Christmas in the Netherlands is Kerstpakketten-time: The end-of-year gifts are a must for employers – and big business for the specialists, who make sure that every recipient receives his package year after year. Brandwijk Kerstpakketten is one of these specialists.
The tradition was founded presumably towards the end of the Second World War, when Dutch tradesmen put together their products as a kind gesture towards their employees at Christmas. Today, the Kerstpakketten that the employees and business partners of Dutch companies receive at Xmas are obligatory and a fundamental part of Dutch corporate culture. Millions of Euros are invested annually. “Kerstpakketten are a must and say more about a company than the annual report. Companies that do not send Kerstpaketten risk losing their employees. A Kerstpakket has the equivalent value of one or two working hours – but its effect is enormous,” said Dick Brandwijk, founder, CEO and together with his wife, Pieta, owner of Brandwijk Kerstpakketten, one of the biggest specialists of its kind. Numerous important Dutch companies, public institutions and ministries rely on Brandwijk’s services. The company’s headquarters in Zaltbommel near ‘s-Hertogenbosch offers a themerelated tour through all facets of the nice gifts – from culinary delights and exquisite drinks to wellness items, through to living, kitchen and tableware accessories. Brandwijk started off with a cheese and delicatessen shop in The Hague. “At some point in time we additionally started offering gift items; in 1987 we decided to sell the shop and realigned ourselves in the direction of Kerstpakketten.” A few years ago the sister company Promo. nl was founded – a classic promotional products trade company, which supplies full-service to several famous companies, among others Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Together, both companies turn over around 4 mil. Euros a year.
The Brandwijk Group has 11 full-time employees today, in the high season the number of workers rises up to around 60. The three daughters of Dick und Pieta Brandwijk also work for the family business. The sustainably designed premises that the company moved into in 2010 unites all departments under one roof, including a spacious warehouse. Further storage space is available in the direct vicinity at a logistics partner of Brandwijk. “Everything that we send out is stored onsite,” explained Dick Brandwijk. “From October to mid-December our team grows by around 50 extra workers, who pack about 1,000 packets per hour, so that everything reaches the agreed location by the agreed date – nothing is more annoying than a gift that doesn’t arrive on time.”
Creative and sustainable
Of course, everything kicks off with inspiration in the showroom, which is a perfect setting for creative brainstormings. In total, the portfolio encompasses approx. 6,500 items. “In a joint process, we put together the package that suits the customer and his budget,” explained Dick Brandwijk. “Frequently a special theme is required, for example Italian delights or wellness. Sometimes it is specified that a package should only contain products in a certain colour, to convey the corporate identity of the firm. The nice thing about Kerstpakketten is that one has a free hand to a large extent. But we also try to be creative in the promotional sector too.” The company also displays its creativity on the marketing front: Brandwijk likes describing his services using comics, which the illustrator Pim Schots designs for the company’s information material, mailings and sample boxes, and which lend the firm’s corporate communications both an informative and amusing touch. “The comics convey very well what we stand for: Inventiveness and highperformance, but also a personal touch and faceto- face contact – that is very important to me,” explained Dick Brandwijk. A further theme that lies close to the entrepreneur’s heart is sustainability.
Since 2012 the Brandwijk Group has reduced its CO2 emissions by more than half – thanks to the new company building, through strict electricity saving measures, through investments in electric-powered vehicles and a heat recovery system. Brandwijk was the first company in the Kerstpakketten industry to reach level 3 of the CO2 Performance Ladder, which was developed and evaluated by the Dutch Foundation for Climate Friendly Procurement and Business (SKAO). “Furthermore, I have set myself the goal of only selling verifiably sustainable products from responsible production by 2020,” added Dick Brandwijk. “Where possible, I bring products into play that convey the concept of sustainability – for example a fleece blanket made of recycled PET bottles that many customers order in the meantime.” However, Dick Brandwijk views the fact that some companies donate towards a charity at Christmas-time instead of sending gifts with a critical eye: “Of course, it is a good thing if companies donate, but there should be two separate budgets for donations and Kerstpakketten. Employees like to receive a gift and to have the feeling that their efforts are appreciated.” Brandwijk incidentally also has a clear view on vouchers: “We provide them if we are asked to, but I don’t like them. Nobody would give their spouse a voucher for Christmas – so why would one give them to one’s employees? It is about appreciation and here a gift is simply unbeatable.”
// Till Barth
photos: Till Barth © WA Media (1); Brandwijk Kerstpakketen (2)