Oscar Wilde once said that “everything popular is wrong”, I’m clinging to that sentiment this Christmas week as I survey the lack of festive gifts around the office. As a medium sized, full-service agency in past years, 4 days before Christmas, we’d normally be in a position to resupply any local bar running low on stock. Our many suppliers in the media and print industries in particular are usually hugely generous to us and our boardroom is festooned with bottles of wine of various vintage, spirits of every colour, boxes of chocolates and other delicacies. Our normal practice is to hold a raffle where all the staff ‘win’ more than one of the gifts and the money raised goes to charity. It works well and is a fair and equitable way of distributing gifts. This years raffle won’t take very long, by 5pm today we had the princely sum of two bottles of plonk, assorted confectionery and some gift vouchers. Now as far as I know we are still paying our suppliers, on time too, so it can’t be that, and whilst some personalities in the agency have changed in the course of the last 12 months we definitely still have some nice people working here, so it can’t be that either. So I’m left to come to the conclusion that many businesses have simply cut back this year; and that makes perfect sense to me. The whole concept of corporate gifts at Christmas time is odd when you think about it. If you want to make a mark on a client then really you should be giving them a gift at another time of year, ideally when no one else is, they’re more likely to remember it then. So we have to assume that most people, us included, aren’t trying to make any impression on you, simply saying thanks for the business and best wishes for the season. Saying thank-you to clients is a good habit to get into, so again maybe it’s something we should do throughout the year. Of course for most businesses a decent bottle of malt isn’t going to make a huge difference one way or the other when compared to service, cost and effectiveness, after all these are the true measures of which suppliers we choose to work with.

I suppose this is some sort of barometer for our industry. It clearly tells us the industry is still in recession and all companies are being very careful with their budgets. Last Christmas we were the recipients of a large number generous gifts, yet 2009 turned out to be one of the most challenging years for the industry. Let’s hope that this year’s parsimony is a sign of better times ahead.
Let me wish you all a very merry Christmas when it comes and extend a big, big thank-you to those kind suppliers who brought us gifts this year.