The holidays are a great time to show appreciation for clients, customers and employees with thoughtful gifts. Items and messages that make your recipients feel valued help build relationships and cultivate loyalty, which is especially important for employees, both due to the sometimes isolating nature of remote work and the ongoing challenges of hiring and retaining talent.

Although a Wall Street Journal article suggested in August that some companies plan to cut back on gifting due to anxiety about inflation and potential recession, a report by Coresight Research, based on a survey of 300 corporate gift buyers in the U.S., suggests that corporate gifting is on the rise and that the upward trend will continue through 2024.

Perhaps most importantly, the report highlights improved relationships with customers and employees as the top advantage of corporate gifting.

“Employees today need to feel appreciated more than ever, particularly with remote work,” says Mike Brugger, president of Fully Promoted, a global promo products distributor with individually owned franchises nationwide. “Companies have got to step it up. People want things that they wouldn’t buy themselves.”

Choose Your Gifts With Care

Choosing the right gifts is a layered process that requires not only knowing your budget but also the needs and preferences of your intended recipients. Gifts should be useful, personal and memorable. You don’t want to simply send a thing with your logo on it.

Give some thought to who your recipients are and what they need and want. Choosing a gift that’s relevant shows that you understand who your employees and customers are. A gift that is useful, high-quality and relevant to the recipient means something they can and will use for a long time.

New options for customization can add an extra layer of personalization for even more impact, and as 3D printing becomes more affordable, consider creating a truly unique, customized gift that only your recipients will have.

Messaging matters, too – be sure to include a thoughtful thank-you note or a card expressing appreciation for the employee’s contribution or the customer’s business.

“Get into some creative decoration or personalization, really dive into that thank-you holiday message or create a fun theme,” around your branded gifts, says Katie Kahler, a marketing specialist with distributor American Solutions for Business. “It shouldn’t just be putting a logo on something and sending it to your team.”

Show Off Your Sustainability

If you’re going to give sustainable items, make sure to say so, advises Brugger. “You want to point that out so somebody doesn’t get a gift and think, ‘Oh, this is a waste,’ because that devalues their experience,” he says. Consumers want goods made from recycled and sustainable materials, so it’s important to make sure they know when they receive a green gift. It’s easy to do with a simple sticker that costs a few cents – a small investment with a big payoff when it comes to spreading goodwill for your brand.

Make It Memorable

You want your gift to be memorable, something that people will be excited to receive and use. Although gift cards are the most purchased gifting category, they don’t reflect the level of care and thought that can truly build lasting loyalty. Look for something with a wow factor, advises Brugger.

“The gifts that surprise people, I find, last longer,” he says. “When it gets delivered to your customer or your employee, they’re like, ‘Wow, this is cool!’ and they keep it and they like it.”

Kits are also a great way to up the wow factor and demonstrate that a lot of thought and care went into the gift. It’s also a way to provide a variety of items so you’re better able to appeal to a broader range of tastes.

“I would say kitting is more popular than ever. I would create a custom branded box with something like a Bluetooth speaker inside, as well as a food item and a card,” says Greg Miller, president at Brand-Tastik Promotional Marketing, an Illinois-based distributor. “Each box can be personalized. I believe the presentation and packaging is very important these days with gifting, and it gives the giver a huge canvas for custom branding.”

Choose Your Own Adventure

Letting employees pick their gift is a huge trend that makes the annual holiday gift more fun, says Kahler, who is helping some clients create pop-up web shops featuring a curated selection of branded gifts. “That allows us to copy and paste the concept across the company, but it still feels really personal to the person who’s receiving the gift,” she says.

Stay Ahead Of The Supply Chain

Also, make sure the gifts you choose will be available and delivered in time. With the ongoing supply chain issues worldwide, your first choice might not be ready when you want it.

“Holiday timelines must be extended by at least two weeks,” says Tim Duffy, president of New Jersey-based distributor Siegel’s Corporate Gifts and Promotions. “Labor shortages may be to blame for some of the poor service, but mergers have led to layoffs, and multiple customer service departments take 24-48 hours to respond to emails.”

If you haven’t already secured your orders, do it now, says Brugger, who predicts that the most popular items will be sold out by November.

“Orders need to be placed in October,” he says, “and the earlier in October the better.”

It’s not too late! Here are 22 desirable gifts in a handful of popular categories that clients should consider for 2022 holiday gifting programs, from big-ticket items to smaller pieces that make great kit components:

Tech Toys

The Vivo Combination Speaker & Wireless Charger delivers beautiful sound and keeps your mobile devices charged. Bluetooth technology provides wireless connectivity, and the powerful battery supports more than 44 hours of playback time. Qi-enabled devices can be charged wirelessly on top of the speaker or via the USB-C port with the charging cable provided. The Vivo comes with a lifetime warranty, and a tree is planted for every order. Packaged in a white gift box with a customizable sleeve. / PPAI 383252, S8 / www,

Kahler says the WALLY Mini Wall Charger from Nimble is one of her favorite new tech items. In addition to the fast charging provided via dual USB-C and USB-A ports, this device checks a ton of sustainability boxes, from its certified recycled plastic housing to its plastic-free retail packaging. Plus, like all Nimble products, this charging pad is Climate Neutral Certified and supports environmental nonprofits through 1% for the Planet.
Hirsch Gift Inc. / PPAI 221823, S10 /

Video meetings are here to stay, and you can help your employees and customers show themselves in the best light with the Online Meeting Adjustable Ring Light. Its 36 bright white LED lights and low, medium and high settings provide the perfect lighting for meetings, photos and videos. The compact light clips on to most devices and has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (micro-USB input, cord included). Available in black, red, blue or white.
Hit Promotional Products / PPAI 113910, S13 /

Apparel & Accessories

Fun socks in colorful patterns continue to be popular, like the custom-knitted Dress Socks (shown) or Fuzzy Socks from SOCK101. Design something unique and Instagram-worthy that your recipients will be eager to show off. Add custom tags for an additional fee and added messaging, or include them in a themed kit for extra impact.
SOCK101 / PPAI 625402, S6 /

Stick with name brands during the holiday season, advises Brugger, especially when it comes to apparel. This North Face Canyon Flats Fleece Hooded Jacket, made in part from recycled fabrics, provides name recognition along with warmth. The durable fleece zip hoodie includes multiple zippered pockets to securely stash your stuff. Available in black or “asphalt grey reign camo” print (shown), sizes S-3X.
SanMar / PPAI 110788, S16 /

Custom shoes are popular this year, says Kahler. Get cozy with these Kozi Sherpa Slippers, made of faux suede with faux sherpa fur lining and a rubber sole. Customize on top with your imprint or a woven patch. Available in tan or black, sizes S (women’s 6-7.5) to XXL (men’s 13-14).
The Kanata Group / PPAI 111063, S7 /

Home Goods

Blankets are always big, says Kahler. She suggests opting for an all-over print for something a little different from the traditional embroidered blanket, like the Sublimated Grab-N-Go Travel Blanket from Terry Town, which gives you over 2,000 square inches of plush polyester to fill with your own creative design. It also comes with a 13.5” x 10” carry bag designed to fit retractable luggage handles.
Terry Town / PPAI 230911, S10 /

Spread a little (artificial) sunshine with the Happy Daylight Desk Lamp designed with three light colors – white, natural and warm – to provide a daily boost of sunshine and help keep recipients energetic and focused. A foldable bracket makes it easy to set up anywhere, and the built-in automatic timer makes it easy to choose a session in 15-minute increments up to an hour.
Gemline / PPAI 113948, S11 /

Candles can work well in a kit, especially paired with fuzzy socks and snacks to create a cozy experience. Consider the Seventh Avenue Apothecary White Tea and Fig 11 oz. Glass Jar Candle, made with food-grade soy wax (phthalate- and lead-free) for a burn time of 65 hours. Through a partnership with 1% For The Planet, 1% of sales are donated to environmental nonprofits.
PCNA / PPAI 113079, S15 /


The Ember Mug is hot – pun fully intended. Simply plug it into your USB port, and the new Ember Mug (Generation 2) does more than simply keep your coffee hot. This 10-oz. smart mug allows you to set and maintain an exact drinking temperature for 90 minutes, so your coffee is never too hot (or too cold). Available in black, white or gray.
Castle Merchandising Inc. / PPAI 269808, S5 /

Tumblers are always popular, but with the Valhalla Copper Vacuum Tumbler Gift Set, you can give your recipient something they can share for a more memorable experience. This pair of 16-oz. tumblers features double-wall stainless steel construction with copper insulation to resist condensation and keep beverages cold for 24 hours or hot for eight hours. The skid-proof cork bottom helps prevent spills, and they come in an attractive gift box. Available in white, black or gray.
PCNA / PPAI 113079, S15 /

Stuff a classic clear tumbler with a sweet treat and a thank-you message for a mini-kit. The Tervis Classic Tumbler - 16 oz. is conveniently microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe and is great for hot or cold drinks. The snap-on travel lid with slide closure is available in eight colors, and Tervis offers a limited lifetime guarantee.
Koozie Group / PPAI 114187, S13 /

Bags & Totes

Pouches are on trend, says Kahler, especially if you fill them with cool snacks or tech goodies. “If you gave me a tech item inside a tech pouch inside a cool box, that’s a really different gift than if you just gave me a tech item,” she adds. The LVL Gusset Pouches, available in three sizes from Pop! Promos, are made from vegan leather and can be printed with any full-color design, with the option to print a different design on the second side for added messaging.
Pop! Promos / PPAI 564497, S1 /

It’s hard to beat a duffel bag when it comes to functionality, especially one that can convert to a backpack when needed. The Urban Peak 70L Waterproof Backpack/Duffel Bag from Starline features adjustable straps that can be connected using the padded hook-and-look handle to carry as a duffel bag or slung over each shoulder for the backpack option. With a storage capacity of 4,285 cubic inches and multiple zippered pockets, there’s plenty of space for your gear.
Starline USA, Inc. / PPAI 112719, S10 /

Eco-conscious recipients will appreciate the Igloo Daytripper Dual Compartment Tote Cooler, a reusable insulated tote perfect for trips to the grocery store or a picnic at the beach. This PVC- and phthalate-free bag is leak resistant, and dual compartments provide both insulated and dry storage. Other features include a bottle opener, zip front pocket and adjustable straps to secure a blanket or towel.
Gemline / PPAI 113948, S11 /

Food & Drink

Thank your employees for rising to the challenge and making your company shine with the Rise & Shine gift box from Batch & Bodega. The deluxe kit includes pancake mix, maple syrup, herbal tea, peanut butter, honey sticks and organic vegan, gluten-free granola – as well as a brandable oven mitt and spatula – all in a festive gift box ready to be branded in a 3-inch circle. Each box also comes with a note about the contents and the option to add your own custom message for a personal touch.
HPG / PPAI 110772, S11 /

Up your snack game with this Six-Piece Popcorn Gift Set filled with caramel, butter, cheddar cheese, cookies & cream, peanut butter cup and white & dark chocolate swirl popcorn. Customize both the tins and the ribbon (available in nine colors), as well as the body wrap and lid label.
Midnite Snax / PPAI 113793, S3 /

Wow your recipients with the Crate Full of Snacks, a reusable wooden crate packed with a variety of gourmet treats, including bite-sized cookies, caramel corn, chocolate dipped pretzels and more. Made in USA, the name-brand contents include four kinds of cookies, two kinds of caramel corn, two kinds of hot cocoa and a variety of other goodies.
Maple Ridge Farms / PPAI 114165, S8 /

Fully custom sweet treats are a great way to get your brand literally in the hands (and mouths) of your employees and customers. Consider a Six-Pack Cookie Box of sugar or chocolate cookies topped with rich milk, dark or white chocolate stamped with your logo design. Includes full-color, custom imprinted gift bands and the option for a full-color, custom printed lid.
Chocolate Chocolate / PPAI 111668, S5 /

“I sold hot chocolate bombs in every kit last year,” says Kahler. “There are so many cute things you can do, like place them inside a drinkware item.” Send a Set of Hot Chocolate Bombs in Full Color Gift Box for added impact. Filled with delicious marshmallows, all your recipient has to do is place the chocolate bomb into a mug and pour hot milk over it to “detonate” a tasty beverage.
NC Custom / PPAI 111662, S7 /

For the foodies on your list, consider a gourmet ingredients gift set like the Rustic Laser Engraved Wood Box with Custom Etched Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil, which includes a bottle of traditional balsamic vinegar and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil made in Italy. Share your message or company logo on both the etched and painted bottles and laser engraving on the slide-top wood box.
A+ Wine Designs / PPAI 173549, S4 /

Messaging Matters

Don’t forget the impact of a well-chosen greeting card like this Silver & Gold Foil Ornament card. “All of our cards and envelopes can be personalized with whatever print they would like on the inside of the card, including hand-traced signatures and the front or back of the envelope,” says Susan Rice, national accounts specialist for Wall Street Greetings.
Wall Street Greetings LLC / PPAI 469710, S3 /

Zoch is an associate editor with PPAI.