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November 10, 2016updated 11 Nov 2016 2:33pm

Hamper times are here again

By Spear's

Spear’s’ spiky special reporter, Hedgehog, writes in on Harrods’ famed hamper service ahead of the festive season.

Corporate Service at Harrods, the department store’s B2B shopping arm, which provides gifts for employees and business associates, celebrated its 25th anniversary last year.

‘The market has changed dramatically in recent years,’ says Tracy Finn, head of Corporate Service at Harrods. ‘Out went the paperweights, desktop sets, and carriage clocks of the past. Now, companies use budgets strategically, choosing gifts that resonate and the receiver holds dear. They might be gifts for career milestones, conferences, incentives or recognising awards.’

Finn explains: ‘An account manager takes down a brief. The goal might be to provide gifts for a baby shower or to celebrate long-term service or some specific achievement. Gifts tend to reflect mobility as well as business membership.’ Individual gifts range in price from £10 with no upper limit. The service is still hamper-centric, the difference being that hampers now contain designer items across all brands as well as traditional and exotic comestibles. This year’s hampers start with ‘The Christmas Gift’ at £25 Chocolate at £125 and go up to ‘The Decadence’ for £20,000.

‘Giving hampers is both seasonal and strategic,’ says Finn. ‘We have to consider the business sector, cultural calendars, and etiquette attached to gifting in different parts of the world.’ For this reason Corporate Service at Harrods has a multicultural team of seven people: ‘We have a lot of US clients as well as clients from China and the Middle East, and we work in partnership with concierge and lifestyle companies.’

A Harrods hamper is a classic Christmas gift. Each hamper contains several elements: wines and spirits, tea and coffee, fresh foods, pantry goods and confectionery. Spear’s was asked to review ‘The Regent’, which sells for £575.

The experience of removing the leather lid from the wicker hamper and reaching down among the finest of corkscrew wood shavings – even these are posher than normal – to disinter the goodies reminded me of a lucky dip. As the items were removed one by one I wondered if I could play ‘memorise what’s on the conveyor belt’ from the 1970s TV show The Generation Game.

The wines included a Riesling, a white Burgundy, a red Bordeaux, a Sauternes, an Australian Shiraz, a bottle of Harrods champagne, a blanc de blancs, and my personal favourite, an Armagnac; while the fresh food included a whole Stilton, smoked salmon, and smoked meats (the latter are stowed in an insulated coldbag).

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Among the other comestibles were hazelnut-flavoured coffee, a Christmas cake with Courvoisier VSOP cognac, cranberry and clementine mince pies, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic glaze, as well as duck foie gras with truffle, lemon curd, morello cherry jam, and thin-cut marmalade.

Of course, Christmas is a time when excess is permitted if not encouraged and no hamper would be complete without biscuits and confectionery. Here the hamper yielded a perfect combination of chocolate Florentines, golden cocoa dusted pecans, peppermint dics and rose and lemon Turkish delight. The selectors have scoured the Harrods cellar and food halls to come up with the best products and hampers can be personalised with the recipient’s initials printed in gold foil on the leather lid.

With no shortage of things to eat and drink, this hedgehog is ready to go into hibernation.

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