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Unwrapping the relevance of gift wrapping

posted on 06.02.2017, 02:12 by Porublev, Elizabeth Anne
The wrapping of a gift is an activity that seems simple on the face of it. Yet underlying this impression is the ability for a tangible object such as gift wrapping, to represent intangible messages and symbolic meaning within the relationship between the giver and receiver. Gift wrapping is the first element of the gift that is seen and can assist in setting the atmosphere and mood surrounding the exchange of the gift. It is possible to give a gift without the wrapping (referred to as a ‘naked’ gift). However, giving a wrapped gift is perceived as more acceptable. Drawing on the limited existing knowledge about gift wrapping, this research followed a discovery oriented theory approach. The aim of this research was to understand how gift wrapping is relevant to the gift and the gift giving process. Given the exploratory nature of this topic, a qualitative approach was most suitable. Following a naturalistic inquiry approach, data collection methods included observation of a public gift wrap stall, semi-structured interviews and projective workshops. The three methods were completed in two stages to enable insight into gift wrapping from an array of perspectives and multiple iterations. An interpretative approach to data analysis accepted that the researcher is part of the research and reality is subjective. This research identified that gift wrapping is an important yet under-explored part of gift giving. As part of this investigation, a model of gift giving incorporating the relevance of gift wrapping was created (based on existing literature) and confirmed by the findings from the data collected. Three themes were recognised as contributing to the relevance of gift wrapping; the motivation to wrap a gift, the influences on the degree of effort made in wrapping gift and what value gift wrapping can contribute to a gift and its exchange. As well as identifying these themes, this research also recognised that gift wrapping drew on the same context as the gift giving process. From the interpretation of the findings a segmentation of the informants was developed and named the ‘Spectrum of Wrappers.’ Three types of gift wrappers were identified; passionate wrappers, conventional wrappers and detached wrappers. These segments remained the same regardless of whether the informant was in the role of the giver or receiver. As part of the interpretation, an evolved model of gift giving incorporating the relevance of gift wrapping was presented. This model emphasised in greater detail how gift wrapping was important to the gift giving process. This research provides a deeper understanding of gift wrapping from an academic perspective adding to the limited body of literature on gift wrapping. Furthermore, it offers managerial implications particularly for retail organisations as they try to differentiate themselves in a difficult operating environment. As knowledge of gift wrapping is still emerging, there are ample opportunities for future research.


Campus location


Principal supervisor

Jan Brace-Govan

Additional supervisor 1

Stella Minahan, Chris Dubelaar

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre



Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Business and Economics