How To Select Great 2016 Corporate Holiday Gifts

Six corporate gift trends to capitalize on this coming holiday season.

Every year, ASI end-buyer surveys show nearly 50% of companies plan to give gifts to their employees for the holidays. Another 40% plan to show similar appreciation to clients and prospects. That’s a lot of potential business – but in the mad holiday dash, your pitch has to be specific and spot on.

In other words, the gifts you suggest have to be great. How can you achieve this gift-giving greatness? By knowing the top trends. So here they are – the six holiday gift trends that will help you make the upcoming season merry, bright and profitable.

1. Food Is Still King
Sometimes the most common gift is the one that’s most enjoyable. That’s certainly the case with promotional food products, which ASI data shows is the most popular holiday promo item outside of gift cards. “Tins of cookies and other types of packaging that a group of people can enjoy have been a staple of gifting for a long time,” says Bruce Korn, president of distributor ZAKback (asi/365556). “The group can share the goodies and the main client can keep the packaging.

Something else that’s appealing about treats: suppliers offer food gifts in multiple sizes, boxes and packages that can fit almost any client demand. “For those on smaller budgets, there are more individualized food gifts, like boxes of truffles, nuts and candies,” says Korn.

2. Athleisure Sets The Pace
This holiday season, formal apparel gifts are out, while relaxed apparel – commonly called athleisure wear – are in. But ironically, they’re not just for leisure anymore. “The way we dress for the office is changing due to the strength of the athleisure movement, making us rethink what we wear to work,” says Vicki Ostrom, a senior designer at SanMar (asi/84863), a Washington-based supplier.

SanMar’s Interlock Collection features what looks like a sporty sweatshirt fabric, but it has a smoother surface and more drape than a traditional sweatshirt. The result is a sport-luxe feel that fits into many office settings. “The interlock is 7.5 oz. vs. 8.5 or 9 oz., allowing garments made from this fabric to layer more easily with other items,” Ostrom says. “Layering is a value-add when it comes to athleisure, since that’s one of the movement’s core principles.”

These various styles are transitional, as well, so after-work wearers can comfortably move along with their day and night. “Each piece is an easy bridge between office casual and sporty,” Ostrom says. “They’re core styles with a twist, incorporating such upscale trims as metal buttons and zipper pulls, while the heather fabrication looks like a favorite sweatshirt you can’t wait to put on.”

3. Fleece Fits All
When you think fleece this holiday season, think beyond traditional outerwear. For example, fleece ponchos, beanies, blankets, scarves and drawstring backpacks are in style, and helpfully one-size-fits-all. “I’ve been given blankets that we use in our home – both low-cost fleece and higher-end Sherpa fleece styles,” Korn says. Consider different sizes of blankets – sized for pets, infants, adults or as bed or couch covers, as well.

Remember you can also tier a fleece gift promotion. George Klare, co-owner of Proforma Design Management (asi/491109) in Alvarado, TX, featured fleece blankets in a gift program for his clients last year. “We sent three different blankets for holiday gifts – a basic blanket for general customers, an upgraded version for mid-range customers and the third was a very nice blanket presented in a box that was given to our top customers. Fleece blankets make great gifts,” he says.

4. Bags Garner Attention
If a client is looking for a luxury gift in 2016, leather bags should be one of your go-to items. In fact, Korn says a leather duffel stands out as the best gift he’s ever received. “Obviously it’s on the high end, but I use it frequently and see the branding on it each time to remind me who gave it to me,” he says.

Leed’s (asi/66887) recently introduced a new Cutter & Buck (asi/47965) line of luxury bags called the Bainbridge Collection. It includes a tote, duffel, backpack and computer bag, all with leather accents. There’s also a genuine-leather ID luggage tag with a button-snap closure, which is priced for wider distribution.

Meanwhile, supplier AAA Innovations (asi/30023) has also delivered a new line of bags ready for holiday gift programs. The collection’s design team is led by Theodore Allegrini, a former designer from Giorgio Armani’s A/X brand. “We want to bring a retail look and feel into the promotional product market,” says Jeffrey Nanus, president of AAA Innovations. “Bags represent a large segment of the industry, and our collections add a fresh and unique perspective.”

5. Coloring Books Fill A Niche

Looking for a fun and budget-friendly gift that can engage and thank customers? Adult coloring books might be a strong option. “It’s a trend with appeal to old and young alike, whether used for relaxation by a busy professional or as a creative outlet by hipsters,” says Rich Carollo, vice president at Lion Circle (asi/67620).

Because coloring books can be specially designed, they work well across just about any market – from health care to insurance to education. Adult coloring book suppliers can tailor every page to fit a client’s desired message. A niche to think about: retirement communities and senior wellness centers. Why? Adult coloring books can be therapeutic and great for use as part of group social activities.

“It’s grander than a Christmas card yet fitting a price point that has value greater than what you’re paying,” Carollo says.

6. Everyone Loves Tech
Tech promo items are still as trendy as ever, especially with younger demographics and for companies that have employees that are constantly on the go. But in this vast field of options, what should you showcase? Korn recommends wireless speakers, headphones, power banks and other mobile-type items.

Simply put, think about the types of retail tech products you’d like to receive. Many of those same products are available in the ad specialty market – from fitness trackers to ultra-portable chargers to combination sets. “Promotional items that have a value to someone’s personal life bridge the gap between retail and provide valuable impressions,” says Jason Emery, vice president at Toddy Gear (asi/91411). “A gift set might be used when the recipient is on the move, sitting at their desk or even at home.”

The Smart Charge Mobile Tech Set 2600 from Toddy Gear reflects current trends, while delivering style and usability. It includes a 2600mAh power bank, a cleaning cloth, Toddy Gear’s patented Wedge cellphone stand and a carrying pouch. Toddy Gear offers full-color decoration and all pieces are custom-made to provide a true retail look and feel.

But let’s say you have a client that’s seen it all in the tech world. What can you do then? Take a chance and go outside the box – delve into the world of virtual reality. There are many VR glasses on the market, and those made of simple cardboard are priced around $3 each for a 250-piece order. The marketing options are endless, but here’s one idea: resorts, travel agencies, and cruise lines could use them as part of gift packages to promote travel. Paired with a smartphone and mobile app, the gift recipient can take a virtual tour of a destination before going on a trip.