When it comes to handing out dud Christmas gifts, in-laws are the worst offenders, with work colleagues a close second.
Last year Australians unwrapped 20 million disappointing Christmas gifts valued at an estimated $68 each. That adds up to a huge $630m in unwanted presents according to New Galaxy research conducted for online marketplace Gumtree.
Seventy per cent of Australians received at least one unwanted Christmas gift, with the value of this year’s failed gifting tipped to go even higher.
A recent British survey by Virgin Trains honed in on mothers-in-law as the worst gift givers, with kitchen utensils, scarves, handkerchiefs and men’s underwear identified as the most-hated presents.
New Galaxy research found vases, ornaments, old-fashioned clothing and niche kitchen appliances were the least-wanted gifts.
According to Australian trend forecasters McCrindle Research, we’d most like to be given experiences, technology and clothing; sadly we’re still getting perfumed soaps, cheap perfume and ugly socks.
McCrindle Research found that mums and spouses top the list of best gift givers, with dads coming in at number three.
Disappointed gift recipients are increasingly regifting unwanted presents, or recouping some value by selling them online.
New Galaxy found 9.5 million Australians were happy to pass on unwanted items, with women more likely regift than men, and higher income households more prone to do so than those on lower incomes; a fact which may explain a common gifting fail.
“My mother-in-law is very well off,” says Melbourne mum Sue Jensen. “But rather than buy a nice present, she always gives me the gift-with-purchase from some expensive cosmetics she’s bought for herself during the year.”
Perth schoolteacher Katie Green has a similar story.
“My sister got a free bracelet when she bought another jewellery item last year, and passed it off to me as a present,” Ms Green said.
“I went to a lot of trouble to find her a personal gift and felt a bit rotten than she’d just passed on something she got free,” she said.
Freebies aside, Australians are expected to spend $10 billion on Christmas gifts this year, an average of $700 per person.
But we’re increasingly looking to salvage some value from failed gifts by selling them online.
“Last year, we saw a 30 per cent increase in the number of new ads post-Christmas and we expect to see an even greater number this year,” Gumtree spokesperson Kirsty Dunn said.
Over on eBay more than 4500 items were listed as “unwanted Christmas gifts’ in just the first two weeks of January.
Ms Dunn said shoppers could slash their Christmas shopping budget by choosing second-hand gifts this season, a trend she said was becoming increasingly acceptable.
More than half of people surveyed by New Galaxy were open to receiving a second-hand gift, an increase of almost one million people from last year.
Ms Dunn said shoppers could get a lot more bang for their buck by considering vintage or pre-owned items, and many people preferred to sleuth out vintage gifts that had a more bespoke quality than mainstream items.
Ash Rosshandler, the CEO of Good Company, says despite the trend for re-gifting and on-selling, many unwanted gifts will simply end up in landfill.
“We’re asking people not to buy useless gifts in the first place, but to consider more ethical gift giving,” he said.
The Good Company website offers charity gift cards which enable recipients to learn about thousands of ethical projects and charities and choose where their gift is spent.
“That’s the true spirit of Christmas,” Mr Rosshandler said. “Making donations and giving to others.”
“Once people experience the educational journey of deciding where their money is most needed … it’s hard to go back to giving novelty mugs.”