The question on the tip of every tongue these days is “How's business?” According to Dianne Mayfield, companies are buying the same number of gifts this year — they're just spending less per item.

Mayfield is the owner of Netique.com, an online boutique for unique corporate gifts. Mayfield reports that although her volume of business has increased, she has noticed a pinch in this year's orders. Netique's collectible knife sets, porcelain boxes, wine totes, leather-covered Italian decanters, and jeweled bookmarks are still in high demand, but the amount of this year's gift budget has decreased. The 2000 holiday budget averaged around $75 per person among Netique's clients; this year it has leveled off around $50. Mayfield's hottest seller is a $48 stainless steel pocket compass.

Michelle Mott, owner of M SPA, Portage, Mich., says that even with a cooling economy, she hasn't noticed a negative change in corporate spending. Employers continue to buy certificates for pedicures, manicures, hair, facials, massages, and specialized wet therapies such as the Vichy Shower and Hydrotherapy tub, in bulk; expenditures of thousands per order are still commonplace. While retailers fear that dampened consumer confidence will cut into their profits, Mott is gearing up for a typical, incredibly busy holiday season. “We provide the gift of relaxation. We're the type of business that people turn to find stress relief.”

The high-end corporate recognition gifts — elegant Waterford, Dublin, Sperrin, Baccarat, Hoya, Mikasa, and Val Saint Lambert crystal items — that Jack Vrtar sells for Custom Glass Etching of Los Angeles are being snatched off the virtual shelves at www.glassetcher.com. The same holds true in the L.A. shop. “There were no sales at all the week of September 11,” Vrtar said. But even with the setback, the company sold a lot of merchandise in September — more than any other month in their eight-year history.