Published on
20 December 2019

While Santa will be bringing many children the presents they’ve been dreaming of this Christmas, just under half (47%) of adults say they have received gifts they don’t want and will never use, according to a new survey by Barnardo’s.

The survey also revealed that the majority of these gifts are left gathering dust, with more than a third of UK adults (36 per cent) saying they put these gifts in a cupboard and never use them. One in ten (11%) people who didn’t donate their gift to charity claimed it’s because they hang on to them in order to pretend to the gifter that they use the item, while 20 per cent simply feel too guilty to pass on their unwanted gifts.

In a YouGov survey of adults who receive gifts at Christmas, 47 per cent said they received unwanted gifts last year, with novelty items such as humorous gifts being the main culprit for 59 per cent of people.

Cosmetic sets (47 per cent) and candles (41 per cent) also proved to be a disappointment.

The results come as Barnardo’s launches a new campaign asking people to donate their unwanted festive gifts to their local Barnardo’s charity shop. The proceeds from the sale of good quality, unused Christmas gifts are a vital source of income for the charity’s work supporting vulnerable children across the UK.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

“We’ve all received gifts that end up at the back of a cupboard. But this year, instead of holding onto gifts that you’ll never use, we’re asking people to donate them to their local Barnardo’s shop.

“Donating to our stores means somebody else can find joy in our unwanted gifts.

“It also helps Barnardo’s to bring care, hope and love to vulnerable children across the UK, at Christmas and all year round.”

People can find their local Barnardo’s shop here.

Side bar 1

The YouGov poll of 2,050 adults, with 1,864 who receive Christmas gifts, across the UK revealed that of those who received unwanted gifts last year and didn’t donate them to charity, the reasons were:

     24% intended to re-gift it at a later date

      20% felt guilty giving it away

      15% didn’t get round to taking it to a charity shop

      11% wanted to pretend they used it

      10% cited other reasons

      8% didn’t think anyone would want to buy it from a charity shop

      4% wanted to return them to the place it was purchased from

Of those who receive Christmas gifts, the type of gifts that people do not want to receive included:

  • Novelty items (59%)
  • Cosmetic sets (47%)
  • Candles (41%)
  • Cookbooks (40%)
  • Bath sets (38%)
  • Household items (30%)
  • Socks (19%)
  • Clothing and accessories (13%)
  • Food and drink (10%)

The YouGov poll also showed that when they received an unwanted Christmas gift last year:

    40% donated them to charity

    36% stored them away in a cupboard and never used them

  34% re-gifted their unwanted gifts

  11% re-sold sold them

  4% returned them to the place it was purchased from

  4% threw them away


Notes to Editors

About Barnardo’s

Last year around 300,000 children, young people, parents and carers were supported by Barnardo’s through more than 1,000 services across the UK, such as young carers, care leavers, foster carers and adoptive parents, training and skills or parenting classes.

We work to change the lives of vulnerable children in the UK and every year we help thousands of families to build a better future. But we cannot do it without you.

Visit to find out how you can get involved. Registered charity No. 216250 and SC037605

Follow Barnardo’s media team on Twitter @BarnardosNews

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,050 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12th - 13th December 2019.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).