifts.
You’re not only selling to individuals but you’ve also started supplying businesses with corporate gifts. How did that come about?
Understanding who uses the marketplace and why is what encouraged us to work more closely with corporates. We found that almost one in five purchases on the site were from people buying gifts for colleagues. In addition, we were constantly being approached to create customized gifts for client events, so we set about looking at how we could work with businesses to deliver corporate gifts with a personal touch.
The sweet spot has been our GLO Edit range – using recycled leather to make bespoke gifts that businesses can give to clients and employees. It’s been great as it is enabling us to drive a sustainable and socially conscious agenda on a bigger scale. Also, it allows the businesses we work with to invest in gifts that create more of a personal connection.
You’ve also launched Punk Tonic – a sports accessories brand for kids to build their confidence. Why did that come about?
As a mother, I realised just how tough it can be for kids and teenagers. I wanted to create a conversation around mental health and talk about how it’s ok to be different. I’ve been working with a number of charities and spreading the message through the Punk Tonic brand. 20% of the proceeds go to supporting these local charities who are doing so much to drive change. I think the more people talk about mental health, the less stigmatized it will be.
What are the #LittleGreenSteps that you live by?
> Trust your gut – lots of people will provide you with advice, but your intuition is what tells you the right way to go.
> Find friends and a network that provides you with a safe space. They will support you and provide you with different perspectives.
Find a world of socially conscious gifts for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and more on Gifts Less Ordinary. Shipping is free to Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and the US.