Signature Days gets name into CVS

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Signature Days is an online provider of experience gifts. Andrew Playford founded the portal two years ago in Chicago, entering a $35 billion U.S. gift card market. The site at http://www.signaturedays.com/ offers activities in major metro areas nationwide. DM News' Mickey Alam Khan interviewed Mr. Playford, who also maintains a blog at http://www.thegiftblog.com/.

Whom does Signature Days target?

Our gifts range from $25 and up. Our average order is $200. Our consumer market is people who have friends or loved ones who typically don't need any more things as gifts this holiday season.

We offer a creative alternative where our users select an experience gift based on their knowledge of the recipient - perhaps for the foodie, a cooking class or a personal chef for the day? For the thrill seeker, a tandem skydive jump might be something they never forget.

Our corporate target is employees and customers of forward-thinking companies who are bored of being incentivized with items they could have bought themselves, like a golf club bag or a cake mixer. Our corporate clients realize it is more valuable for their people to get out into the fresh air and do something they always dreamed of but perhaps felt too guilty to buy for themselves.

How does your program work?

Signature Days has experiences grouped around the largest 50 U.S. metro areas. Working in five categories - action and adventure, wine and gourmet, health and fitness, style and living, and unique and unusual - we have aggregated just about every cool thing you can imagine doing. The key: People are all different. We all like to do different things, from getting voice coaching to learning to fly a helicopter.

Users can buy a specific experience like "a dinner party for six with a personal chef" or an open gift card worth $X toward any gift the recipient chooses. We deliver our gifts in a stylish orange box that contains a gift card and PIN, which the recipient keys into our home page and gets taken through the online redemption process.

What about your business model?

We price our experiences at the vendor's normal retail price. The vendor gives us a 15 percent commission.

I'm sure you have a holiday strategy.

We will broaden our reach by launching a gift card program in partnership with InComm, the largest retail gift card program manager in the U.S.

Our program starts with coverage in 10,000 stores nationwide in stores such as Wal-Mart and CVS/pharmacy. We will sell different denominations of cards and both universal and category-specific cards.

Why CVS and Wal-Mart?

We want large-scale distribution. The stores get a revenue share of a high-value item that they don't pay for and which takes up little space.

You must have competition.

XperienceDays [and] Great American Days, plus a few smaller offerings.

How are you different?

First, by working with major distribution channels like Wal-Mart, CVS, American Express, we are fast assembling the pipeline that will attract the best vendors to our program, letting us offer the widest experience selection in the most places.

Next, we have applied a focused approach to location: People have to be in the place they want to experience, and they also want choice. We are the best organized to provide that in the top 50 markets so far.

What are some challenges you face?

Customers have only recently been introduced to this concept. It will take time to gather momentum. It has done just that in the U.K., Australia, New Zealand.

We want to use technology to support growth in a scalable way. Most vendors have limited technology resources, which means we have to organize our business in a way that is least disruptive to their normal business processes. n

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