The economy (aka the E-word) has made most of us frugality fans. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be a Grinch this year. Here are the top trends in gift giving for family, friends, customers and staff appreciation.
1. Handcrafted Gifts – Make it Personal
While few of us are hitting the high end stores for leather goods that cost the equivalent of the GNP of some small world countries, there is a way to make a big impact on your gift recipients without bankrupting yourself. If you are handy in the kitchen, baked goods and candies can show that you care – a message that may be more meaningful than that Fendi bag in the long run. By using high quality ingredients and some readily available tools and recipes, you can produce gifts that speak from the heart. Try blending gourmet hot chocolate, seasoned olive oils, herbed vinegars or pickling your favorite vegetables. Make sure that you follow all food safety guidelines – you don’t want the recipient to remember you because you gave them a case of food poisoning. Package them in lovely jars and you have a unique, memorable gift.
If food isn’t your shtick, scour the clearance and discount racks at your local retailers for gift items that follow a theme that is of interest to the recipient– bath products with a certificate for a massage for your spouse, movie tickets along with popcorn fixings and an offer to babysit for your neighbors, sports items with the promise of an hour of ball playing for your son. Package them together in an appropriate container, add the certificate for use of your time, put a big ribbon on it and you have a gift that is practical and useful.
If crafting is your thing (and these days, I see as many men as women at the craft store checking out glue guns and wood-burning kits), you can create unique, one-of-a-kind customized gifts for little more than the cost of supplies and your time.
2. Small impulse buys
While shoppers aren’t pulling out $20s, $50s, or their plastic quite so readily, they usually have a stash of $1s in that Texas roll. Quantity impulse buys of a buck or two per item can create a veritable treasure trove for opening, especially for children. Gently used books, art supplies and small toys (be conscious of the choking hazards, of course) can look substantial and keep the little ones occupied for hours.
3. Reusable, go-green items
Ecology is the other big E – word in the news. Renew, reuse, and recycle are on the forefront of everyone’s activities. Items as diverse as fabric bags to haul groceries, trendy water bottles to reduce landfill waste, and even washable diapers (no comment on waste, please) have returned to fashion in a big way. Keep your eyes open for items that help the environment at the same time as serving a useful purpose.
4. Charitable donations
Donating to charity at this time of year is not a new thing. Why do you think you get dozens of letters appealing to your giving nature, reminding you to make the donation for the current tax year? The economy has not just hit us of course; funding sources have been drying up for many charities. This year may be a great time to establish a new tradition of charitable giving on behalf of your staff, customers or family. Make it real though. Don’t pull a George Costanza by making up a charity and saying you gave a donation.
5. Practical presents
The giving trees at local churches and municipal buildings have fewer requests for toys and more requests for items that families actually need. But even if your daughter DOES need clothes for the holidays, you can make them fun to wear. There are great sources for clothing, shoes, tools and other practical items at both online and brick and mortar stores. Try to find the most unusual pair of socks or umbrella – the recipient will be just as happy.
6. Online shoppers are spending more than in stores.
This latest trend isn’t new for 2010, but is a continuation of the explosion of online shopping. Supported by low or no cost shipping for certain dollar amounts, many online retailers have outstripped their retail giant counterparts in terms of sales volume. The internet can be a great source for that unique item that you just can’t find at the local big box store. Add to this the convenience of having the purchases delivered and being able to shop at any time of the day or night and you have a match made in holiday heaven.
While the E-word is still a concern and is projected to be for at least the next 6 months, you can still have a happy 2010 holiday season. Grinches need not apply here.