The annual gift-giving survey also showed that companies plan to spend more per gift on items they give to customers/prospects.

Notably, this year’s survey found that 42% of employers plan to give gifts to workers. That’s up from 40% in 2017. Meanwhile, more than one-third (37%) of companies anticipate that they will provide gifts to prospects and clients, a rise of five percentage points from the previous year.“With the uptick in the economy, more dollars are flowing, and clients large and small are absolutely more interested in gift-giving this year,” Nina Shatz, brand development director at HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000), told Counselor.

Overall, 10% of companies said they plan to spend more on holiday business gift-giving in 2018 than in 2017, up from the 8% who planned a year-over-year spending increase last year. Meanwhile, 79% of surveyed companies said they expect to spend about the same as 2017. Some 11% said they would spend less on gift-giving in 2018.

Especially relevant to the promotional products industry was this: On average, 73% of gifts companies distribute in 2018 will bear imprinted logos – an increase from last year. Nearly half (48%) of all companies planning to give gifts this holiday season said all the items they provide will feature their logo. That tally is up three percentage points from the 45% who said the same in 2017.

“The economy is booming in many sectors, and in an attempt to stand out among their competitors, companies are increasingly turning to promotional products, which provide tangible benefits and visual appreciation to clients, prospects and employees,” said Nathaniel Kucsma, executive director of research and corporate marketing at ASI.

Of the companies planning to provide gifts to employees, a firm majority (75%) expect to include all workers in their gifting. On average, companies giving gifts plan to include nearly nine in 10 of all their employees in the altruistic outreach. The most popular gifts include gift cards (44%), apparel (39%), food/beverages (25%), drinkware (18%), and desk accessories (18%). Items like calendars (16%), writing instruments (14%), electronics (12%), bags/luggage (12%), sporting goods (12%) and jewelry/watches (6%) were also on the list.

Shatz told Counselor that clients seem keener this year to offer employees choices. For instance, some companies intend to gift points tied to broader company recognition programs – points employees can use to redeem one or a number of various branded items on offer in a web-based corporate store. “Choice is trending,” Shatz told Counselor. “More clients want to give options to ensure their employees are happy with what they receive.”

While more companies plan to engage in employee gift-giving this year, ASI study results indicate they plan to spend less on average per employee. ASI’s survey found the average companies will spend on employees in 2018 is $65, down $14 from last year’s average. Median spend per employee was also down, dropping to $37. The median indicates half of employers that engage in gift-giving will spend over $37 per employee, while the other half will spend less than that.

The news regarding spend-per-contact was brighter when it came to companies’ anticipated gifting to customers/prospects. ASI research found the median spend on business-related holiday gifts per customer/prospect is $31, up nearly 30% from last year. Employers giving gifts to prospects/clients expect to spend $48 on average – up 4.3%. Food/beverages (51%), calendars (30%), writing instruments (24%), desk accessories (19%), apparel (19%) and gift cards (17%) were among the more popular selections for 2018 customer/prospect gift-giving.

“There is definitely opportunity to upsell clients on attractive packaging this year too,” Shatz noted.

Interestingly, survey respondents said the main reasons they give gifts to clients/prospects is to express appreciation (76%) and help develop relationships (62%). Other reasons were to generate company goodwill (55%), increase company awareness (43%), obtain a referral (23%), generate a lead (23%) and obtain a sale (29%).

Like Shatz, other promo distributors are already gearing up to make the most of the holiday gift-giving season. This week, Joseph Sommer and his team at New York City-based distributor Whitestone Branding sent out a holiday gift guide catalog to clients via Mailchimp. “We’ll be following up in two weeks with a custom Whitestone Branding candle with the message, ‘Let us help put a spark in your holiday gifting,’” Sommer, who is optimistic for robust holiday season sales, told Counselor. “We hope to firm up orders before December,” he said.

When asked to describe in a word how they feel upon receiving a corporate holiday gift from a company they do business with, the majority of those polled in ASI’s annual survey said “appreciated.” Other commonly cited words were “grateful,” “thankful,” “appreciative” and “happy.”

The survey also asked respondents about their “best ever” corporate holiday gift. In addition to the variety of branded items cited, unique responses included “a small owl,” “employment longevity” and “the lead graphic designer got freaky with me when cleaning up a Christmas party, but to be fair it wasn’t a fling … we were married the following year and still are eight years later.”