Corporate gift suppliers feeling the pinch as spending falls amid Covid-19 pandemic

Shoppers are pictured at Paragon shopping mall in Orchard Road on Nov 29, 2020.
Shoppers are pictured at Paragon shopping mall in Orchard Road on Nov 29, 2020.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Many workplaces usually reverberate with the sound of year-end celebrations and other festivities in December.

This year, not so much.

The coronavirus pandemic has pushed many corporations to tighten their purse strings and suppliers of corporate gifts are now feeling the pinch.

"Corporate customers seem to be more mindful of their spending," said Ms Jess Chan, product and services manager of Noel Gifts.

"We have more inquiries and pending orders than real sales locked in."

Mr Calvin Foo, co-founder of Gift Market, gave a similar opinion.

"There's a budget issue. The big multinational corporations are being more conservative," he said.

Gift Market, which sells non-perishable items such as shirts, notebooks and pens, saw its number of orders drop by "almost 70 per cent to 80 per cent" during the circuit breaker imposed earlier this year to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Now, despite sales picking up again, the outlook remains uncertain.

Mr Foo calculated that Gift Market received around 600 orders last month, compared with 900 orders in the same month last year.

Aside from more frugal spending, work-from-home arrangements and curbs on large gatherings have also limited the opportunities for corporate events.

Gone too are the year-end celebrations where employees gather to mark certain milestones or Christmas and the New Year.

Noel Gifts, which has a catalogue dedicated to Christmas products, said its orders have dropped by about 20 per cent.

When gift-giving does happen, it is often more subdued and with an eye towards utility.

Mr Foo said items such as masks and other products related to Covid-19 are "more popular, perhaps because people find them more practical".

Ms Chan said companies are requesting Christmas and New Year gifts that are more practical, such as hand sanitiser and health-related food options.

Three other corporate gifts suppliers declined to comment when contacted by The Sunday Times.