Features

Gifts that work

1 Oct 2006 by business traveller

Giving gifts is a way of showing how much you value a relationship, and while a good gift can keep everybody happy, an inappropriate one – too small or inexpensive – could send the wrong message. What corporate gift services offer is the promise that they can help executives find the right present for their colleagues, staff or delegates quickly and with the minimum of hassle, whether it be a gift voucher or one tailored to your request.

If the phrase "corporate gifts" conjures up a box of paperweights covered in company logos, then you are probably working for the wrong company. Caroline Glazebrook, marketing director of giftinspiration.com, says: "I think that a lot of people have the impression that corporate gifts are about having a logo stamped on a golf ball, but we are a more imaginative alternative. Whereas we do offer logos, the service is more personal than that."

With most corporate gift services, ordering is the easy part. Tracy Finn, manager of corporate services at Harrods says: "Our service is commission-free, and corporates often just don't have the time so they come to us." Glazebrook agrees: "We literally take the hassle out of sending a gift."

Many customers order their gifts online using sites such as giftinspiration.com, but the face-to-face approach is also offered by high-end department stores like Fortnum & Mason, Harrods and Harvey Nichols.

In contrast to the paperweight option, you are clearly conveying a strong message when you send colleagues a smartly-wrapped gift from Harrods or a hamper from Fortnum & Mason, and Tracy Finn says having the right brand name on the box does have a certain draw. "It comes down to the name. Receiving a gift, wrapped and delivered to the door, sends an important message. People come here for the name and for the prestige. If you are giving the employee a luxury item, the brand name holds more weight than for other presents."

But it is also the thought that counts, says Victoria Lam, special sales manager for Fortnum & Mason: "It's nice to add that personal touch. We are well-known for hampers in food and drink and it's a nice touch to reward excellence with this, rather than give a cash bonus."
Finn adds: "It's about companies thanking staff or thanking their clients, and there is always going to be a market for that, whether it's just a gift card or something more specific."

With Christmas zooming into focus, and the present-finding panic piling up, time is of the essence. Glazebrook of giftinspiration.com explains that whatever is on the website is in stock so the turnaround is very quick: "If you want to order corporate gifts in November or December you can. Our lead times are tiny – you can choose something and have it delivered the next day."

For the Christmas season, hampers are huge sellers and they're more than just a box with a jar of jam inside. Fortnum & Mason specialises in hampers, with the ground floor dedicated to specialist foods and wines. Hampers range from £25 up to £5,000 and, as with all the corporate gift services, can be custom-made. Lam says: "We have a client who orders three or four hampers a week and they have it made up to their requirements." Harvey Nichols also has a range of hampers. Mary Richards, senior marketing officer of hospitality and food markets, says: "The hamper is the biggest corporate gift [around Christmas]."

Gift cards are the biggest seller for Harrods, and with over 330 departments and a range of cards worth up to £10,000, there is a wide choice. But gift vouchers are not for everyone. Glazebrook says: "If a company chooses to send a voucher they [the recipient] can see how much has been spent. She adds: "With a gift it looks like more thought has gone into it and when the employee receives it, they are impressed."

For those who do want to peruse the shop floor, Finn gives the Harrods Christmas top 10 as: Harrods Christmas hampers, the gift card, Philip Stein Teslar and Baume & Mercier watches, Valextra leather goods, Harrods champagne, Charbonnel and Walker chocolates, Roja Dove personalised perfume, Jo Malone beauty boxes, gadgets such as the Lamborghini VX1 notebook, and men's tailoring in the "British Tailoring Room".

An increasingly popular corporate gift is the experience. Tracy Finn emphasises the popularity of The Harrods Sex & the City spa package at Harrods' Urban Retreat spa, which costs £500 per person and involves a day of pampering and personal shopping in the store. Finn says: "I think corporate gifts are an incentive for staff. It's not about just having something in their hands – it's the experiences too."

Harvey Nichols also offers experiences. Mary Richards says: "I think it is about getting the personalities of the companies across and people use it for bonding too. We have a cocktail master class available all year round as well as wine tasting run by Nicholas Keukenmeester, the Knightsbridge wine shop manager."

Richards adds: "I think the experience side of the corporate market is definitely going to grow."

For delivery charges and more information see: fortnumandmason.com, +44 (0)20 7734 8040; giftinspiration.com, +44 (0)1747 820 800; harrodscorporateservice.com, +44 (0)207 225 5994; harveynichols.com, +44 (0)208 957 5030).

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