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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Small Business: Holiday gift-giving to employees, customers at all-time high

Greg Demetriou, seen in 2016, is president of

Greg Demetriou, seen in 2016, is president of Lorraine Gregory Communications, a marketing communications firm in Edgewood. He said employees will get cash this holiday season. Credit: Steve Pfost

Companies are showing no signs of cutting back on holiday gifting to both customers and employees this holiday season with an even greater emphasis on employees.

Close to half (48%) of all employers surveyed by the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) were planning to gift employees this holiday season, up from 42% last year and an all-time high.

Meanwhile, 38% of companies were planning to give their customers/prospects holiday gifts, up 37% from last year, according to ASI.

“Overall, companies' gift-giving plans this year are promising … but we’ve seen the strongest year-over-year growth for employee gift-giving,” says Nate Kucsma, executive director of research and corporate marketing at ASI, which serves the $24.7-billion promotional products industry.

This is likely the result of there being a tight job market right now, he says.

“Companies recognize increasingly the importance of rewarding employees as just one of the means of reducing attrition and they’re looking at this corporate gift-giving season as a means to do that,” Kucsma says.

Jeff Pinsky, executive vice president of Minnesota-based ePromos Promotional Products, which has a large sales office in Westbury, says he’s seeing this trend both locally and nationally.

For the past five years, the firm has seen a steady 5% increase each holiday season in corporate customers gifting employees.

He’s seeing companies in general spending more of their budgets internally on employees even outside of the holidays as an engagement/retention tool.

Many are giving employees higher quality brand-name items, such as Yeti and S’well drinkware and Patagonia and North Face apparel, Pinsky says.  Yeti and S'well drinkware items range from roughly $25-$50 per item, while Northface apparel could range from $50-$125 per item, Pinsky says. "There are more brands than ever available now through traditional promotional products channels,” he says.

According to ASI, companies surveyed were planning to spend $56 per employee vs. $65 last year. This can include a tangible gift or cash, says Kucsma, noting the spend might be lower due to an increased employee base.

It was still higher than they were planning on spending on customers/prospects, which was an average of $46 per customer/prospect, nearly unchanged from 2018, he says.

Stephen Schwarz, owner of S & S Repair Center in Syosset, says he spent about $600 more on corporate gifts this year. He ordered 750 glass-breaking hammers with seat belt cutters for customers and about 500 calendars.

He will hand them out as customers come in until they’re all gone.

Business has grown and he wants to thank his customers for their support, he says.

Schwarz says he will be giving bonuses to the four employees of his auto repair business.

“They’d rather have a bonus check than a glass-breaking hammer,” says Schwarz, who ordered his gift items from Family Affair Distributing in Massapequa.

Lisa Chalker, president of Family Affair Distributing, which specializes in imprinted promotional products, decorated apparel and gourmet gift baskets, says she’s seen corporate holiday gifting budgets about the same this year as last.

The bulk of her clients are gifting to customers/prospects.

She says gifts are diversified, ranging from food gift baskets to aromatherapy candles and hot chocolate kits in Mason jars. Prices vary widely also, from $10 for a candle to up to $250 for a gourmet food basket, Chalker says.

Evan Bloom, co-owner of the Westbury, Hauppauge and Melville franchises of Sir Speedy, a print, signage and marketing company, says he’s seeing tiers of gifting generally in the under $5 range, the $10-$15 range and the $30-$50 range.

This holiday season he’s found, in general, customers are spending more per gift.

Overall, he’s seen a 5% to 7% increase in corporate gifting orders this year versus last for both customers and employees.

“We’re doing a lot of apparel this year,” he says, adding it’s more higher quality apparel like microfiber.

In addition to cash, Bloom will give his employees a long-sleeve collared and logoed microfiber shirt this holiday season.

Greg Demetriou, president of Lorraine Gregory Communications, a marketing communications firm in Edgewood, says employees will get cash this holiday season.

“You can’t buy gifts without cash,” he says.

For the past three years, Demetriou has donated to a local charity on behalf of clients in lieu of individual gifts, given that his client list has grown to almost 600 clients and figuring out who should get what gift became difficult.

He says many have “acknowledged the donation as better than token gifts.”

Fast Fact

Forty-six percent of companies who are giving gifts this holiday season report that all of the items they give out will have their logo on them.

Source: Advertising Specialty Institute

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