By Meghan Rizzo, Contributing Writer
Post-holiday returns, inconvenient as they are, have become a part of the holiday tradition.
However, though you might have to grin and bear it when your elderly great aunt hands you a carefully wrapped gift box containing - gasp! - a garish red sweater with embossed images of reindeer and snowflakes, with some knowledge of consumer trends, you might save your loved ones from similar fates when you bestow your carefully chosen gifts on them.
According to an article at pr-inside.com, a study conducted reveals the gifts most often returned at Kohl's department stores: "Gift recipients say they are most likely to return clothing (74 percent), followed by items for their home (11 percent), beauty or fragrance products (8 percent), electronics (5 percent) and jewelry or watches (2 percent)."
No matter how luxurious that cashmere sweater may seem, if it doesn't fit, it's useless. The recipient's size must always be taken into account, but sizes are not the same among all manufacturers.
One must also consider taste. Does the recipient follow the trends or prefer to stick with the classics? Though you might think your sister will look stunning in a pair of skinny jeans, she might be perfectly content in her well-worn and torn 10-year-old Levis.
When buying clothes, always include a gift receipt in the box and don't be offended if you never see the recipient wearing your gift.
Items for the Home
Unless you are positive that your recipient is without a slow cooker, do not buy one for him. In buying home goods, you are at great risk for giving duplicates.
When it comes to home decor, again, taste comes into account. Are you familiar with the color scheme of your aunt's apartment? Do you know whether she is going for a classic look, an Asian theme, or rustic, country warmth? Also understand that part of the fun of decorating one's abode is in choosing the items! A gift certificate to Bed Bath and Beyond or Art.com is a great way to motivate your loved one to fill those empty spaces on the walls with items that suit her personal taste.
Beauty, Fragrance Products
People are particular about their beauty products. Everyone has his or her favorites. In giving such gifts, now is not the time for experimentation. Even if you think a make-over or a change is in order, find out what your recipient likes, and stick with it.
Electronics and Jewelry
According to the survey, these gifts are pretty safe bets. Pricier electronics are usually on an individual's wish list in which case they are a safe buy -- unless you have failed to coordinate with other family members and two or more people end up purchasing the same item.
Regarding jewelry, variety is welcome. There is an outfit that will coordinate with almost any pretty bauble. Here is an opportunity for you to be creative in your gift-giving.
A few commonly returned gifts were not mentioned in the survey, one of these being obnoxious toys.
Andrea, mother to two boys, 6 and 8, is eager to encourage their interest in music. However, that does not mean she is ready to welcome a full drum kit into her living room.
"I work from home," she says, "and peace and quiet are necessary for fulfilling my business obligations -- not to mention maintaining my sanity."
Such sentiments are echoed among parents around the world. When shopping for little ones, bypass the noisy electronic toys and stick with items that stimulate the imagination. Legos, for example, will never go out of style.
Pets given as gifts, sadly, often find their way back to the shelter. Adopting a pet is a personal decision. As much as your girlfriend fantasizes about owning an exotic Sugar-Glider, does she really have the room in her apartment for a six foot tall habitat? Your nephew might be begging for a puppy, but your brother-in-law might be terribly allergic to that little ball of fluff with the big red bow attached to his collar.
When buying gifts, use common sense and don't fear the gift card. People have more 'stuff' than ever, and sometimes choice is the most welcome gift of all.