The Magic Formula behind finding the perfect gift for anyone

Do you often struggle to find the right gift for someone, or feel that there are people that it’s just impossible to satisfy? Here’s the answer.

A couple of years ago, the department store chain Debenhams worked with a Professor of Fashion Psychology, Karen Pine, to uncover the secret behind finding someone the perfect Christmas gift. With the nights begin to draw in, many of will be starting to think already about what to get our loved ones, so we think it’s a good time to take another look at it.

friends happyThe perfect gift-giving formula is wonderfully simple, and runs as follows:

(L x 2) + O + E2 – PD + EM = PP 

L= Listening

O = Observation

E = Effort

PD = Personal Desire

EM = Empathy

PP = Perfect Present

As you can see, cost is not a factor in the formula – the amount you spend on a person has little to do with the success of your gift. Another point to remember is that there is no seasonality in this formula. It doesn’t just apply to Christmas. It’s just as suitable for finding someone the perfect gift at Thanksgiving, for a honeymoon, wedding, birthday or retirement.

Let’s go into a little more detail…


(Lx2) – This is all about picking up on the hints that someone is dropping for you, consciously or unconsciously, about something they would like to have or do. It might be while you’re out shopping with your partner, idly browsing online in the evening or just throwing around ideas for your personal bucket lists. The reason it’s x2 is because you also need to be listening out for what’s not being said, but still could be relevant – subtle hints. Another useful point to take in is when they mention seeing the ideal gift for someone else, as this could be a clue they might like it for themselves.Listening Observation 

O – This is perhaps the most important part of the formula because it requires you to observe the nature of the person you’re buying for. The Debenhams research suggests watching their face as they look at things to see what makes their eyes light up, but we think it’s an idea to go a little deeper. Think about that person’s personality. Are they the type that prefers a practical gift, or enjoys an element of surprise? Do they value physical possessions such as jewellery or books, or are they more of a ‘doing person’, in which case an experience gift from our collection might be more suitable.

Observation Effort

E2 – A little effort goes a long way, but twice as much effort goes even further. When you’ve put a lot of time, thought and energy into finding someone the right gift, it’s obvious. When Nicolas Cage was wooing Patricia Arquette, she gave him a list of ‘impossible’ tasks to prove his love to her which he had to complete before she agreed to marry him – they included an autograph from J.D. Salinger and a wedding dress from a Tibetan tribe. With a little cheating he got there, and the rest is history (actually their marriage didn’t last too long but never mind that).EffortPersonal Desire

-PD – When finding the perfect present for someone it’s important to take yourself out of the equation. You might see something that you think is fantastic, and assume that the recipient will feel the same way, but this is a mistake. Personal desire shouldn’t obscure the listening and observation stages.Personal DesireEmpathy 

EM – This stage requires you to put yourself in the place of the person receiving the gift. Imagine how they will feel on receiving it – curiosity? amusement? pure joy? What is the emotion you’re hoping to inspire with this present? Sometimes the best gift of all is something that actually costs you very little but holds a special meaning for the two of you.Perfect Present