‘Tis the Season for Giving

New York-based Spiegel is giving consumers the perfect reason to buy a $3,500 Louis Vuitton suitcase, an $1,800 Chanel camera bag, or a $1,400 Halston jacket encrusted with faux pearls: It’s for a good cause. The general merchandise mailer is donating the proceeds from these and seven other one-of-a-kind items to the Toys for Tots program.

“Whoever orders first will be the only recipient,” president/CEO Geralynn Madonna notes on the inside front cover of Spiegel’s Gift Resource catalog.

So far, Spiegel has already sold the Louis Vuitton trunk, the Chanel camera bag, and an antique cameo pendant.

For those whose budgets can’t accommodate such items, Spiegel is also selling a limited-edition 100th-anniversary teddy bear for $15, or $9.95 with every order of at least $75, the proceeds of which also go to Toys for Tots.

Other merchants are getting charitable this season as well:

• Lighting merchant Topbulb will donate 20% of profits from orders received by Dec. 15 (using a specific priority code) to Children’s Oncology Services in Chicago.

Viva Terra, a cataloger of eco-friendly gifts, will make a donation to American Forests’ Global ReLeaf campaign or to Clean Air-Cool Planet for every order of $75 or more.

Chef’s Catalog set up a section within its Website to benefit hunger-relief charity Share Our Strength: The kitchenware merchant will make a donation for every purchase of products within that section.

Jerry’s Artarama will donate 25% of proceeds from selected items to World Vision’s hunger-relief efforts.

Frontgate will donate $10 from every Natural Series Tree sold to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

• Jewelry merchant Angela Moore has created two special collections: 15% of net proceeds from sales of the Breast Cancer Awareness collection go to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, and 15% of the net proceeds of the Ovarian Cancer Awareness collection go to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

If you want to help a cause by tying contributions to sales, you’re best off being relatively low-key about your efforts, says Erik Hauser, founder of San Francisco-based Swivel Media.

“Let’s say you’re a company in great standing with the American public and everyone loves you and you have not had any corporate scandals, someone like Home Depot,” he told MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT sister publication CHIEF MARKETER earlier this year, regarding Hurricane Katrina relief efforts (“Katrina Relief: Do Good Deeds Make Good Publicity?”). “If Home Depot does it, it’s not seen as really self-serving; it shows good corporate citizenship.” But, he added, companies whose hold on the public’s good graces is a bit more tenuous face a risk of appearing self-serving.

Companies that publicize their charitable efforts counter that doing so encourages other people to help out. But issuing a press release or running an ad touting your actions could backfire, Hauser said. Instead of sending out a release, he suggested calling up a favorite reporter or two and let them decide if there was a good story to be told.

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