Holiday Gifts for Suppliers: How to Properly Say 'Thank You'

Tips to make sure your generosity reflects well on the company as a whole.

Procurement, supplier management

You think you have the perfect holiday gifts to show your suppliers how important your relationship is with them. But as a procurement professional, how do you ensure that you're properly demonstrating your company's full appreciation for all their hard work throughout the year? Are you working within corporate guidelines and industry norms?

Here are some simple tips to follow when searching for the best way to say "thank you" to these important business partners.

Make Sure Suppliers Are Permitted to Receive Gifts

Some suppliers may have strict rules regarding giving and accepting gifts at any time of the year. Monetary limits can be a key factor. Politely ask your providers whether holiday gifts are acceptable per their organization's guidelines, and keep a record of which ones can and can't receive gifts for reference in future years.

Follow Your Company's Gift-Giving Guidelines

As with holiday gifts for customers, employees, etc., it's important to adhere to internal gift-giving guidelines. Generally, these revolve around maximum dollar limits considered professionally appropriate. Also, be sure to not give one of your top suppliers a more valuable gift than you give to another, in the event they compare notes.

Choose the Right Types of Gifts

Certain types of gifts are appropriate to give to suppliers, while others aren't. Commonly acceptable gifts include gift certificates, gourmet food baskets, plants or flowers. Another popular choice is researching any charities or nonprofit organizations your supplier supports, and then making a donation in their name.

If your supplier is located in another country or region of the world, first make sure they celebrate the same holiday for which you're sending cards and gifts. Also take note of what kinds of gifts are and aren't appropriate in their culture.

Avoid Gifts That are Too Personal

If you're buying something for a key contact at a supplier, gift ideas to shy away from include those that fall into the personal category, such as items of clothing or jewelry. Also stay away from gifts that might make someone feel like they need to change their look, such as a gift certificate to a hair salon. Lotions and perfumes are best avoided, too, in the event they inadvertently suggest more attention be paid to the recipient's hygiene.

Give it a Personal Touch

Be sure to include a personal message (ideally in your own handwriting) with any gift you send. This is guaranteed to make a great impression on your vendor, as a clear sign of the value you place on your relationship. If possible, hand deliver gifts to local suppliers.

Send Your Gift Early

The holidays are a busy time for everyone, including your suppliers, who are likely rushing to fill end-of-year orders for their customers in addition to planning their own holiday events. That's a good reason to send your holiday gifts early, a week or two before the holiday season, to ensure they are received in time and can be enjoyed throughout the season.

Make It Clear That No Reciprocation Is Necessary

The last thing you want is for a supplier to feel obligated in some way after receiving a holiday gift from your company. Clarify that no reciprocation is expected, but rather that you feel it's important to communicate your appreciation for the valuable service the supplier offers throughout the year.

Of course, showing appreciation isn't restricted to the holiday season. Say "thank you" to suppliers on social media whenever the time is right, and nominate them for a third-party business award. Making your supplier feel special helps strengthen your relationship and benefits everyone involved.