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Holiday giving: The gift of experiences

This holiday season, many people on Long Island

This holiday season, many people on Long Island and elsewhere are opting for giving experiences. Photo Credit: Handout

Forget the material things -- reindeer sweaters, clunky toys and stocking stuffers. How about a night at a historic Gold Coast mansion or a spa pampering?

This holiday season, many people on Long Island and elsewhere are opting for giving experiences, especially as popular daily-deal sites like Groupon draw attention to such gifts.

"Everyone has so much stuff," said Nancy Melius, director of marketing and design at Oheka Castle, in Huntington. "There are all sorts of wonderful things people can do or a special treat they may not spend on themselves."

Oheka Castle Hotel & Estate did well with its recent Groupon offer of a $249 weekend package during the slower months of January, February and March. The estate has seen an overall increase in purchases of weekday packages and mansion tours for gifts, Melius said.

There's no reliable way to track how much shoppers are spending on experience gifts this year compared with last. But shoppers are expected to spend $80 million to $100 million on deal sites over the holidays -- as much as 10 times more than last year -- according to an estimate for North America from Yipit, a site that aggregates daily Web deals.

Groupon, the biggest deal site, sold 650,000 of its "Grouponicus" deals in the four days after Thanksgiving, six times as many as last year. Many Groupon deals are for services rather than goods.

In addition to a few other surprises, Wayne L. Miller, 63, of Islip Terrace, will be gifting his wife with the spa treatments he gives her every year.

"It's really a personal gift she can enjoy by herself for herself," Miller said, "and it gives her an opportunity to let her mind wander and totally relax."

Some Long Island spas say they are seeing higher sales of special spa treatment packages. Spa Adriana in Huntington, for instance, has had a 5 percent to 7 percent uptick in sales of high-end packages in its Mayan-inspired spa.

"The more experience-related packages are more popular," said John Vater, co-owner of Spa Adriana.

Cactus Salon has averaged about 5 percent to 10 percent increases in gift cards and gift package sales across its 25 Long Island locations, said Karen Vito, marketing director.

"I think people shop more practical now," Vito said. "If they know somebody comes to Cactus Salon, why not give them something they can use all year long, as opposed to a sweater or a pair of gloves?" With AP

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