Magazine article Marketing

Is It More Than a Gift?

Magazine article Marketing

Is It More Than a Gift?

Article excerpt

Everyone sends presents in the run-up to Christmas, so looking a gift horse in the mouth is not advisable. Brian Oliver discovers generosity is increasingly curbed by discipline in these tough times

Recipients of business gifts are unlikely to find any major surprises in their stockings this Christmas. According to the leading business gift houses, gift-givers are continuing to stick to tried and tested items such as diaries, calendars, pens, calculators, clocks, leather goods, and food and drink hampers.

It is the gift suppliers themselves who are having to adapt to significant changes in the Christmas gifts market, it seems.

Because of the recession, say observers, many client companies have changed the way in which they purchase business gifts. Some cost-conscious firms have introduced much more rigorous rules and procedures for buying and distributing Christmas gifts. Others are setting fairly rigid parameters in terms of quality and price. And a number of major users are now buying Christmas offerings as part of their all-year-round business gift programmes.

As Andrew Bourne, managing director of Bourne Publicity, explains: "Historically, Christmas gifts used to account for about half of most companies' annual spend on advertising gifts. Christmas was always the busiest time of the year. Now, however, more of our customers are introducing corporate ranges -- and they are giving away suites of gifts throughout the year."

He adds: "Because Christmas gifts are already built into these companies' buying schedules, there is not the same kind of rush in September. Their approach is becoming more disciplined in terms of setting a budget, planning their gift requirements and setting a buying schedule.

Vivienne Allen, a director of The Regency Collection, confirms that client companies' purchasing patterns are becoming less seasonal. "The demand is more evenly spread throughout the year -- and more customers are using items from their existing corporate range at Christmas," she says.

Lilian Privett, Colibri of London's regional sales manager for business gifts, also notes that purchasing trends are changing. She says: "Clients are ordering to precise specifications and firm budget parameters. In the past, when a client requested something in the |pounds~5 range, you were often able to get them up to |pounds~6 or |pounds~7.50. Now they mean |pounds~5."

According to Privett, Colibri's research indicates that purchasers are resisting higher price points. She says budget-conscious customers are now seeking international brands which offer "quality and style at affordable prices". As a result, Colibri has just added a number of low-cost items to its range. For example, the company's Tasman Collection now includes personalised pens from as little as |pounds~1.75.

A survey conducted by Bemrose Calendars and Diaries shows that the Christmas gifts market continues to be dominated by calendars (80% of respondents said they give calendars as promotional gifts), pens (54%), diaries (53%), alcohol (41%), clocks and watches (15%). Other popular gift items include: key fobs, clothing, ties, leather goods, calculators and glassware.

Bourne Publicity's Andrew Bourne points out that the recession has forced gift-givers to play safe by choosing traditional items rather than "something wacky. However, they still want to be seen to be different," he says. "So they are looking for traditional gifts -- such as diaries, clocks and calculators -- with new features and new styling. There is also a growing demand for stylish desk-top radios and A4 pad folders in corporate colours."

Meanwhile, Berol's Robin Cobby does not believe that all client companies are becoming more structured in their approach to buying and distributing Christmas gifts. "Some customers now adopt a systematic approach; some do not. What is clear is that more companies are leaving the purchasing decision to the last minute. …

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