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Companies dole out fewer gifts this holiday season

Posted by Alexandra Haake on November 20, 2008

The holidays have rolled in much earlier this year, at least for retailers hoping to offset dismal projections by holding unprecedented sales, and for some, setting up their holiday window displays as early as Halloween. Despite these businesses’ best-concerted efforts to lure us in through their doors and toward the checkout line, many on the corporate receiving end may have to settle with a simple “Happy Holidays” and “Thank You” card.

In an article published by the AP in www.crainsnewyork.com, the agency reports that in the midst of the toughest economic times in memory, companies are significantly scaling back their employee gift budgets. Even with record-high layoffs, most companies that still plan on giving their employees gifts (29 percent as of October versus 46 percent as of August, according to a survey by the American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor), most are seeking out items at lower price points. In some ways wouldn’t it be more cheerful news to know that the money spent on corporate gifts could instead be applied to saving one more job? Perhaps this could curb the “Happy Holidays, here’s a little gift to you,” given to some, and “Happy Holidays, here’s a little pink slip for you,” to unlucky others.

The article uses 74-year-old Manhattan wine and spirits shop, Sherry-Lehmann, as an example of how frugal some companies are becoming. Many of the shop’s corporate customers—including law firms, real estate companies and Wall Street firms—are no longer opting for the uber-expensive bottles of champagne, but rather are selecting more modestly priced spirits and wines in the $15 to $30 range.

Of course there are always exceptions—and luxury goods fall within the realm. Luxury French chocolatier, La Maison du Chocolat, just opened a new boutique on Wall Street last Friday. According to the chocolate house’s president and CEO, Geoffroy D’Anglejan-Chatillon, sales at their Madison Avenue boutique are going strong and they expect the same for their newest Wall Street store. This opening should not be viewed as anything other than wonderful news, for everyone! Most people undeniably feel a bit stressed and perhaps borderline-depressed from watching the market’s dizzying fluctuations. And what is a better remedy for depression and stress than a mouthwatering ganache?

Corporate clients of Tumi, an upscale luggage company, are buying fewer items, but appear to be ordering more expensive ones, according to the AP article. This exemplifies the practical wisdom of quality over quantity—unfortunately, it also means that for a number of employees at those companies, they may not be receiving a holiday gift. The back-to-basics approach should also serve as a reminder that gifts, and loads of them, should not define the holiday.

Retailers, however, must be praying that the spirit of goodwill and good tidings surrounding the holidays translate into sales. But it appears that the current economic environment is causing even Santa Claus to tighten his belt and buckle down production on the North Pole, at least for this holiday season.



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