Industry Profiles

December 19, 2018 • Jess Schmidt
From plain to beautifully adorned: The modern history of gift wrapping

{Sponsored} Prior to the invention of modern giftwrap, gift-giving was, well, boring. Instead of bright colors and patterns, shiny foil and shimmers, gifts were wrapped in plain white tissue paper and tied with simple ribbons — with exceptions for special occasions, when solid-colored tissue was sometimes used.

Enter Eli Hyman and Morris Silverman. As “Hy-Sil,” the two began producing leather postcards in 1903, switching to printed paper cards when fads changed about a decade later. They began selling their products to Hall Brothers, which became Hallmark, in 1912.

In the early 1920s, Hy-Sil began importing the latest in printed envelopes from France, metallic tinsel from Germany and silk ribbons from England. With these new gift-wrapping products, they began launching sales of small spools of the imported products in fine department stores. They also hired women to teach consumers to use the products to create beautifully wrapped gifts. “This prompted department stores to begin offering gift-wrapping,” said Lawrence Louis, president of IG Design Group Americas Inc., the parent company of The Gift Wrap Company.

At that time, Hy-Sil developed patterned giftwrap. Hall Brothers became a major distributor of that giftwrap. “The Hall Brothers became Hallmark and founded the leading greeting card company. We put Hallmark into the giftwrap business by having them as our distributor,” Louis said.

Lawrence Louis quote The Gift Wrap CompanyIn another twist, Hy-Sil became the first to produce metalized film and began manufacturing Mylar-based products. The company focused on Mylar while continuing to produce giftwrap as a smaller portion ofthe business.

When IG Design Group, an UK-based company, acquired Hy-Sil in 1988, they changed the name to The Gift Wrap Company. “We changed the focus to redeveloping the giftwrap business with lots of design, and today we focus on innovations in construction and design,” Louis said.

Gift bags stole the spotlight in the giftwrap world in the early 1990s, with basic printed and laminated bags with polypropylene handles. Affectionately referred to as GWC by stores, customers’ reps, magazines and the market, The Gift Wrap Company introduced its first gift bags in 1995 and hasn’t slowed down in innovation and design since.

Today’s gift bags have elaborate adornments such as gems, embossing and debossing, glitter, spot coatings and everything imaginable. Two of the latest trends consumers see are die-cutting and shakers inside of the bags. “The world’s The Gift Wrap Companyyour oyster,” Louis added. “Now, sustainability is a big initiative for us. We’re trying to find materials that are recycled or otherwise sustainable but that don’t add cost at retail.”

GWC is also in the process of relocating manufacturing from overseas — mostly in China — to the U.S. They plan to not only create jobs but also to produce a domestic product that is less expensive to transport; this doubles as an improvement in sustainability. “Right now, products are elaborate, with finishes and embellishments that drive up costs. Maybe with the push for sustainability, simple designs will come back,” Louis speculated.

Impact Innovations, based in Memphis, is a recent acquisition of GWC, and the company plans to make that its domestic manufacturing home based in the coming years.

The Gift Wrap CompanyNew occasions are added to GWCs offerings every year; the latest “holidays” that the design team is covering are Pride and Galentine’s Day. “People are looking for a reason to celebrate; we’re already offering Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Christmas, Halloween, and Galentine’s Day looks like it will be the next big celebration,” Louis said.

WHAT’S COMING UP?

Visit The Gift Wrap Company at the National Stationery Show in February, and its parent company at the Spring Fair in Birmingham, England, which is also in The Gift Wrap CompanyFebruary. In the meantime, “we’re scouring Europe and the rest of the world looking for ideas for next year’s product line,” Louis said.

Learn more from The Gift Wrap Company.

© 2019 The Gift Wrap Company

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