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Unwrapped: the hidden hamper tax that could cost you a fortune this Christmas

A Christmas hamper packed full of festive treats can seem like the perfect way to spoil friends and family - particularly if you can’t be together this Christmas. But are these hampers worth the cost?
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A graphic which reads: Christmas Hamper Index 2020

Every year, department stores and supermarkets bring together their premium products wrapped in a basket complete with a bow on top - and Christmas shoppers can’t resist them. 

A YouGov poll from 2019 found that the cost of Christmas in the UK can add up to £1,116, with a whopping £381.60 being spent on presents alone.  

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But are we paying over the odds for these budget-busting gift baskets? The consumer spending experts at money.co.uk have unwrapped the real cost of your hamper to determine which ones are actually worth your hard-earned cash this Christmas*.  

Christmas hampers: overhyped and overpriced?

Christmas shoppers are spoilt for choice this year. There’s a hamper to suit every budget and taste, but would you be prepared to pay almost £500 per item? That’s what our consumer spending experts found out when they lifted the lid on the most popular hampers for Christmas 2020.

Taking 44 different hampers from 22 of the UK’s most popular stores and ranking them from the most expensive to the least expensive, we can reveal just how much each item would set you back.   

Hampers 1

‘Hamper tax’ - the luxury gift baskets where you’ll pay £831 more

Itemising the five most expensive hampers from the index, we’ve priced up each item and found that shoppers are paying a difference of £831 (on average) compared to buying the items separately. If the items weren’t available on the brands website, we swapped for a similar product that was the same size and style.

Hampers 2

M&S tops the list with the highest hamper tax. We valued the 32 items in their £750.00 hamper to be worth just £461.44. That’s +62.5% or £288.56 more than if you bought all the items yourself. 

Heritage hamper brand Fortnum & Mason offers relatively good value for money. For their £6,000 hamper (including the iconic F&M wicker hamper) the items were priced at £5,444.68, which is a hamper tax of just +10.2%.    

Cost-effective hampers packed with festive treats

Taking the same five department stores, we priced up their five most cost-effective hampers, to see if they are good value for money.  

The John Lewis gift basket priced at £20.00 was crowned the most cost-effective with the actual value coming out at £18.82 with a hamper tax of just +6.27% or £1.18 difference. 

In this circumstance it is more cost effective to buy the John Lewis hamper from the retailer as our experts have calculated that the price of a wicker basket and wrapping would cost around £23. 

The three items in the Harrods £50.00 hamper were priced at just £19.00, that includes a staggering hamper tax of +163.16% or £31.00 difference.

Hampers with the most pricey items

Hampers 3

Taking the 20 most expensive hampers from the UK’s most popular stores, we can reveal the hampers which include the priciest items and just how much each individual item would set you back.   

Upmarket department store Fortnum & Mason’s takes the top spot with the 70 items in their £6,000 luxury hamper, with each item costing an eye-watering £85.71 each. 

In second place is high-end department store Selfridges with their £5,000 Christmas hamper. This hamper includes 77 items in total, which works out at £64.94 per item. 

Luxury department store Harrods takes a close third place in our rankings with their £5,000 Christmas hamper, costing just slightly less than Selfridges, at £61.73 per item for the hamper’s 81 total items. 

Hamper best-buys

Hampers 4

Taking the 25 ‘entry level’ Christmas hampers from high street and high end brands, our study reveals the hampers offering the best value for money. 

Handmade cosmetics retailer Lush offers the cheapest hamper option at £9.50. The hamper includes two items, making each product worth £4.75. This makes the Lush Christmas hamper one of the best buys for bath bomb lovers this Christmas. 

Another best buy is kitchenware chain Lakeland’s entry level Christmas hamper. With six items included in the £14.99 hamper this makes each item worth £2.50 which is a great deal for cooking and baking enthusiasts.  

Cheese & wine lover? These are the top hampers for you

Hamper 5

Itemising the hampers, we’ve revealed which hamper selections are the best for sweet, savoury and wine lovers. 

If you are a fan of cheese then the luxury £5,000 Harrods hamper is the one for you with seven different varieties of cheese included. 

Whereas if you have family and friends with a sweet tooth, the £500 Christmas hamper from Betty’s includes nine items of chocolate. 

For wine lovers the £5,000 Christmas hamper from Selfridges includes a whopping 18 bottles of wine that will see you through the festive season.

When to buy and when to DIY

Hamper 6

With so many gift basket options available from the high-end to the high-street, it’s likely that you’ll still be spending far more than you need to. 

Our finance experts have calculated the real cost of the most luxurious hampers on the market, and revealed just how much you could stand to save by creating your own DIY hamper this Christmas.

High end department store John Lewis offers a luxury hamper retailing at £1,000 but our study has revealed that the 39 items would cost just £656.19 if purchased individually. This represents a massive DIY saving of £343.81. 

The brand's £20.00 entry level Christmas hamper includes five items and if purchased individually, this would cost just £18.82 which is only a £1.18 saving. 

How do consumers feel about Christmas hampers? 

We asked over 2,000 UK consumers** to tell us about their experiences with Christmas hampers, including the most and least-loved items they’ve received in a gift box. 

Which festive treats divide the nation?

Nearly half (43%) of consumers said their favourite item to receive in a gift hamper is chocolate. According to our research for Christmas 2020, hamper brands such as Betty’s, Hotel Chocolat and Thorntons include the highest number of chocolate items, making it the perfect pick for chocoholics this Christmas. 

Following chocolate are biscuits (29%) and spirits/liqueur (28%). Our research reveals that heritage hamper brands Fortnum & Mason and Harrods offer the most biscuit selections. Fortnum & Mason’s £6,000 hamper includes eight biscuit items and Harrods £5,000 hamper offering includes six biscuit products. 

Whereas, the £750 M&S Christmas hamper is the best choice for those looking for the best selection of booze to enjoy with five bottles of spirits and liqueur to choose from. 

When it comes to our most-loathed Christmas hamper gift, over a third (36%) said they would prefer not to receive caviar, followed by blue cheese (30%), pickles (19%) and surprisingly, charcuterie (19%). 

Looking at the brands within our study, the Harrods £5,000 hamper includes three types of caviar, the most pickled items and two types of charcuterie which makes them the brand with the highest amount of least-loved items. 

The Selfridges £5,000 hamper includes the highest amount of the second most-disliked item with one block of blue cheese included amongst the hamper treats. 

How much will UK shoppers splash on luxury hampers this Christmas?

One in three (34%) consumers would only be willing to pay between £50 and £100 for a hamper, making entry level hampers more popular with UK shoppers than the high price tag luxury hampers. 

Surprisingly, just 1% of consumers would pay up to £500 for a christmas hamper, whereas a whopping 29% admitted they would not purchase a hamper as a gift. 

Is it ok to re-gift unwanted Christmas hamper items? 

Almost half (45%) of those surveyed admitted they would not re-gift an item received as part of a hamper, whereas one in three (35%) said they would be willing to re-gift an unwanted hamper item. 

Women are more likely to re-gift unwanted items as 40% of those surveyed admitted they would compared to just 30% of men. 

However, shoppers aged 25 to 34 are the most thrifty with 43% admitting they would re-gift an unwanted hamper item. 

Salman Haqqi, personal finance expert at money.co.uk, said: 

“With over a third of consumers (35%) willing to pay between £50 to £100 on Christmas hampers this year, it is clear that there is more of an appetite for ‘entry level’ and cheaper gift options compared to the more ‘high end’ statement buys. 

“However, our research reveals that some of the most popular hampers on the high street are not as cost-effective as it would seem, so our advice would be to check whether a DIY hamper is a better option before you part with your money on a pre-made gift basket.

“This year has been a difficult year financially and the research suggests that shoppers are clearly looking to save money on Christmas treats like hampers, whilst still enjoying everything the season brings with it. 

“As we haven't been able to spend as much time with each other this year, it could be tempting to try to make up for it by spending more cash than we can afford.

“It’s important to budget carefully and shop around for the best deal when parting with your cash this Christmas. Careful budgeting can help you stay organised and keep track of how much you are spending, whilst still being able to treat your loved ones.”

With Christmas being an expensive time of year, it is important you manage your money in an effective way that suits your needs. It may be a good idea to consider spreading costs this season, using a 0% purchases credit card, that offers a long interest-free period.

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Methodology and Data Sources: 

Data/prices correct as of 1/11/2020

*Taking a seed list of luxury and high street Christmas Hampers we took the most expensive and the cheapest hamper offerings and calculated the difference in price between the two. We then selected five of the most luxurious Christmas hampers (John Lewis, Selfridges, Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, and Marks & Spencer) to analyse their most expensive and cheapest hamper to determine whether prepackaged hampers are saving consumers money and if not, how much more are they paying compared to the individual item price. 

Each individual item from the hamper was priced or substituted if unavailable and then calculated to reveal the estimated hamper contents value. Our results show that all five of the hamper contents can be sourced for less money than the price of the hampers. 

**Survey of 2,021 UK respondents aged 18-55 about their shopping experiences with Christmas hampers in the past and for 2020, including their favourite and most hated items they’ve received during November 2020 on behalf of money.co.uk

https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/christmasgifts/best-christmas-hampers-cheese-chocolate-wine-b1720932.html | https://www.johnlewis.com/ | https://www.selfridges.com |https://www.fortnumandmason.com/ | https://www.marksandspencer.com/ | https://www.harrods.com/ 

About Salman Haqqi

Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press such as The Express, Travel Daily, and The Daily Star.

View Salman Haqqi's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.

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About Salman Haqqi

View Salman Haqqi's full biography here or visit the money.co.uk press centre for our latest news.