Truly Gifted

Yes, it will soon be that time of year again!  The gift-giving season, the season that creates pleasure for some, and stress for many.  Following are a few ideas and trends that may help you become “Truly Gifted”.

Gift Giving Protocol

Make sure your client gift is appropriate, and that the recipient does not work in an environment that does not allow individuals to accept gifts.  Sending an office-sharing gift is one way to overcome any problems in this regard, but it would probably be better to leave out the alcohol and to have the packaging and contents not be too specific if the occasion is a religious holiday. This type of group gift is not appropriate unless the majority of the people in the office or department know you.

Each culture has its own etiquette and protocol concerning gift giving, so speak with a professional gift supplier or do some research to make sure that your gift and gift packaging is appropriate and won’t offend the recipient.  Customs regulations are constantly changing; so make sure you are up to date before shipping product out of the country.  Our popular British Columbia retort packed smoked salmon now requires a health certificate for most of Europe, Asia, and Australia.  Without the proper documents, your gift could be returned to you, so make sure you use a gift supplier who keeps up with changes in export regulations and knows how to do the export paperwork.

Take care that your gifts are generic in gender and take extra care that your gifts are not construed as intimate in any way.  Make sure that the spelling of the recipients’ names are correct.  Most gift suppliers will write cards with your message and sign your name, but it is better to take the extra time to do your own cards to be sent with your order.  If you can’t do cards, make sure to type the recipient list, and e-mail it to your supplier.

Trends in Giftware

Following are some of the hot trends from the recent New York and European gift fairs:

  • Celebrity designers working with tabletop manufacturers to create unique products
  • Top Chef kitchenware and serving pieces
  • Emerald Green
  • Real Lite Candles
  • Bamboo
  • Mid Century Modern designs
  • Anything French
  • Tea and Coffee Products
  • Organic products
  • Wine Decanters and Glasses designed for decanting and drinking specific wines such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Dessert Wines.

Trends in Corporate Identity Products

Following are some of the trends in the promotional products industry:

  • Keeping logos simple and discreet
  • Tone on tone imprinting or embroidery
  • Debossing logos on clothing and fabric
  • Micro fiber clothing and accessories
  • Micro fleece clothing and accessories
  • Faux Suede and sheepskin
  • High Tech computer related items
  • Retro Styles
  • TSA approved Lap Top Bags
  • Combo Pen/Stylus on a lanyard
  • Personal Security and Safety Products
  • Innovative USB drives
  • Full spectrum of colours in product lines
  • Name brands and brand recognition products
  • High quality leather and fabrics
  • Goose down products
  • Laptop, iPod, iPhone, iPad cases and covers
  • High-end golf accessories in leather and silver
  • Touch Gloves
  • Mini Travel Speakers

Canadian Gift Trends

In addition to the trends in both the promotional products and general gift lines listed above, following are some of the gift items that remain popular in Canada:

  • Ice Wine Glasses and Ice Wine Decanters
  • Ice Wine Chocolates & Ice Wine Salmon
  • Custom Wood Boxes for Ice Wine Packages
  • Canadian Diamonds
  • Faux Mink
  • Hand-cast Paper
  • Custom Weavings.
  • Images framed as diptychs and triptychs
  • Functional Etched Glass Products
  • Custom Solid Lead Free Pewter Products
  • Inukshuk Carvings
  • Native Canadian Artwork

Delivery and Ordering

I once had a customer who placed an order for 500 fleece vests, 500 backpacks, and 500 golf shirts, all of which needed to be embroidered with a complicated native design.  She also needed to take delivery seven business days from when she placed the order.  It turned out to be one of those magic situations where all the products were available, and the embroiderer had the time to take on the job, so that we delivered the order the day before the deadline.  More often than not, leaving a large order this late would be asking for a disaster.  One of my favorite meeting planners orders all of the product for her annual conference six months in advance.  A rule of thumb for ordering imprinted product is four weeks to six weeks, but if you want the best prices, it’s best to order as much in advance as possible.

Environmental  & Social Issues

It might seem that gift giving would not have much impact on the environment, but it can when you think of the volume of gifts that are delivered each year.  We are very conscious of the environment, and use all biodegradable packaging materials.  We also have designed a number of welcome gift packages that have little or no environmental impact.  Twenty years ago Foster Walker started using eight different sizes of authentic birch bark canoes as containers for food and gift packages.  The birch bark sheds naturally and no harm is ever done to the trees.  These containers are easily transported home in a suitcase, and have very little additional packaging that needs to be disposed of.  We often deliver hundreds of welcome gifts and other gifts into hotels for incentives and conferences, and one of our favorite low environmental impact gifts is our Native Design Tote Bag Package.  The only thing left for the hotel to dispose of is a bit of biodegradable raffia as the container is a useful tote, which the recipient will take home.

We also take care to use suppliers and factories that are environmentally conscious and or donate a portion of profits to charity or worthy causes.  Foster Walker supports with donations over 100 non-profit organizations or charities each year and a percentage of the company profit is donated to charity.  We are careful to use suppliers who are part of the Quality Certification Alliance and compliant with the Canadian Consumer Product Safety Act. We recently have become partners with an organization who employees people with disabilities and who create products and packaging using recycled and environmentally friendly materials.

The Last Word

If this gift-giving season is too overwhelming for you, think about other occasions to acknowledge clients and employees instead.  I have several clients who send gifts on Valentines Day, Chinese New Year, Earth Day, First Day of Spring, May Day, Canada Day, and Thanksgiving.  I myself prefer to send client thank you gifts at Mardi Gras or some other fun occasion when the recipients least expect it.

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