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Companies Still Invest in Gifts for the Holidays : Marketing: Generating goodwill among clients outweighs possible savings, experts say.


Lisa Hughes Anderson, who operates the Gift Basket Headquarters in Irvine, has been busy filling corporate orders for holiday gifts. In a showroom crammed with a dozen or more sample baskets, Anderson said her business has grown steadily over the past five years. She expects to sell $150,000 in baskets this year, more than double last year's amount.

Maes said she tries to tailor gifts for particular companies. For a construction company, she said, she might try to arrange to have a set of tools cast in chocolate. For employee gifts, she might consider $25 crystal desk clocks or a gift certificate from a department store.

Some companies have discovered that the best gifts are those that "keep on giving." Gloria Zigner, president of a Costa Mesa public relations firm, said she tried coming up with a fresh idea every year to reward clients.

After a while, Zigner said, she was running out of ideas for novel gifts. "It was always, 'What will we give?' and 'What does it mean?' " she recalled.

One year the publicist gave away apple coring devices--practical, sure, but maybe not the most loved present under the company tree. She finally decided it was ridiculous to spend so much time trying to find apt Christmas gifts.

"We decided the nicest thing you could do is give to charity," she said. For the past two years, Zigner's company has made donations to the Children's Hospital of Orange County on behalf of the firms' clients.

Most clients, she said, write to say how much they appreciate the gesture.

Popular Corporate Gifts

Despite the slow economy, an increasing number of companies say they plan to give holiday gifts. Here are some popular choices:

* Silver Cross pen with corporate logo $35

* Engraved crystal box $24

* Swiss Army knife key chain with a corporate logo $8 to $35

* Gift basket (wine, cheese, crackers, olives) $35

* Southern California First Aid Kit $35

A box containing skateboard, swim fins, sailboat, starfish and replica of the state, all made of chocolate, jellybeans and plastic sunglasses

* Chocolate football (regulation size) $25

Source: Azhmere Chocolatiere, Dana Point

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