As the saying goes, it’s the thought that counts. But in 2018, when it comes to holiday gift giving, sometimes that’s not quite enough to convey your love and gratitude for the recipient. It’s not your fault, as gift giving can be notoriously difficult and frustrating. (Although we hope we’ve eased some of that frustration with our gift guides.)
After searching endlessly for the perfect item, purchasing, wrapping, and then hand delivering or shipping it to your loved one, it’s possible they’ll return it. According to data from e-gift platform GiftNow, 54 percent of all holiday gifts were exchanged or altered in 2016. It’s a statistic that appears to continue to snowball too. In 2016, $70 billion worth of gifts were returned, and in 2017, it rose to $90 billion. Even sadder? A good amount of those returns will end up in a landfill, as many retailers simply throw away returned items from customers, citing them as unsalable.
But there is one category of gifts that is basically guaranteed to get returned. Year over year, clothing continues to be the most returned item. According to a study conducted by Kohl’s, clothing is by far the most returned gift category, making up a for 62 percent of all returns. Even when you feel confident with your clothing gift, so much could go awry: size, color, style, preferences, allergies… oh my.
Another popular item likely to get returned? Sweets—chocolate, candy, and gum.
Perhaps it’s best to steer clear of these highly returnable categories and instead go gifting for some sure winners like the thoughtful ideas below.
Herbal Tea, Cocoon Tea Artisans, $32; Short Green Mug, Workaday, $44
For the tea aficionado in your life, grab a canister of organic tea that’s almost too pretty to use. Pair it with a thoughtful, handmade artisan mug for a super-useful duo.
Is your gift receiver more of a matcha fan? You’ll get major bonus points by snagging the ceremonial-grade powdered tea ($50) by the coolest cafe on the block, Cha Cha Matcha, which just made its beloved tea purchasable for at-home use.
Totem Candles, Areaware, $20
Does your recipient love candles? (Who doesn’t?) Shake things up with a handle that stands on its own without a glass holder or taper. They’re unscented, too, so they’ll be perfect as a bold centerpiece for any classy meal.
Still love the classic look of tapers and candle holders? Hey, us too. Hawkins New York Simple Wood Candle Holder ($38) makes an everlasting option; pair it with Cire Trudon Taper Candles ($24) for your loved one. Taper candles feel nostalgic, and the Cire Trudon version brings major luxe vibes at a reasonable price. (More useful than a set of chocolates and candy—promise.)
Glass Cake Stand, Mosser Glass, $34; Linens, La DoubleJ, $110
Got a Great British Bake Off fan in your life? Inspire them to test recipes at home with a glass cake stand meant for showing off their newest creation. Handmade in Ohio, using decades-old molds and colors, this is a much safer bet than any sweater or jacket.
Keep the chic display theme going with a napkin set worthy of an art exhibition, thanks to cool girl brand La DoubleJ. The vintage prints are a throwback and a collaboration with historic Italian textile producer Mascioni (we’re partial to the fish Galletti print, but they’re all winners). Perfect for all those design lovers in your life—whether they’re a maximalist wanting to keep the print-on-print theme going or the minimalist who wants just a smart pop of color in their tablescape.
Blanket, ZigZagZurich, $ 149; Hand Wash and Cream, Grown Alchemist, $90
Got a nester on your list? Keep them warm and toasty at home with a blanket that is anything but average. The hand-knitted blanket is a graphic statement to kick up any neutral furniture palette.
While they’re resting at home, inspire them to spruce up their sink with the ultimate hygge kit: an orange, cedarwood, and sage hand soap and an orange peel and vanilla hand cream kit with a bold metallic silver packaging that is still somehow sleek minimalist. Give credit to Aussie brand Grown Alchemist, which has made a kit as interesting on the inside as it is on the outside.
Got someone on your list who has it all? Consider giving them the ultimate gift—the gift of giving back. Make a donation in their name to a worthy cause like Unicef, Sonoma County Resilience Fund, ASPCA, Oxfam, or National Wildlife Fund.
This story was originally published on November 29, 2017, and has been updated with new information.