Reusable gift bag company Tokki is landing in Target just ahead of the holidays, with a pitch to help gift-givers add personalized messages to their packages to help keep them in circulation.
Tokki, founded in 2019, offers durable gift bags made from recycled plastic. But it also has a digital component, with a tag that has a QR code for a gift-giver to leave a personalized video message. And if they want, they can make that message public so future gift-givers can see the chain of where the bag has been.
The Target launch will roll out in select stores and online starting Nov. 1, and scale to all 1,900 stores come Dec. 3. It represents Tokki’s first major wholesale expansion following e-commerce and independent boutique sales. The move is part of a major growth spurt for the company after closing an undisclosed seed round this year after getting started via crowdfunding through StartEngine.
CEO Jane Park, a serial entrepreneur who previously founded cosmetics company Julep, said the goal with Tokki was to create a product that is meant to be re-used by having people share the video messages with one another. The end result is something like a digital scrap book for families or friend circles who are re-using the bag among one another.
“Everybody along the chain can see what happens to the bag, so there’s this digital experience,” Park siad. “A lot of bags, you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re reusing it, whereas this is meant for that — and it’s also built for connection.”
Tokki’s expansion represents a new strategy in the world of gift wrap, which generates an estimated 4.6 million pounds of waste a year. While about half that winds up in a landfill, the other half also can’t be recycled if it’s heavily inked, lined with plastic or coated in plastic sparkles. Wrapping paper stuck with tape or ribbon also cannot be recycled.
When Tokki first launched, it used organic cotton squares for the wrapping before switching to a more durable, easy-to-use bag format. It debuted in the events world with partnerships at hotels like the Delano in Las Vegas. Initial consumers sales were online only, though Tokki began to put out feelers for a major retailer wholesale partner while expanding sales in independent boutiques. By 2022, Tokki was sold in more than 500 independent boutiques. This year, that figure has more than tripled. In addition to Target, Park also sells Tokki on QVC, a strategy inherited from her days at Julep.
Scaling up to the brand in such a short amount of time, though, required “a million things” to get ready. Tokki has 10 patents filed or pending in the U.S. and other countries, a technical strategy that helps protect the brand’s intellectual property as it scales. Preparing for the launch also meant tapping into Parks’ network of suppliers from Julep, including suppliers for large amounts of PET, or PolyEthylene Terephthalate. This lightweight plastic is considered more recyclable than others because it can be made into new products.
“Because we had a running start with these relationships, we were able to do this,” she said.
In addition to deepening ties with supplies, moving to wholesale also meant slight design changes. Tokki’s initial Target launch comes with 11 new styles with holiday prints of varying sizes. These versions of the bags are the “ever greeting” bags that have the QR printed on a tag that hangs from the bag handled, compared to the original Tokki design that has the code on a fanciful bow. Tokki also created a new product: a gift card holder that comes with the digital greeting card will be all 1,900 Target stores come Dec. 3.
Tokki will also be using the Target launch as a peak marketing moment. In the near term, it will link out to Target’s e-commerce landing page from its own website. Announcements will also show up on social media, with Instagram and TikTok posts explaining how to use the cards and user-generated content.
Crystal Dreisbach, CEO at the nonprofit Upstream that aims to find reusable solutions to single-use plastic, said that start-up companies are well-positioned to help solve such waste issues because they can create a new system or supply chain from the start. “They have the agility to do that,” she said.
But being an eco-friendly company means more than just being made of the right materials – it also means ensuring that the product can last. Tokki, made from reusable water bottles, has a reinforced bottom and stitched-on handles to hold heavy items and withstand multiple uses.
“To truly be sustainable, we have to make sure a product is used as long as possible in the model it was intended,” Dreisbach said.
To that end, Park said that the digital component of Tokki’s video cards comes in. Shoppers, she said, are comfortable with video messaging loved ones and getting special messages on their phones rather than a physical card. Some bags have already been gifted more than 20 times, with families able to see cards from previous holidays or celebrations.
“It’s modernizing the gifting experience in the way we want to celebrate with one another,” Park said.