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The best alternative Christmas presents

Instead of sticking to tired old Christmas favourites why not liven things up with these crackers?

Christmas comes but once a year, but the impact of choosing a thoughtful, personal employee gift can last much longer. Shockingly, however, around half of UK workers did not receive a reward or present last Christmas, according to a recent survey by Red Letter Days for Business.

The study of 2,000 UK employees also found that six out of 10 (60%) wanted an individual cash bonus, while around a third (30%) would have preferred a voucher to treat themselves with. Bill Alexander, CEO at Red Letter Days for Business, adds that the importance of a thank you should never be underestimated. “A present should always come with a personal thank you otherwise the recognition will go unnoticed,” he says.

But even if you follow this advice there’s still the risk of Christmas becoming a staid, Groundhog Day-esque corporate celebration, with that once-cherished hamper or box of chocolates starting to feel a little routine and standard issue. As Angela O’Connor, CEO of The HR Lounge consultancy and former chief people officer at the National Policing Improvement Agency, notes: “Why give an employee the same old boring Christmas present year after year? A bottle of wine, a Christmas pudding or a tin of chocolates just doesn’t get the heart racing or make you feel appreciated.”

“Why not offer some thoughtful alternatives: a massage and pedicure for the tactile, a duvet day for the exhausted, or dinner for two for those who never get to see their beloved because of long days at work?” she adds.

Sally Findlay, sales director at personalised merchandise printer Recognition Express, agrees that some of the old favourites – such as the ubiquitous Christmas hamper – often don’t cut it any more. “Hampers only really suit traditional brands looking to give an impression that fits, so more formal companies might use them but it would be odd for, say, a digital media company to give them, unless they do it with a quirky retro twist,” she explains.

Slightly less obvious alternatives such as health and wellbeing gifts are gaining momentum, and are a win-win for employers who benefit from a fit and healthy workforce. Water bottles, pedometers, gym kit towels, coin key rings (to use in lockers), and cycling and running tops are all becoming increasingly popular. “These sorts of healthy gifts can be accompanied by gym memberships, an unusual day out for your team perhaps in a hot air balloon or similar, or target-set rewards such as a spa day for the top performer,” says Findlay.

“We have seen a huge rise in personalised gifts and have more things like personalised portable computer mice or a suit bag embroidered with the employee’s name,” says Findlay. “It requires more organisation by the company, but I think employees know and appreciate that so they value it much more highly. It shows a bit of care and effort.”

With this in mind, we’ve rounded up the best alternative Christmas presents on offer this year.

Mistletoe and wine

Upgrade the obligatory bottle of plonk to a Spice Kitchen Mulled Wine and Spiced Cider Kit. This Christmas stocking filler contains a mix of eight different spices as well as dried mixed fruit peel. Each kit comes with three 10g spice packs, which will make two to three bottles of red mulled wine or hot mulled cider, and costs £4.99 from www.spicekitchenuk.com.

A star is born

Instead of blowing your budget on dizzying amounts of sparkly decorations for the office, why not give your employee a handmade, personalised, wooden Christmas star award, engraved with your own message to say thank you for all their hard work? Available from Edge Inspired, prices from £10 per star. See: www.edgeinspired.com.

Good ‘elf

Even your employees’ kids are likely to roll their eyes at a bland corporate teddy bear. So try a Christmas Elf Toy and Kit instead. The soft cloth elf with its mischievous face and dinky dungarees should be a hit with both big and little kids alike. For parents of young children the Limited Edition Christmas Elf Kit also includes an arrival letter from Santa, a behaviour chart and stickers, mini report cards, and certificates for good behaviour. The Christmas Elf costs £17.95 or £27.95 for the Christmas Elf Toy & Kit. See: www.elfforchristmas.co.uk.


Instead of a traditional Christmas hamper why not try a subscription gift, such as a monthly package from Montezuma’s Real Chocolate Club. A parcel of its latest creations will be delivered every month (from £19.99 per month), ensuring the Christmas cheer lasts well into the typically much less cheery start of the year. Or try Craft Beer Club’s subscription. This includes a monthly delivery of eight different cutting-edge beers created in micro- breweries all over the country (from £26.66 per month.) Visit: www.montezumas.co.uk or www.flavourly.com

Ticket to ride

Rather than the traditional (albeit personalised) set of cufflinks, why not try a more useful, female-friendly alternative – a personalised travel cardholder. Each cardholder can be customised with initials or names, up to a maximum of 30 characters. Names can be added above ‘Ticket to Ride’, ‘Going Underground’ or ‘The World is your Oyster’, and the holders come in a range of colours including: conker, orange, poppy red, green, dark blue, pink, dark brown, grainy purple and smooth purple. Available for £24 from Noble Macmillan via www.notonthehighstreet.com

Stop the clocks

Swap a traditional carriage clock for this quirky, handmade, hen pheasant feather and glass clock from Wingfield Digby (£55). This unusual piece is made from hundreds of hen pheasant feathers set behind glass in a circular pattern. It would make a fantastic present for countryside or wildlife lovers. See: www.wingfielddigby.co.uk/collections/clocks