"Surprise Gift" Purchases: Customer Insights from the Small Electrical Appliances Market

Joëlle Vanhamme, Cornelis Joachim Petrus Maria de Bont

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Surprise gifts offer more business opportunities than gifts suggested by recipients, because a larger part of the selection and purchase processes can be molded, and such gifts are especially valued by recipients. Yet the extant gift-giving literature explicitly takes into account neither the giver's intention to surprise nor the consequences for the gift selection and purchase processes. The present study investigates surprise gifts from the giver's point of view and disentangles the selection and purchase processes of surprise gifts and gifts that are not meant as surprises. The hypotheses emerge as a consequence of the enhanced pleasure and experiential motivation underlying surprise gifts, as well as their greater inherent perceived risk. According to panel data, design and money-back guarantees are more important for the purchase of surprise gifts (compared with non-surprise gifts), whereas good deals appear less important, and brand name does not seem to matter any more than it does for gifts not intended as a surprise. Also, surprise gifts more often are bought on the spot than non-surprise gifts, without extended information search (similar to impulse purchases), by women alone, and for someone within the household. Finally, the giver usually has a poorer idea of what he or she wants to buy before entering the shop and visits fewer stores to purchase surprise gifts. However, the last three results apply only to appliances which often serve as gifts. These insights lead to significant managerial implications for retailers and manufacturers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-369
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Retailing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Brand name
  • Design
  • Information search
  • Money-back guarantees
  • Price level
  • Risk
  • Surprise gift

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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