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BusinessColumnistsJamie Herzlich

Study: Fewer firms plan to give employees holiday gifts this year

40% of companies plan to give employees holiday gifts, down from 44% last year, according to annual survey.

Lisa Chalker, president of Family Affair Distributing in

Lisa Chalker, president of Family Affair Distributing in Massapequa, said corporate gifting is about flat this holiday season. Photo Credit: Lisa Chalker

Companies want to recognize their employees and clients this holiday season, but most aren’t planning to spend any more than they did last year.

In fact, corporate holiday gift giving to employees could slow this year, with 40 percent of companies saying they plan to reward employees, down from 44 percent last year, according to the Advertising Specialty Institute’s (ASI) annual study.

The survey also found that 32 percent of companies plan to dole out gifts to customers and prospects this holiday season, unchanged from last year. Overall, three-fourths of companies are planning to spend the same amount as last year on gifts, while 17 percent will reduce their spending, a jump from 9 percent last year.

Companies that give employees cash or gifts plan to spend a median of $44 per person, a dollar less than last year, the survey found. Firms that give gifts to customers will spend a median of $24, also down a dollar.

“It seems there is more uncertainty with corporate gift givers who may be waiting until deeper into the fourth quarter to finalize their gift giving plans,” says Nate Kucsma, executive director of market research for ASI, a Trevose, Pennsylvania-based trade organization serving the nearly $23 billion promotional products industry. The survey of 472 ASI corporate members was conducted in October.

Still, there’s already been a paring down of client gift giving over the years, and now it could be trickling down to the employee level, he says. In 2014, 42 percent of respondents said they would be giving gifts to customers and prospects, and now it’s only 32 percent, Kucsma says.

Locally, Marc Morrell, president of Morrell Printing & Design in Medford, a printing and promotional products company, says corporate gifting so far is about consistent with last year.

“It seems a bit flat,” he said.

Overall, he’s seen more of the traditional items coming back this year like calendars, desk pads and pens.

It’s something clients will use throughout the year, says Morrell.

Lisa Chalker, president of Family Affair Distributing in Massapequa, which specializes in imprinted promotional products, decorated apparel and gourmet gift baskets, agrees corporate gifting is about flat this holiday season.

“People are just staying kind of status quo,” she says.

It may be the result of various factors such as having to spend more on other areas like health care and wages, she says.

“They may not have the availability of funds for holiday gifts because of that,” Chalker says.

That said, she’s seen more requests this year for food gifts, in baskets and towers, even more so than last year.

“Food’s a comfort kind of gift,” she says.

It’s the gift of choice for Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP, a Lake Success law firm.

Each year in the week before Thanksgiving, the firm gives 75 to 100 baskets of wine or chocolate to clients and referral sources, says chief marketing officer Mindy Wolfle. This season, she says, spending’s about the same as last year.

The firm throws an annual employee appreciation party at which employees receive gifts ranging from gift cards to Sherpa throws. This year’s party will be Dec. 19 at the Crescent Beach Club in Bayville.

“They work incredibly hard and should be shown appreciation in a meaningful way when the holiday season arrives,” managing partner Joseph G. Milizio says.

Ron Wood, principal of Ron Wood Public Relations in Calverton, also recognizes employees with gifts, but this year he is taking a new approach.

Along with giving employees additional compensation for the holidays, he will be giving employees, as well as several clients, custom T-shirts. They were created by Brooklyn artist Paul Calabrese in collaboration with Wood’s longtime client Jordan Eddi, owner of AJ’s Jewelry in Ridgewood, Queens. The shirts are being sold for $20 and funds will go toward families affected by Hurricane Maria.

This is the first time Wood has given a charitable gift on behalf of clients, but he says he hopes to continue going forward.

“We wanted to give out gifts that have meaning,” he says.

Total recall

Companies want their gifts to leave a lasting impression, which is why this year more than 70% of holiday gifts will have a company’s logo imprinted on them.

Source: Advertising Specialty Institute

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