Say goodbye to the denizens of the Island of Misfit Holiday Gifts: the digital desk clock; the logoed neon T-shirt; the black vinyl shoulder bag. Not only did they do little to motivate employees, but they're now long forgotten, stashed in the backs of junk drawers everywhere.
Instead of these workaday clichés, why not give your employees a gift such as The Harrodian Christmas Hamper from Harrod's, London? It includes a range of savory and sweet delights, including several select bottles of wine and champagne, smoked salmon, crab and scallop terrine, goose liver with truffles, Beluga caviar, assorted cheeses, quail eggs with shells, petit fours, Florentines, mints, nuts, candies, and much more. All for about $3,000.
OK, that may be a bit over the top for your budget. So our editors went looking for gifts that will make the same impression at a reasonable price (anywhere from $10 to $300). Here's what they found:
You probably can't afford The Harrodian but you can afford a gift certificate from Harrods. A £100 (about $150) gift voucher will allow associates to choose for themselves at this world-renowned shopping palace. In the United States, employees will have to visit www.Harrods.com to do their browsing, but with an amazingly diverse selection — food, toys, clothes and more — they'll have a lot of fun doing it. Harrods Corporate Service can help you find the right gift for your budget.
Appealing to the artistic sense of your associates shows that you know them personally. A museum-gallery-sized selection of fine art prints, photographs, and custom framing is available online at Art.com. The Raleigh, N.C.-company offers more than 100,000 selections in categories including abstract, architecture, vintage, and world culture as well as specific artists' galleries. Search by keyword, artist, or title. Art.com's custom frame feature offers several framing combinations.
Original artwork says many things, but none is more fun than animation or comic book art.
Comicbookart.com, New York, offers this particular brand of illustration, including handpainted color artwork, using the same techniques and materials as traditional fine artists. And since comic book art collecting is in its infancy, it may be a good investment. Selections vary from $10 pen-and-ink pieces to much pricier watercolor paintings. Work by favorite artists can fetch $2,000 or more.
Comicbookart.com's interactive art gallery features original illustrations from modern comic books as well as crossovers into trading cards and animation.
Do you have a music lover in your midst? Then CDNOW, Fort Washington, Pa., is the place to visit. Beyond its more than 500,000 music-related items, CDNOW's pre-made CDs allow gift-givers to select from a number of themes: thank you, holiday, and others. Even more enticing are the “Create Your Own” CDs. Choose up to 12 songs and add a motivational or holiday message. Your song selections can say a lot about the company and the associate.
Imagine waking up to a new photo of your family or friends every day. It's possible with the Ceiva digital picture frame from Ceiva Logic, Burbank, Calif., www.ceiva.com. Designed to fit almost any decor, the black wood Ceiva frame receives new electronic photos at night while its owner sleeps. Receiving photos requires a regular phone line outlet (no Internet or computer access necessary), a power source, and a subscription to the Ceiva Network. The picture frame offers three ways to view photos: pausing on a single image, viewing multiple pictures in a slide show, or clicking through the photos. Add personal messages, select artwork from Ceiva's art galleries, or receive information such as news headlines, sports scores, or weather reports.
In terms of handcrafted holiday ornaments, Steuben's work, available by logging on to www.steuben.com, is at the top of any tree. The Steuben Snowflake, first created and trademarked in 1950 by the glassmaker, features skillfully cut angles that repeat the snowflake's reflection. An American company named after Steuben County, New York, Steuben was founded in 1903 by English glassmaker Frederick Carder. The company's design studio and glassworks facility are still in that location. To this day, the manufacturer adheres to the hand methods of forming, polishing, and engraving.
Show the employee who always grabs a bite to eat from the vending machines that you care about his health. The Hot+Cold Snack Box from Sharper Image Design, www.sharperimage.com, is a personal electronic minifridge that keeps drinks and snacks hot or cold. It includes a slide-out shelf for larger items, and it can plug into a standard outlet or into a dashboard power socket. The device features clean, quiet, environmentally friendly Peltier Effect electronics. Slide the switch to “cold,” and the interior drops to 42°F. Slide it to “hot,” and the miniature heat pump instantly reverses the flow of electricity and the interior temperature rises to 140°F.
No reservations required for a fabulous meal designed by a world-class, gourmet chef. How about marinated pork loin with five-spice tea rub, or lemongrass chicken with sweet rice in a banana leaf? Yum. The only hitch is that you'll have to prepare it yourself. But it's easy with The Impromptu Gourmet, www.impromptgourmet.com. Send a gift certificate from the Hudson Valley, N.Y. — based company, and your associate will be able to pick from a selection of dinners for two. Impromptu Gourmet's partner chefs turn their signature dishes into cook-it-yourself dinner kits. The kits are then shipped overnight to the associate's home. Refrigerated until it's ready to be prepared, the package includes an instruction booklet and all the ingredients. Each meal takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.
No dining experience is complete without dessert, and Medford, Ore. — based Harry and David, www.harryanddavid.com, offers some of the best treats in the world. Nothing astounds more than the company's deluxe holiday tower of treats. The six-box gift features collectible poinsettia ornaments, Royal Riviera pears, assorted chocolates, mixed nuts, Bing cherry chocolates, raspberry galettes, and a pair of 2¾-inch fine art glass ornaments. Each box is gift wrapped and tied with a lavish ribbon bow. The simpler holiday tower of treats includes four boxes: pears, chocolates, mixed nuts, and the ornaments. Many other delectable treats are also offered.
Great dinners are capped off with great coffee. Celebrate the java bean with the oldest coffee drinking ritual in the world: coffee brewed in small pots called cezves and served in sweetened demitasse cups. Check out the Millennium Coffee Gift Set from Lexington, Ky. — based Natasha's Café, www.natashascafe.com. According to Natasha's, Turkish coffee is still prepared in the old style in Middle Eastern and Greek restaurants from New York to San Francisco. The set includes double ibrik, ¼ pound of Natasha's Turkish, Cairo, and Africa blends, instructions, a “History of Coffee” article, and a sheet of notepaper and an envelope made from coffee.
Introduce an associate to a sommelier's lifestyle via Wine.com's Build Your Cellar club. When you give an associate a club membership, she will receive three bottles of wine a month, each representing “some of the finest interpretations of classic wine varietals from both famous and soon-to-be-discovered vineyards,” says the Web site. Or simply send a noteworthy vintage. Wine.com offers more than 5,000 wines as well as gift certificates, accessories, and wine clubs.
A sign of classic style is a premier writing instrument. Stylistic designer Montblanc, www.montblanc.com, has introduced its Bohème Bleu pen line, featuring platinum-plated fittings and a blue gem in the clip. Choose also from the Bohème Golden or Platinum lines, which feature gold- or platinum-plated fittings without gems.