By Caroline Levchuck
The holidays can be the most wonderful -- or perilous -- time of year when you factor in giving gifts in and around the office. How much should you spend? What's in? What's out?
You can take the guesswork out of buying presents with a little bit of thought and a lot of expert advice.
Personalized, But Not Too Personal
Personalizing presents is de rigueur this year. "It really is the thought that counts, so be sure to put thought into it," says Ella Goldin, the owner of Chic Inspiration, a Manhattan-based personal shopping consulting firm. Goldin urges corporate gift givers to think carefully about the recipient and what he enjoys.
Gifts need not be extravagant. In fact, spending too much, especially on a gift for your boss, may be inappropriate, Goldin says. "You don't want to look like you're trying to curry favor rather than spread good cheer," she says. "Set a budget and stick to it."
Food gifts and alcohol are popular gift categories. Items such as monogrammed golf balls for an avid golfer or even a hard-to-get reservation at a hot restaurant are thoughtful, affordable options.
While personalizing gifts is important, make certain you avoid getting too personal. "You don't want to offend anyone so use caution when giving a 'funny' present," she says. Your associates might not share your sense of humor.
Leave Out the Logos
"Gifts are a great opportunity to show your clients that you know them, and that you appreciate and understand them," Goldin says. Giving a thoughtful present also gives you something to talk about with clients that's not necessarily business-related. "A fabulous present is a conversation starter," she says.
Remember that while you're showing appreciation you should avoid showing off your brand -- so don't brand your gifts. "When somebody gives you a great gift, you always remember whom it's from," says Goldin, who's been a professional personal shopper for more than nine years. "You don't need to put a logo on it. Presents with logos on them can seem tacky and impersonal."
Save promotional materials and presents for another time of year, such as your company's anniversary.
Presenting Your Present
Goldin also coaches clients on presenting their gifts. "I've heard so many people downplay a present before the recipient has even opened it," she says. "They'll say, 'Oh, it's just a small gift.'" Big mistake, especially when you've put effort into it. Instead, she suggests you present your gift with confidence and poise and say, "I bought you this gift, and I hope you enjoy it."
And if you receive a gift? "Always write a heartfelt, handwritten thank-you note any time someone gives you a present," she says. Goldin also recommends thank-you notes over last-minute reciprocal gifts. "It can be awkward and obvious if you give someone a random gift," she says. "A letter expressing your gratitude is much more appropriate."