Corporate Indulgence

Last year corporate gifts focused on the
latest technical wizardry. Executives flaunted phones that played music, computers that made calls and watches that pinpointed the user’s precise location, thanks to GPS (global positioning systems). Advances in technology continue to flourish and executives can outwit each other with the many machines that look like one thing but can act like 10, at the click of button. Product convergence is the latest buzzword.
As this year ends, though, there is an obvious problem with these techno toys, the prices of which have risen as steeply as the Kiwi has fallen. Companies not exporting their goods are feeling the pressure to cut costs, which has shrunk the budget for indulgences and corporate gifts. As result we are seeing more of focus on locally-made arts, crafts, gourmet food and wine given as rewards to hard-working executives. It is ironic that it takes an economic downturn for us to fully appreciate the abundance of excellent New Zealand-made produce and arts.
Last year Pamela Elliot, who specialises in locally-made arts and crafts for the retail and corporate market, bought Out of the Blue and merged it with her existing business Compendium, which already had galleries in both Auckland and Wellington. “The drop in the dollar has been fabulous for me as I have no foreign input. My artists use local materials and local labour so my prices have remained the same. Many large companies are sending my products abroad so the drop in the dollar combined with launching our website (www.compendium.co.nz) has improved business,” says Elliot.
Corporates seek out artworks for many occasions including company mergers, the launch of new products, seminars and conferences, and simply as way of saying thank you. “Many of our products can be branded with company logo,” says Elliot. “Last week we packed off 20 sets of wine glasses, each glass branded with logo in three colours.” Compendium’s top end includes kauri bookends inlaid with jade and highly polished wooden platters studded with paua shell. Cheaper options are glass coasters, hand-made stiff paper boxes (ideal for packaging wine bottles), and framed bone hooks forming small but distinctly New Zealand piece of art.
One of the benefits of artwork as gifts is that they appeal to both men and women. Elliot has noticed steady increase in gifts chosen specifically for female executives, especially jewellery. “We have some gorgeous paua pearl pendants and earrings designed by Mike Menzies from Canterbury. Paua pearls are unique to New Zealand and come in soft bluey greens, and subtle pinky mauves.” Silk scarves in vibrant colours are still popular and travel easily but don’t convey the same measure of gratitude as one-off piece of jewellery.
Perhaps the obvious choice of home-grown gift is bottle of Marlborough sauvignon blanc or Hawkes Bay chardonnay. Every Kiwi knows that we have an established reputation for making world-class wine at medium prices and many corporations enjoy picking out the latest hot vintage. Boxes and ribbon can be embossed with company logo at many wine retailers. Kingsley Wood, at First Glass Wine & Spirits, admits that parochialism has taken over but thinks this is well deserved. “New Zealand has some of the best wine in the world and we want to show it off. This year there has been move towards quality rather than quantity as the local palette has an increasingly sophisticated appreciation of wine. We are seeing many corporate orders coming in for one good quality gold-medal bottle instead of gift baskets or pairs of bottles, which was the theme for last year.” Selaks Founders 1999 Chardonnay ($25) is proving popular having gained credibility winning trophies. Other examples favoured by corporates are Selaks Drylands Sauvignon Blanc 2000, which is gold-medal winner, and Deutz Methode Traditionelle.
Companies wishing to send wine abroad should watch out for hefty duties and sales taxes which may be added at the destination. One wine merchant reported an embarrassing story of large Auckland-based corporation sending crates of wine as thank-you gift to clients in Sydney. The wine received chilly reception as each bottle incurred $35 duty and sales tax.
Gift baskets filled with gourmet food and wine are also gaining popularity as corporate gifts. The local market is gaining reputation for maturity; we now expect the best in specialised foods and wine. Scott Wilson, at Vinotica in Albany, says the America’s Cup brought positive spin-off for the corporate sector of its business with swift exchange of large gift baskets sent between corporate boats. Baskets are wrapped in corporate colours and customised according to taste.
“We specialise in locally-made products including cheeses, chocolates, sauces, jams and chutneys. Squirrels Pantry produces beautifully packaged range of products ranging from chutney to fruit marinated in liqueurs. Top quality olive oil and pumpkin-seed oil are more often requested now. Our baskets range in price from about $95 to $400. The latter usually includes wine. Sileni Estate and Red Metal labels are some of our most popular wines.”
For those with gourmet tendencies, gift vouchers for cooking classes or wine courses are attracting attention. Vinotica asks award-winning chefs to lead courses with practical, hands-on approach so that no one leaves with clean hands. “Once company has sent gourmet baskets, this is often the next step. It is fun, too; they have good time. There are lot of people who have nothing to do with food in their professional lives but have real passion for quality food and wine.”
Satisfying more aesthetic and artistic taste are the online paintings by Shona Moller, artist and co-owner of Art Attack Gallery on the Kapiti Coast north of Wellington (www.artattack.co.nz). What makes this an interesting proposition for corporates is the customer input Ñ choosing subject matter, colours, materials, size, etc. Moller customises working drawings from photographs and notes emailed by potential customers. Sketches of the work in progress are then posted on the website for customer appraisal with no obligation or fee. Once customer gives the go ahead, work begins on the piece itself.
Co-owner Bryce Moller says sales have picked up about 30 percent since the site went live earlier this year, attracting buyers from all over the country. This brings whole new meaning to “taking art to the people” and if anyone’s feeling generous, it’s just what I always wanted.

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