Feature Article - January/February 2018

The Right Fit

Fitting Events Continue to Grow in Popularity

By Deborah L. Vence

Why Are They Important?

Experts summed up the importance of fitting events with the fact that they provide guests with the personalized instant gratification aspect of gifting, as well as offer an authentic experience.

"The guest gets to pick out what they want, not what they are told they are going to get," Hatch said.

He noted a study done by the Wharton School that states, "When recipients receive an experience, regardless of whether they share in that experience with the gift-giver, they feel more connected to the gift-giver as a result of it compared to receiving a material gift."

And, a fitting experience is just that—an experience.

"A true brand experience is something that shows that a company is investing in that guest, just as much as that guest invests in your company or organization," Hatch said. "When you work with Maui Jim, you add that value and standard because our staff is trained to learn about the guest and their wants and needs to determine the most appropriate gift. You are leaving the guest with the memories of a tailored experience."

Williams added that fitting events are important because while finding a gift for a client or employee can be challenging, "Everyone may appreciate the gesture, but the gift they continue to use on a daily basis will be the one they remember and will inspire them to return."

"For the recipients," Landry added, "it's still new, a novelty factor."

It wasn't that long ago that there were room drop gifts. For instance, event attendees might have received a baseball cap one night, flip flops another and a T-shirt another night. Landry noted his experience at travel events in the past. And, one time in the Bahamas, for example, a chip and dip set in a conch shell was given as a gift.

In this case, the issue was in getting the gift back home.

"I would never have gotten it back intact " he said.

However, if you weave a shopping experience into it, and it's done very well, it's easy to offer something that attendees can take back with them and use 52 weeks out of the year.

Fitting Challenges

Sometimes fitting events can pose some challenges, underscoring the need for careful planning and effective solutions for any problems that need to be addressed.

Logistics are important. Are you offering something recipients will be comfortable carrying home, or will the items be shipped?

"Universally, we'll take people's names and addresses and ship it to them after the fact," Landry said. "Bring six or seven or eight bags. But, no one wants the bag there. [You can] drop ship the program. They typically want [it] personalized, monogrammed, laser plated with the people's logo. And when they get it, it's very special."

It's important to balance the number of choices with the processing time per person, too.

"You want to give people a fun, great experience," he said. "But, by the same token, if you are at a major event and seeing 300 people, [you have to consider] the manpower you need to try to balance those two things. I see some of the sunglasses brands, and have seen them over the [years] since they've started, pare down their assortments, [and] give people slightly less choices. [They] found that balance with processing time."

One of the other challenges has to do with instant gratification. People are happy to wait for a piece of Tumi luggage, for example, but still have that desire for immediate gratification. In turn, that can be addressed by giving guests a card holder, or a small leather goods piece, for instance, with the plan to ship the luggage to them later.

For Hatch, "A challenge that we run into are companies that give 'experiential' a bad name.

"We have been doing this for almost 18 years," he explained. "It's a fine science to get down to things like how many styles offered is the right number, how much inventory should be sent to ensure every guest walks away with their first choice, what training to offer our staff to be able to provide a true brand experience, or having those relationships for shipping logistics and duty issues that may come up," he said.

"There are so many variables in a domestic or international fitting event, that a lot of companies run out of inventory, can't provide a true brand experience because they are trying to represent so many different brands, or have hidden costs that aren't accounted for up front," he added.

And, not all companies can pull off a smooth experience with all of the moving pieces.

"When a planner is burned by some of these issues, they may think that fitting events are too much work and too much can go wrong," Hatch said. "As long as the planner is working with a veteran company, like Maui Jim, that has seen it all, they'll see that a fitting experience done right leaves the guests and planners with great memories."

What's more, Williams noted that the "Management of the inventory to support events is a continuous challenge. The more options you provide, the more inventory is necessary to ensure a successful event.

"As we continue to grow and face challenges, we dissect the challenges and determine how we can alleviate them in the future. For instance, international events can be challenging depending on the countries of import," he said.

"Customs, theft and communications are challenges that we continue to strive for improvement to ensure a safe and on-time delivery," he added. "Our Web Redemption Platform was developed while keeping these challenges in mind by creating savings for our customers while avoiding the risks of international shipping."