How to be a gift list adviser

Choosing wedding presents can be fraught. That's why couples turn to gift list advisers

Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to... choose your gift list. Weddings might be a time for love and romance, but they are also a time for presents. And couples who don't want 20 identical napkin rings now turn to professional gift list advisers to get the gifts they really want.

"People think my job is romantic," says Hannah Sarpong, a gift list adviser at John Lewis. "They think I'm a wedding planner, but I only control a small portion of the wedding. But then, most couples do really look forward to their presents."

The gift list service is a relatively new phenomenon. It works like this: eight weeks or so before the wedding, a couple sets up a list at the store, over the phone, or - increasingly - online. Guests then choose which item to buy, and the list is updated as the big day approaches. What a gift list adviser does is to help both the couple and their wedding guests.

According to Sarpong, John Lewis has the most established gift list service, although advisers can also be found at major department stores such as Debenhams. Heal's has advisers at its Tottenham Court Road branch in London, where the company says the job involves administration, using the online service, communication with the bride and groom via e-mail or telephone, and "ensuring that all are happy".

The skills needed include excellent customer service, good organisational skills, good communication skills and computer literacy. At Marks & Spencer, in-store staff offer advice on gifts, but there are no specific advisers.

At John Lewis in Brent Cross, where Sarpong works, there are 30 staff in the gift list department. While they cater for a variety of occasions, such as birthdays, anniversaries, christenings, Diwali and Bar Mitzvahs, weddings are the biggest part of the job.

Sarpong, 24, a law graduate, finished her studies last year. She started at John Lewis six years ago, beginning on the shop floor in the kitchenware department at Brent Cross and then moving to the gift list department.

Gift list advisers need patience, she says, and they need to be well versed in the layout of the store and what's on sale. "I sometimes go round with young girls whose mums aren't there to help. I ask them whether they want formal cutlery, what sort of diningware they're after, that sort of thing. Most have no sense of a budget; they just put everything on, basically because they are not buying the items themselves."

Sarpong also trains other gift list advisers. She says the department is much more relaxed than the shop floor, which is a help to couples, who can be a little nervous. Advisers also deal with wedding stationery and liaise with the export department if a couple is marrying or moving abroad. During busy periods, such as Christmas, they also work on the shop floor. Sarpong won't discuss her salary, but graduates joining John Lewis this year start on £20,500.

Sarpong's law background helps because it means that she knows about contract and consumer law. One future career option would be to work for John Lewis's legal service. Another option would be to become a section manager in a new store. Her law degree has proved useful in terms of being up to date with the Civil Partnership Act, as John Lewis has introduced a new civil partnership gift list.

Sarpong used to think it cheeky to have a gift list, but she changed her mind when she was married abroad last year. She set up a list when she returned to the UK and will organise a reception shortly. "It's a weird feeling being on the other side of the fence. But I don't feel it's cheeky to ask guests to buy from a list any more; not since yesterday, when someone bought a wedding album that was on my list." But she's still waiting for someone to buy the remote-control Ferrari.

As yet, John Lewis has no plans to add a new gift list category: for divorce. However, two years ago a recently divorced woman walked into the store, saying she was the happiest woman on earth. She asked if there was a divorce gift list, to which Sarpong replied: "We don't have a divorce category, Madam, but you can put it down under celebration. And women's shoes are on the next floor."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron appeal to the audience during the Question Time special
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
Michelle Dockery plays Lady Mary in Downton Abbey
peopleBut who comes top of the wish list?
Miriam Gonzalez Durantez, right, with Lib Dem candidate Jane Dodds in Newtown, Powys, as part of her tour in support of the party’s female candidates
general electionNick Clegg's wife has impressed during the campaign
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Guru Careers: Graduate Account Executive / Digital Account Executive

£20k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Digital Account Exec ...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living