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HPPA Industry News

  • 8 Nov 2023 8:47 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Dawn Olds, MAS, immediate past chair of the PPAI Board of Directors and senior vice president of industry relations and DEI at HALO – ranked the No. 2 distributor in this year’s PPAI 100 – is retiring. 

    A 35-year veteran of the promotional products industry, Olds has spent her entire career at the Sterling, Illinois-based distributor. She’s been in management for more than two decades, overseeing accounting, IT and general operations functions. 

    “It has been an honor to contribute to our company’s success and to witness the incredible growth and innovation that has taken place over the years”, Olds says. “I’m grateful for the friendships, the challenges and the countless opportunities to make a difference.”

    Olds has also volunteered in the promo industry for several years and joined the PPAI Board of Directors at the beginning of 2020. Her time in the Association’s leadership tracked along considerable changes and challenges in the organization and industry at large, and she was instrumental in helping PPAI navigate the pandemic, leadership changes and revitalizing The PPAI Expo.

    Olds plans on staying with HALO through 2023 and will end her tenure at The PPAI Expo 2024 in Las Vegas.
  • 3 Nov 2023 7:50 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SnugZ USA has made a strategic addition to its sales team with the hiring of industry veteran Kevin Mullaney as an additional national sales manager effective November 1. This position will add to SnugZ’s strong and dedicated sales team providing sustained success and innovation moving forward.

    • Mullaney has been in sales for more than 17 years. For the past 12 years he has been vice president for distributor Brandito, LLC, in Richmond, Virginia. He also served as a member of the VAPPA Board of Directors from 2019-2022.
    • In 2016, Mullaney was recognized as a PPB Rising Star, in 2018 he was named an ASI Sales Rep of the Year Finalist, and in 2019, 2020 and 2021 he was honored as Distributor Sales Rep of the Year by Virginia Promotional Products Association (VAPPA). His “work hard, play hard” motto also earned him the Randy Shippam Award at the 2023 Facilis Group TASA awards.
  • 20 Oct 2023 4:03 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Goldstar – ranked the No. 16 supplier in this year’s PPAI 100 – has hired Heather Smartt as its new global director of merchandising.

    In her new role, Smartt’s top objectives include advancing the San Diego-based company's commitment to manufacturing alternatives, expanding product categories and enhancing global product design. Currently based in Lisbon, Portugal, Smartt’s talent for bridging the North American and European markets is a key driver in Goldstar's global product expansion, the company says.

    • Under her leadership, the company will unveil a four-piece Coastal Threads bag collection designed in Europe, crafted with REPREVE Our Ocean Recycled Plastic.
    Smartt’s Background

    A 17-year veteran of the promotional products industry, Smartt rose through the ranks of Polyconcept, eventually becoming director of category management at PCNA (PPAI 113079, S15) – the No. 7 supplier in the PPAI 100. She most recently served as global director of product development at National Pen (PPAI 107176, D12).

    “I’m deeply honored to lead Goldstar's global product development efforts,” Smartt says. “My goal is to leverage my experience in both North America and Europe to create products that meet the needs of our diverse customer base and align with our commitment to sustainability. Together, with our talented team, we’ll help expand how the world perceives promotional products.”

  • 18 Oct 2023 2:01 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Each year, SAGE proudly presents industry suppliers and decorators with A+ and A rating awards based on an aggregate of their distributor ratings collected through SAGE Total Access, the industry's most popular product research and business management solution.

    This year, 883 exceptional companies received the coveted A+ rating, while another impressive 190 earned a top A rating. These award-winning supplier and decorator companies comprise a total of 45% of all active Advantage or Decorator Members in the SAGE database. As part of the relationship between SAGE and PPAI, suppliers with SAGE A+ and A ratings are also considered for eligibility in the industry's annual renowned PPAI Supplier Star Awards competition.

    "We are so excited to recognize and celebrate our supplier and decorator partners that continuously go above and beyond to provide exceptional service and raise the bar for the industry's standard of quality and integrity each year." said Dana Porter, MAS, SAGE's Vice President of Information Services.

    Widely known within the industry for having the most robust, accurate, and truly representative supplier reviews, the SAGE rating system empowers distributors to make well-informed decisions with invaluable data.

    Through SAGE Online and SAGE Web, distributors can view a supplier or decorator's real-time ratings and comments, as well as a comprehensive overview of their award information, including any additional industry accolades. With SAGE's latest innovations, distributors can also now utilize AI-powered, consolidated review summaries to gain these important insights at a glance.

    Ratings can be submitted through SAGE Total Access or via the "Rate Us" link provided by both suppliers and decorators. Distributors can score factors such as customer service, delivery, and problem resolution, as well as leave a detailed comment. They can only rate each company once to provide their unique perspective; however, they may update their ratings at any time, ensuring the most precise depiction of their experience.

    Award-winning supplier and decorator companies will have access to a variety of marketing collateral to promote their A+ or A-rated status, including logos for their catalogs, websites, and email signatures. For more information, award recipients should contact their SAGE Account Advisor at 800.925.7243.

    Click below to view the complete lists:
    A+ Supplier Ratings
    A Supplier Ratings
    A+ Decorator Ratings
    A Decorator Ratings

  • 17 Oct 2023 10:20 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    HPG – ranked the No. 8 supplier in this year’s PPAI 100 – has announced that Alex Symms, MAS, will expand his director of sales role to cover all three of the Braintree, Massachusetts-based company’s West Coast brands: Evans ManufacturingHandstands and Origaudio.

    A 20-year veteran of the promotional products industry, Symms joined HPG in June after previous roles at suppliers PowerStickChameleon Like, Admints & Zagabor and KTI Networks / KTI Promo.

    “We already knew Alex would be an excellent addition to the team and he proved us right even faster than expected,” says Trina Bicknell, chief revenue officer at HPG. “I’m excited to expand his influence even further within the HPG enterprise and consolidate our West Coast sales leadership for our customers.”

    Brand Evangelist

    As a result of Symms’ expanded responsibilities, Nick Lateur – director of sales at HPG – has transitioned into the newly created role of brand director.

    Entering the promo industry in 2015, Lateur worked in national sales for suppliers AP Specialties and IMAGEN Brands before joining HPG at the end of 2020 as director of national accounts for HPG’s specialty channel.

    • In August, Lateur assumed a development and sales management role at Origaudio after co-founder Mike Szymczak announced his retirement.

    “HPG is the fastest-growing supplier in the industry with the top talent in the industry,” Lateur says. “We’re constantly launching exciting new products and impactful sales tools like Storyboard+. The formula for success in promo is: be top of mind, be easy to work with and maintain strong human relationships. This new role, with the support of the HPG marketing team, will allow me to truly evangelize our brand, our superior products, our unique services and our incredible people; all of which enable our customers to win more business.”

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 16 Oct 2023 3:56 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Starting in 2024, Koozie Group and IMAGEN Brands are consolidating under the Koozie Group brand.

    • Since then, the two suppliers have operated as stand-alone businesses.

    The Integration Process

    Combining the sales and services teams under the Koozie Group brand – IMAGEN Brands will no longer be used once the integration is complete – as well as the support teams and technology of the two businesses, is expected to create efficiencies and a better customer experience.

    • There will be no immediate change to either supplier for the rest of 2023.
    • Customers will see a slow transition into one single ordering process and website beginning January 1.
    • That transition is expected to go into effect by the end of Q1 of 2024.
    By the end of the integration process, the Koozie Group website and ordering process will have a more complete set of offerings than either business currently presents. That is expected to include:
    • An expanded assortment of items with full-color decoration.
    • More items available at 48-hour standard.
    • Products with a sustainability stance.
    • Additional free services and waived fees.
    No facilities under the Koozie Group umbrella will close as a result of the integration.
    • Under this umbrella, pricing will default to Koozie Group’s current structure.
    • The IMAGEN Brands website will be in operation through Q1 of 2024.
    • FedEx will become the standard carrier option.

    "After three years of working together, this seemed like the right time to align common and best practices from across our sites and functions to deliver impactful products and best-in-class service to our distributor partners.”

    What They’re Saying

    Recently promoted Koozie Group CEO Pierre Montaubin says that careful deliberation had led to the conclusion that this integration will most benefit the company’s distributor partners.

    “This integration will bring our customers a thoughtful assortment of best brands and products all in one place,” says Montaubin. “We will combine our sales and service teams, which allows us to increase our support coverage, provide easier order management via the Koozie Group Tracker and deliver faster lead times, improved flexibility and additional value-added services.

    While the company will take the time and care to make sure the integration process goes smoothly, Chief Revenue Officer Melissa Ralston says that plenty of factors are already in place for this to be a natural and organic transition.

    “Many of our back-of-house teams were already supporting both Koozie Group and IMAGEN Brands and have been working hand in hand since 2020,” says Ralston. “We’re excited to be able to leverage the strengths of both companies to provide increased coverage and enhanced tools to help our customers grow their business. We’ll be here to help customers through the transition and know they’ll be encouraged by the new benefits we are now able to offer.”

  • 12 Oct 2023 11:42 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Proforma has achieved a significant milestone by securing the 126th position on the prestigious Franchise Times Top 400 list. This marks a substantial leap from the company’s 2020 ranking at #158.

    • The Franchise Times Top 400 is an exclusive annual ranking of the largest U.S.-based franchise systems by global system-wide sales. The project is the result of a five-month research and reporting effort that leads to the most credible and objective franchise ranking available.
    • Proforma's impressive growth trajectory, increased sales and strategic planning have helped solidified its standing surpassing household names such as Steak ’n Shake, Nothing Bundt Cakes and Dale Carnegie Training. Proforma's sales surged from $540,000,000 in 2021 to $620,000,000 in 2022.

    “As we celebrate this incredible milestone, we are not resting on our laurels. We are actively engaged in the strategic planning stages for business development in preparation for 2024,” says Vanessa Edwards, director of business development. “Our focus remains on empowering our distributor owners, sales professionals and their team members, and expanding our network.”

  • 12 Oct 2023 11:38 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The recent terrorist attacks in Israel hit close to home for many in the promotional products industry.

    Some colleagues have found themselves near harm's way, and many others have family members and friends in Israel left to pick up the pieces following unconscionable violence perpetrated by Hamas. Countless more industry professionals are praying for peace and healing.

    Suppliers, distributors and business services alike are rallying to the cause, and PPAI Media is committed to amplifying their efforts so that we all may have the opportunity to contribute and ease the suffering of innocents. 

    If your promotional products company has established a humanitarian response, click here to share details if you would like to be included.


    PPAI 100's No. 12 supplier, Houston-based Hirsch (PPAI 221823, S10) has announced that it "stands unwaveringly with Israel" and made donations of support to Friends of the IDF and American Friends of Magen David Adom.

    Advertising Specialty Institute

    Pennsylvania-based business services firm Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI) has announced that, in conjunction with the family of its chairman, Norman Cohn, it will offer matching donations for contributions to organizations helping the victims of violence in Israel.

    For every $2 donated, ASI and the Cohn family will donate $1. Qualifying donations must be made to either of two organizations:

    • IsraAID, an international humanitarian aid organization
    Contributions should be made directly to one of the organizations, with receipts sent to ASI President and CEO Tim Andrews (tim.andrews@asicentral.com). ASI will match up to $50,000 in donations.
  • 12 Oct 2023 11:12 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SAGE, the industry’s leading provider of information, marketing, and business management solutions has introduced yet another AI-powered feature to help distributors leverage the power of recent advancements in artificial intelligence.  The latest AI-based development to come out of SAGE’s labs gives distributors a real-time summary by consolidating supplier’s reviews, and allowing them to save time and gain valuable insights at a glance.

    “SAGE is recognized throughout the industry as having the most robust, accurate and truly representative supplier rating and review system,” said Dana Porter, MAS, SAGE’s Vice President of Information Services.  Porter continued, “While many distributors enjoy the details provided by each specific review comment, we also know that it’s extremely helpful in many cases to get a general idea of what people are saying about a supplier.  In order to provide that capability, we leveraged the power of the latest AI technologies to help us create real-time summaries of all of our customers’ supplier reviews.  The result is more time saved and more information available for our customers, and that’s exactly the type of thing we’re always hoping to provide.”

    Supplier review summaries are now available in both SAGE Online and SAGE Web, both of which are available to SAGE’s distributor customers with a Total Access subscription.  All PPAI distributor members automatically receive a one-user license to SAGE Total Access as part of SAGE’s relationship with the association.

    After checking out the new supplier review summaries, Tricia Williams of My Tribe Print & Promo LLC said, "I am thoroughly impressed with the AI-powered Review Summary feature within SAGE.  Its accuracy and efficiency in summarizing complex information are truly remarkable. This tool not only saves time but also ensures that businesses can quickly grasp the essence of customer feedback. It's a game-changer for anyone seeking meaningful insights. Well done!"

    Supplier review summaries are the latest AI-powered feature to be introduced by SAGE.  In recent months, the technology company has introduced a number of features that leverage the newest AI technology in different ways.  Earlier in the year SAGE introduced the Idea Wizard, a powerful tool for distributors to get ideas for specific client events, as well as a number of tools for writing custom content for presentations, project thank you notes, and websites.

    “We’re doing a massive amount of research in AI and other new technology areas.  While we’re looking into all sort of interesting things, our main focus continued to be on finding ways to increase our customers’ productivity, efficiency and information accessibility,” said Eric Natinsky, SAGE’s CEO.  He continued, “All of the new features that we’re releasing out of our labs fit that goal.  We’re so pleased to be able to bring these amazing new technologies to the promo industry in a useful and productive way.”

    For more information about SAGE Total Access, please visit https://www.sageworld.com/try-SAGE.php.

  • 11 Oct 2023 11:02 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Storm Creek (ASI #89879/PPAI #438091/SAGE#50007), a leading supplier of eco-made and lifestyle apparel is proud to announce the release of its highly anticipated 2024 catalog, featuring an array of highest quality, sustainably made products. The catalog launch is accompanied by an enticing range of fall arrivals that are set to capture the attention of the promotional products industry.

    With dedication to quality, sustainability, and timeless style, Storm Creek has established itself as a trusted supplier for businesses looking to make a lasting impression through branded merchandise. The 2024 catalog is a testament to the company’s commitment to sustainability and quality.

    [2024 Everyday Eco Catalog]

    What’s new in the 2024 Catalog

    1. All Eco-Made: Storm Creek is committed to sustainable practices and offers an expanded selection of eco-conscious products. By the end of 2024, the company will upcycle upwards of 45 million plastic bottles into sustainable apparel. Storm Creek is one of the few promotional products apparel suppliers with a deep, all-eco product line.
    1. PFAS: In accordance with the PFAS regulations starting in 2024, Storm Creek removes all PFAS coatings from outerwear and performance wear.
    1. No Price increases: Contrary to assumptions that buying sustainable costs more, Storm Creek held 2023 prices heading into 2024, while introducing more sustainable fabrics.

    Fall 2023 Arrivals

    Storm Creek’s fall arrivals are focused on trending silhouettes, versatility, and comfort. For example, the Artisan Shirt Jacket, Aviator Bomber Jacket, and Summit Fleece Jacket combine style and sustainability using up to 37 plastic bottles per garment. Founder and President Doug Jackson, remarks “We are excited to introduce our fall arrivals and 2024 collection to the promotional products industry. We believe that our new designs and eco-conscious fabrics will inspire distributors to sell sustainably and educate their customers on the impact they can have. There is no need to sacrifice style for sustainability or sustainability for price.”

    The 2024 catalog and fall arrivals are available for viewing and ordering on distributor.stormcreek.com.

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