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HPPA Industry News

  • 19 Aug 2022 12:33 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Proforma Members Gather for Largest Educational and Networking Event of the Year


    “It was an unforgettable four-day event!” said Terri Tolmack, Owner of Proforma Hi-Rez. “The days were filled with networking, continued education, a Supplier Showcase, and the opportunity to learn from fellow Owners and gain insight on the latest technological and marketing innovations Proforma has to offer in the industry.”

    Proforma, the $500 million technology and business success leader, hosted its largest event of the year, the Proforma Annual Convention and Family Reunion, Ignite 2022. This event reunited more than 400 members of the Proforma Family including Owners and their teams, Supplier Partners, industry leaders, and the Support Center Team at the beautiful Paris Hotel in Las Vegas.

    This year, Proforma introduced several new awards to recognize their Supplier Partners’ standout performance within the print and promo industry. A few of the awards highlighted their sustainable and eco-friendly approaches, those with the most cutting-edge products, and Suppliers who were able to make the “impossible” possible by going above and beyond for their customers.

    “Our Proforma Family wouldn’t be complete without our incredible Supplier Partners,” explained Proforma VP of Supplier Relations Michelle Dalton. “Getting to be in an environment where there is so much positivity and collaboration going on always leaves us eagerly awaiting next year’s event so we can reunite again!”

  • 17 Aug 2022 3:48 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    On the eve of Dale Denham’s one-year anniversary as PPAI president and CEO, he presented in front of many of the industry’s top leaders at the North American Leadership Conference (NALC) in a “Fireside Chat” about the challenges and progress the Association has faced, while offering plans for the future.

    It was fitting that Denham’s first year capped at NALC. One of the earliest calls that Denham had to make, after joining PPAI on Aug. 16, 2021, was to cancel the 2021 NALC due to a COVID-19 spike. It was one of the most difficult decisions of his tenure, but it was likely not his most important. A few months later, with COVID-19 still affecting plans around the country, Denham moved forward with The PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, an in-person return in January of 2022 that the industry sorely needed after two years apart.

    Denham also addressed significant staff reductions that took place during the pandemic, before he arrived at PPAI, and the many hirings and promotions over the past year that have begun to counter those reductions. Denham, of course, is only the most notable addition representing the new direction of the industry’s non-profit Association.

    “The people are changing,” says Denham. “PPAI is changing.”

    In some ways, the most visible changes have been to branding and marketing, such as advancement to the Association’s content and media offerings. These initiatives are designed to allow PPAI to be recognized as the voice of the industry. But much of the focus that Denham has guided the Association toward represent a different way of looking at things.

    This particular moment in the industry, following the disruption caused by the pandemic, required a PPAI leader who would direct the Association toward something beyond business as usual. Denham’s time in the promotional products market, including his previous role as senior vice president and CIO at distributor Geiger, suggested he planned to push PPAI toward more.

    “We are not going to sit still,” Denham said Monday. “You will see a lot of changes.”

    With company leaders listening, Denham also addressed Promo Data Exchange (PDX), what he described as “the most unpopular change that we announced.” PDX’s goals, which run parallel to industry tool PromoStandards, ruffled some feathers upon its announcement.

    “We both share the same vision,” Denham says. “We want to get rid of all those phone calls. We want to stop errors. We just have different strategies. Some of you have different opinions on what we are doing with Promo Data Exchange. We are doing it because we believe we have a strategy that is going to help solve a problem, and we continue to talk to PromoStandards and look for ways to work together for the good of the industry.”

    In spite of some resistance to PDX, Denham confirmed PPAI’s commitment to streamlining future business, and the Association’s hope to lead the industry into tools and possibilities that will push it forward.

    “We are committed to digital transformation for the industry,” Denham said. “We are going to drive digital transformation.”

    In evaluating potential leaders for the Association, PPAI's Board of Directors highlighted figures who could push the industry toward improved technological solutions.

    "It is hard to believe a year has passed since Dale took the helm at PPAI," says board chair Dawn Olds, MAS+. "His vision and passion for Association staff, members, and the industry are at the core of all he does. On behalf of the entire PPAI board, I thank him for the leadership he has provided this past year and look forward to seeing the seeds of success he has started to plant blossom."

    Denham concluded his Monday remarks by stating that CSR was “perhaps the most important thing for this industry” and that it has been mandated by the PPAI Board of Directors to be a top priority, while teasing that new plans and ways to drive progress in that area will be developed at the Product Responsibility Summit in September.

    Digital transformation, CSR and the Promotional Products Work campaign – with its first buyer-facing event set for Sept. 29 - are the three pillars to what PPAI is focusing on going forward under Denham’s leadership.

    “Our mission is to be the force and the voice to advance the promotional products marketplace for the benefit of our community,” Denham says. “Our members are the community. The marketplace is everyone who is buying or selling promotional products. We want everyone in the community. We’re working for the whole marketplace.”

  • 17 Aug 2022 3:38 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    For PPAI, 2022 has marked a return to in-person events. Following the success of The PPAI Expo 2022 and Women’s Leadership Conference 2022, the PPAI North American Leadership Conference returned to its in-person format this week for the first time since 2019.

    Industry leaders came together at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, beginning Sunday, for educational sessions, keynote speakers and the opportunity to connect with each other face-to-face.

    “It’s so great to see everyone coming back together, talking live,” Dawn Olds senior vice president of industry relations and DEI at HALO and PPAI’s board chair. “It can feel nearly impossible to do over Zoom or by email. That creative energy, you can just feel it here. It’s palpable in the room. It’s great to have it back.”

    After an outdoor welcome reception Sunday evening taking in the Broadmoor’s famous scenery, the event officially kicked off Monday morning with a packed schedule of informative sessions capped off by the evening’s networking dinner at the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Museum with a talk from Paralympic skier Tyler Carter.

    Monday’s sessions tended to focus on technological progress. Earlier in the day, Mike Pfeiffer of American Solutions for Business, who is also chair of PPAI’s Technology Committee, explained the ongoing challenges of cybersecurity. Tech expert Vala Afshar of SalesForce provided the room - full of high-level promo professionals - with a presentation on near- and short-term possibilities afford by technology, including AI, that should be top of mind for company leaders. Afshar also joined Dale Denham for a Q&A diving deeper on the subject of digital progress.

    “Every year it’s different, and the topics seem to shift in focus,” says Christopher Duffy, MAS, the CEO of Signature Group Consulting, who has now been to 10 NALCs. “Today seemed to be technology and people, and I find that good. I look for tidbits, and I got pages of tidbits today; things I can apply.”

    Keynote speakers from outside the industry were a big part of NALC’s first education day, asking company leaders to think outside of what has been directly in front of them recently.

    Claudia St. John of Affinity HR Group – a PPAI partner - proposed hiring practices and employee benefits that might have seemed radical to the company leaders just a few short years ago. Tamara Ghandour, president of LaunchStreet Consultancy even asked each table to build a rocket ship with the scant material accessible at their table. The event also included a “fireside chat” with PPAI CEO Dale Denham, who marked the non-profit trade association’s progress and challenges.

    PPAI’s goal to bring together many of the industry’s top-level executives creates inevitable opportunities for networking and ideation, which NALC doesn’t shy away from. An “Executive Exchange” between speakers asked attendees to discuss issues at hand with a small group of peers they were randomly assigned to sit with, leading each attendee to hear multiple perspectives on shared issues that have come up in the industry over the past three years.

    “That has been a lot of the conversation,” Olds says. “Conversations around ‘How did you deal with this? How are you driving innovation in a hybrid work environment?’ There were some really great ideas that our table exchanged that I’m excited to go back and apply.”

    According to Duffy, the exchanging of ideas at NALC always takes a familiar pattern but with fresh ideas.

    “The other benefit is the networking and the connecting,” Duffy says. “I know 90% of the room, and after three years, sometimes it feels like we hadn’t been away, but I just like the connecting and the catching up. This is a room of like-minded people.”

    PPAI’s aim with NALC is to encourage the industry’s leaders to push new ideas forward and solve problems together, putting mutual solutions over competition.

    “We all just want to do better,” Duffy says. “We all go back to our offices and have obstacles to tackle.”

  • 17 Aug 2022 3:34 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    After almost 35 years with the company, Sharon Eyal is stepping down from ETS Express (PPAI 135148, S11). His departure, set for later this year, is part of a planned transition following the Oxnard, California-based supplier’s acquisition by PCNA (PPAI 113079, S15) in 2019.

    Eyal’s family has been in the glass and ceramics business for generations. His father founded ETS Express in 1985 and he joined in 1988.

    When Eyal came onboard, ETS had five employees, three of which were members of his immediate family. He became the company’s CEO in 1994 and prior to the sale to PCNA, ETS had grown to more than 500 employees at its Southern California headquarters and Concord, North Carolina, fulfillment center.

    Eyal led ETS through its 2018 trademark dispute with retailer S’well. The case, formally known as Can’t Live Without It, LLC dba S’well Bottle Company v. ETS Express, Inc., went to a jury trial in the Southern District of New York in March 2018. Following the nine-day trial, the jury ruled unanimously in ETS Express’ favor on all counts.

    Speaking to PPB at the time, Eyal said, “For me, settling wasn’t an option. If we had settled, that would have given the green light for retailers and outsiders to come into our industry and claim something is theirs where it may not be.”

    In the wake of his departure, Eyal intends to take six months off from working.

    The Transition

    Following Eyal’s departure, Brandon Bell is stepping up to lead ETS as president going forward. He has been with the company for almost a dozen years, first coming onboard in 2010 as director of sales. Since March 2019, he has been the company’s vice president of sales and marketing.

    “Sharon and his family have built an amazing company that values its customers and employees alike,” Bell says. “It is thrilling to be part of a team that is so passionate about what our company does. There is such a positive energy to build and continue the family values established over that last 37 years. I am grateful to be part of it.”

    Backfilling Bell’s position at ETS as vice president of sales is Adam Stone, the company’s national account director. Stone has been with ETS since 2014 and before that, PCNA as a field sales manager. His background also includes several years with The Magnet Group in a sales role.

    The Acquisition

    PCNA’s acquisition of ETS closed on November 29. It joined industry supplier brands Leed’s (PPAI 112361, S13), Bullet (PPAI 113079, S12), Journalbooks (PPAI 110769, S10) and Trimark (PPAI 198982, S10) under the company’s umbrella.

    ETS, reportedly the largest supplier of promotional drinkware in North America at the time and a recognized leader in product design and innovative decoration, extended PCNA’s presence and leadership in the fast-growing drinkware category.

    Following the acquisition, ETS continued to operate out of its Oxnard headquarters under the leadership of Eyal, who joined PCNA’s executive team. ETS operations, sales and marketing remained independent.

  • 17 Aug 2022 3:10 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Tri-Mountain announced today that it is set to close later this month. The Irwindale, California-based supplier has been in operation for almost 30 years.

    In a statement announcing the closing, the company said, “Since starting Tri-Mountain in 1993, we’ve had the honor and privilege of earning your business and support. We cannot fully express our gratitude for the opportunities to work with you over the decades. On behalf of our entire Tri-Mountain family, please accept our deepest thanks and our best wishes for your continued success.”

    Tri-Mountain will continue to accept orders through Thursday, August 18. More information is available on trimountain.com.

    • The company was founded in 1993 by Daniel Tsai.
    • Tsai told PPAI Media that the company will soon provide an update on where its merchandise will be available after this week.
    • Tri-Mountain had regularly ranked as one of the industry’s larger suppliers in the latter half of the 2010s. It ranked as the 25th largest supplier by revenue in 2017 sales, according to a Counselor estimate. However, it had fallen out of the top 40 by 2021, with estimated revenue slipping by more than $17 million.
  • 10 Aug 2022 1:03 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Nearly 48 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021. Through the first five months of 2022, 20 million Americans did the same. The Great Resignation is playing out across the economy and it’s not over; globally, one in five workers are expected to quit before the end of the year. People in all industries are reprioritizing things and in a hot job market are able to explore their options, so quitting isn’t as scary as it once seemed.

    The promotional products industry is not immune from this trend and like any other sector, can suffer if it doesn’t respond. Businesses across the field are implementing new policies, seeking new talent and working to better connect with their employees, while promo professionals are weighing the directions open for their careers.

    The Great Resignation and the trends driving it are felt as readily in a marketplace as large and diverse as the promotional products industry as any other sector of the economy.“Employees know what they want and need to be happy,” says Erika Ruehlman, vice president of talent and strategy at St. Louis-based PromoPlacement Recruiting. “Companies that are taking a modern approach to work-life balance, remote work, benefits and are being competitive with compensation are winning by attracting and retaining top talent. One hundred percent of the people I talk to love the industry with a passion I believe to be unrivaled.

    “Companies must step up their game to hire and retain the ‘A players,’ and those that do will come out on top.”

    Businesses large and small have registered key talent departures. In February, Jason Lucash stepped down from his position as chief development officer at Braintree, Massachusetts-based supplier HPG. He still serves on the company’s board in an advisory capacity and sees many of The Great Resignation’s trends at play in the industry.

    “During the pandemic the labor force shifted dramatically,” Lucash says. “Many people were out of jobs and receiving the high unemployment benefits associated with it, so they didn’t want to return to the labor force, and that hasn’t changed dramatically in the last two years.

    “The biggest impact these trends will have on the industry is for suppliers in the operations side of their business. Just as the airlines currently can’t handle the amount if bags passing through airports every day due to staffing shortages, the same is to be said about suppliers in the promo industry. When you layer on increased demand, with labor shortages to decorate and ship orders, it makes for the perfect storm. Also, as many more remote work opportunities opened up during the pandemic, the typical warehouse employee now had a much larger pool to select jobs from which further exacerbates the staffing shortages.”

    No organization is immune to the effects of this unfamiliar economic paradigm. Even PPAI has been affected. It has registered a handful of veteran contributors parting ways with the Association in recent years as they move on to new chapters in their lives. High profile departures within the organization include Director of Publications and Editor Tina Filipski, who stepped down at the end of 2021 after 26 years, and Executive Vice President Bob McLean, who left last month after a 14-year run to enter consulting work. In 2021, McLean led the Association in an interim capacity following the departure of Paul Bellantone from his post as president and CEO for an executive role at leading distributor HALO.

    Regardless of how long The Great Resignation and the trends behind it remain in play, it will likely have a lasting effect on how promotional products companies’ recruiting and retention practices.

    “Human resource professionals are noting a delineation in resignations between companies that offered remote work opportunities versus those that enforced a return to the office,” says Jaci Badzin, a business futurist who has worked with NIKE, Google and YouTube. “While some positions and teams strongly benefit from a return to the office, work from home flexibility, even part time, proves to currently be one of the most important policies for retaining and attracting top talent and entry level talent.

    “The other big area is healthcare benefits. Increasing and publicizing stellar healthcare policies is one of the best ways companies can attract great talent. We even see employees sharing about their great benefits on social media. Benefits that stand out can include mental health support, holistic medicine benefits, and fertility and family planning.”

    McKinsey has grouped those that leave their jobs during the Great Resignation into three broad groups:

    • Almost half (48%) of those who quit are going to positions in different industries. And this isn’t affecting all industries in the same way—talent is draining excessively from some and others are challenged to bring in new workers. Some sectors have both problems.
    • Many employees who quit go into nontraditional roles like gig or part-time work or start their own businesses. While about half (47%) return to the workforce, only 29% resume full-time work in the traditional sense.
    • Some leave the workforce to focus on other areas of their lives—caring for children or elderly, or even themselves. This group may have stepped out of the labor pool entirely.
    Ruehlman notes that promotional products field workers typically don’t want to leave the industry. She says, “I think they would fight long and hard to stay in it before attempting to look elsewhere. Sadly, those that do look outside of the industry tend to feel like that may be one of the only ways to reach the compensation they desire. I have noticed many of the people that were forced to leave the industry due to pandemic-related layoffs are now looking to return. Many are willing to even take a step back from their previous role to be able to achieve that.”
    • Responses were similar across all parts of an organization: front-line staff (36%), managers (34%), directors (32%) and executives (33%).
    And the Great Resignation and the attitudes behind it are likely to remain a factor for a while. A survey by AI-drive job search platform Joblist found that 42% of those who quit and found new jobs say the new positions aren’t living up to their expectations. This group is unlikely to stick around at a job that isn’t working for them.
    • The survey found that 16% will stay at a job not meeting their expectations for three months or less, 34% for less than six months and 48% will stay less than a year.
    • Worker age can exacerbate these numbers—47% of people in their 20s and 40% of those in their 30s say they will leave a job that doesn’t measure up in six months or less. However, less than 25% of those over the age of 40 will leave in less than six months.
    • Meaning: PwC’s poll found that following compensation, finding a job fulfilling (69%), working at a place where one can truly be themselves (66%) and a feeling that the team cares about their well-being (60%) were top drivers in the decision to seek new employment.
    • Confidence/Competence: Employees want to feel that they can be creative/innovative at their job (60%) and that they can exceed what is expected of them in their role (58%).
    • Autonomy: Employees want to control when they work (50%) and where they work (47%).
    • Results show that 65% “agree” or “strongly agree,” 17% “neither agree or disagree,” and 19% “disagree” or “strongly disagree.”
    • Quizzing participants on burnout, it found that 45% experience burnout “often or extremely often,” 31% experience it “sometimes” and 24% experience it “rarely” or “not at all.”
    • Even among “burned out” employees, appreciation goes a long way—19% of employees who face “chronic workplace stress” but also feel that they are valued on the job are planning to leave, compared to 65% who don’t feel valued.
    “Every major company has stated brand values, often on their ads or company homepage,” Badzin says. “For example, Apple’s company motto is ‘Think Different’ while Disney’s is ‘The Happiest Place on Earth.’ If a company is struggling with retention one first step is to put their efforts into creating a culture that truly brings a brand’s values to life. Employee experience matters.”

    Following the pandemic rebound, employment growth has been rapid—in July, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 3.5% and the country added 528,000 nonfarm jobs, in part fueled by a voluntary turnover rate up 25% from pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, there were 11.3 million open jobs at the end of May, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is up from 9.3 million open jobs at the end of April 2021.

    One thing that hasn’t changed since 2021, according to McKinsey, is the percentage of workers planning to leave their jobs within the next three to six months—40%.

    Aligning with McKinsey’s findings, an April survey by YMCA WorkWell, a workplace well-being expert for businesses, governments, and non-profits, asked 682 employed adults if they intend to be working at their current organization in six months. It found that 34% of respondents were expecting to leave or open to leaving their current role in the next six months.


    As in so many other sectors of the economy, the Great Resignation has brought new faces to the promotional products industry, familiar faces to new corners of it and in some cases departures.Lucash recognizes many of the factors influencing the Great Resignation in his decision to step down from his role at HPG.

    “I was working crazy hours for 13 years straight, traveling 150,000+ miles a year and prioritizing work before everything,” says Lucash. “When the pandemic hit and I was suddenly home and not in the office or on the road it was quite the adjustment. Over the two years of being grounded and working from home, it made me re-prioritize what was the most important to me. I wanted to spend more time at home with my family, take a break from working to reevaluate what I am passionate about and spend more time figuring out where I can make my next big impact.

    “All of the factors led to my decision to leave HPG, and I think a lot of people have had similar thoughts and experiences fueled by the pandemic.”

    Kim Bakalyar, CAS, formerly the chief compliance officer and director of vendor relations at Los Angeles-based distributor PromoShop and PPAI’s 2022 Woman of Achievement, retired earlier this summer. While the trends at play in the industry did not influence that decision, they did reinforce it. “If anything,” she says, “the pandemic made me more certain that it was the right time for me to take a step back and give myself permission to slow down a little.”

    However, Bakalyar would not be alone if the pandemic had been a factor in her retirement. Data from investment management company Vanguard suggests that in 2020-2021, the pandemic prompted an additional 1.6 million retirements among workers 55 and older.

    Industry companies report interest in open positions at the firms but are moving to accommodate the increase in mobility among the workforce at larger.

    “In 2022, our employee retention has improved with our attrition rate falling by almost 50%,” says Leonid Rozkin, CEO of Dallas-based service platform provider OrderMyGear (PPAI 704581). “We have seen a decrease in the number of external applicants applying for our open positions and believe it is because of the current employment state of the economy. We are always hiring and find it important to hire and promote from within, when possible, to create opportunities for career growth and personal development.

    “We’ve also adjusted our talent sourcing to connect directly with the community and potential candidates in smaller, often face-to-face settings like college job fairs.”

    Chris Anderson, CEO of HPG, says, “The changes first manifested a few months into the COVID-19 pandemic. We have witnessed a continued trend of increasing employee mobility driven partially by the work-from-home phenomenon, and partially by high demand for talent in certain areas of our enterprise—such as technology.”

    There is also a more open attitude toward new opportunities. Ruehlman says, “Interestingly the biggest shift I have seen is in the passive candidate market, meaning people are far more open to hearing about what’s available but not necessarily aggressively searching on their own. Those candidates are generally not willing to jump unless the new opportunity checks all the boxes both professional and personally.”

    In its 2022 Great Attrition, Great Attraction 2.0 survey, McKinsey measured the top reasons respondents gave for quitting their job in the April 2021-April 2022 time period. The most commonly given reason was the lack of career development and advancement (41%), followed by inadequate total compensation (36%) and uncaring and uninspiring leaders (34%).PwC reported similar findings. Its Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey, polling more than 52,000 workers in 44 countries and territories, and conducted in March, highlighted salary’s role in workers’ decisions. It found that, by and large, pay is the big reason driving the decisions to change jobs—71% of those surveyed cited it as a main factor.

    However, it also identified three additional issues that were part of employees’ decisions as to whether they or not they change their working environment.

    These motivations are reflected in promo industry workers’ own decisions.

    “Ironically the main reason I see for people wanting to make a change is that companies are understaffed,” Ruehlman says. “Support people are feeling overworked and stressed out. On the sales side business is booming again, but staff was likely cut during the pandemic and not replaced. Salespeople are feeling the stress of taking on many of the support tasks which take away time from selling and their bottom line.

    “I think everyone is feeling burnout from the extra effort it took to survive the last couple of years and now looking for relief. If they don’t see their company making the effort toward correcting that, then they are looking.”

    YMCA WorkWell’s survey looked closer at employees’ decisions to leave and found that their sense of well-being can play a significant factor. The organization’s earlier research, the 2021 YMCA WorkWell Workplace Well-Being Report, identified workload and burnout as clear challenges to employee well-being going into 2022, and its most recent survey identified a similar trend.

    YMCA WorkWell asked survey respondents to share their reaction to the statement “Thinking back on the last three months, I feel as though my workload has been a significant source of stress for me in my role.”

    Among those considering leaving their job, almost half, 44% described themselves as burned out.

    The Great Resignation has driven many businesses to reexamine what they offer their employees. Workplace flexibility, meaningful work and support for health and well-being were some of the most powerful draws for employees in McKinsey’s survey, for example.

    YMCA WorkWell suggests that turnover risks drop substantially when an employee feels appreciated. Only 15% of employees who feel appreciated at work are looking to leave their positions in the next six months.

    “The Great Resignation has sharpened our focus on the holistic value proposition of choosing to work for HPG,” says Anderson. “Whether it be increased benefits—such as a generous health insurance and retirement plans—or hybrid/work-from-home flexibility, we continue to evolve to meet the changing needs and expectations of our team members.”

    HPG is not alone in assessing what it offers its employees. OrderMyGear is working to better understand its employees’ motivations, what drives them to stay at the company and their perspectives on areas of opportunity.

    “We’ve accomplished this by gathering their perspectives through monthly surveys and interviews,” says Rozkin. “This helps us get ahead of matters before they become issues.”

    Earlier in 2022, OrderMyGear provided raises approximately three times its normal budgets and put career pathing and coaching/development plans in place. Rozkin says, “This helps us ensure there’s proper career pathing for roles across the organization so employees are clear on what’s next and what it will take to get there. We have also continued to invest in our culture and build a strong sense of community through employee-led culture events, company-wide events like office Olympics, and encouraging people leaders to get outside of the office with their teams, like lunches and group activities.”

    Company culture and its role in connecting and attracting talent is worth the scrutiny. Evidence from YMCA WorkWell, McKinsey and elsewhere suggests that a positive organizational culture can also reinforce an employee’s relationship with their employer.

    “Companies that thrived through the Pandemic and beyond have recognized the vital need to put employee well-being and experience at the center of company culture,” says Badzin. “We will see a dramatic shift away from ‘perks’ like unlimited free snacks, in-office massage and ping-pong tables. Employees are showing with their choices that they want a company that has respect-driven policies—respect for their time, their life choices, their work product and freedom to show up as themselves. This is a new realm of policies, stated and observed. Smart brands know that how customers get to feel starts with how employees feel at work.”

    Fostering a company culture that connects employees to the organization is also an opportunity for a business to live its brand values.

    The pandemic has complicated the growth of company culture and its value proposition, and what that means during the Great Resignation. Promotional products businesses are still working to understand what that means in terms of culture and retention. Badzin suggests companies lean into these changes.

    “Many highly skilled employees got a taste of the freelancer or entrepreneur lifestyle with work from home time,” she says. “Now they want to feel like partners or collaborators, with autonomy and a focus on results, skills and creative solutions rather than a clock-in culture.”

  • 9 Aug 2022 12:09 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The annual inflation rate for the U.S. is 9.1% for the previous 12 months ending in June, which accounts for the largest annual increase since November 1981, and is certainly something on the mind of many in the promotional products industry. At the same time, sustainability efforts have been a top expectation of promotional products distributors and suppliers as buyers increasingly prioritize products that will not have a negative impact on the environment.

    Parsing out whether inflation is affecting sustainability efforts is difficult, but looking at recent consumer habits can begin to paint a picture.

    One study of the collision, the U.S. Sustainability Consumer Dilemma Report, was released recently, detailing how inflation is impacting consumers’ sustainable actions.

    • The report, initiated by consumer data provider GWI, relies on a survey of over 20,000 U.S. internet users age 16 or older each quarter, in addition to supplementary data.
    • The “Consumer Dilemma” aims to take a closer look at what the cost-of-living crisis means for sustainable behaviors and attitudes from consumers.
    • It attempts to look at what’s on consumers’ minds during this current landscape, what sustainable actions consumers are taking amid inflation, and whether inflation will have an impact on sustainable spending.
    • One essential finding is that the sustainable actions that has seen the most growth are linked to reusing items. In one sense, this a sustainability effort that is practical for consumers during a difficult economic period because it avoids repeat buying.
    • Inflation or not, more than a fifth of consumers, led by younger generations, feel that brands have the most responsibility in supporting sustainable initiatives. They want to see efforts, especially from big-name companies.
    • Fifty-seven percent of consumers feel that the cost of living has “increased greatly” in the past six months, and 67% feel inflation has had a “dramatic” or “moderate” impact on themselves personally.
    • While some people have reported a “fatigue” in hearing about climate change, younger generations, including Gen Z and Millennials, still list climate change has a top-two concern for them. This drops off with older generations but paints a clear picture of the concerns of current and future consumers.
    • Twenty-seven percent of consumers say they are buying more brands and products made in the U.S.
    • Twelve percent of consumers are actively avoiding brands and products that don’t have recyclable packaging.
    • Sixty-eight percent of consumers claim to be price conscious when it comes to buying food or groceries.

    It might seem a relevant question to ask whether consumers are still prioritizing sustainability during a time when they are forced to be more budget conscious. Denise Taschereau, a PPAI board member and the CEO and co-founder of distributor Fairware, says that, from an ethical standpoint, accountability remains important, even through a time of inflation.

    “Sustainability is no longer an option to drop when times are tough,” Taschereau says. “It’s fundamental to the way business is being done.”

    The Fairware CEO also says that the demand for sustainable products remains high, as it is an issue that transcends problems of the moment, no matter how difficult.

    “We’ve seen the historical interest in ‘eco-products’ come and go, but this time around, our clients’ commitments to sustainability as core to how they choose their suppliers and their products is not wavering, even in the face of inflation and the threat of a recession.”

    PPAI Public Affairs Manager Maurice Norris says that he is hearing from a larger share of members that more and more of their clients are asking about sustainability and ESG (environmental, social and governance).

    “I think inflationary pressures, combined with tariffs, supply chain backlogs, and climate impacts could move sustainability-related endeavors from the front burner for a lot of companies, especially small businesses,” Norris says. “However, many end buyers seem to be holding focus on sustainability, so I think in those cases promo companies will have to follow suit.”

    It’s also worth noting that the study’s findings on certain reusable products are positive in nature for many promotional products. For example, the study found that consumers who claim to carry reusable water bottles or use a metal or glass straw has grown 10% and 9% respectively since Q4 of 2020.

    Kevin Kanimyar, founder of Yellow Tree Marketing and a social activist, told PPAI in July that sustainability gives consumers agency concerning the world around them, simply by purchasing something they might already want or need. The call to action that a brand can ask of its consumers once providing it walks the walk is an attempt at solidarity toward something bigger.

    “People also want to be given something to do,” Kanimyar says. “They see the issues and the cries for help and then think, ‘Well, what now? What can I do about it?’ Companies must provide the call to action and next steps for them to further reach their goals.”

  • 9 Aug 2022 12:07 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    U.S. businesses spend approximately $176 billion annually on incentive programs. That figure comes from the Incentive Federation, Inc.’s (IFI) recent 2022 Incentive Marketplace Estimate Research Study, which found 84% of businesses in the U.S. were spending significantly on award points, gift cards, trips and travel, merchandise, and experiential rewards to reward sales staff, employees, channel partners and customers.Since the last market estimate study was conducted in 2016, the non-cash incentives market has grown 49%. The IFI noted significant growth in the various award types across categories and target audiences, and that the number of companies, the incidence of specific reward types used within companies and, in some cases, per company spend have grown since the study was last conducted. Additionally, 92% of companies with revenues of $5 million or more use at least one form of non-cash incentive program.

    • Gift cards, including digital gift cards, are most prevalently used in all programs, with award points the second most used in three of four program types.
    • Trips and travel are used as rewards in sales incentive programs and channel/distributor/partner programs more often than in the other targeted types.
    • Branded merchandise and logoed merchandise are the most prevalent uses for client gifts, which are used in 75% of companies with more than $1 million in revenues.
    • Sales incentives account for the largest share of total non-cash incentive spending—30%—followed by employee incentives (23%), customer loyalty incentives (18%), channel/distributor incentives (14%) and corporate gifting (14%).
    • Non-cash sales incentives and employee rewards are the most prevalent forms of non-cash incentives, with 55% of businesses using sales programs and 70% of companies having employee programs.
    • Non-cash customer loyalty programs are used in 55% of firms, while 48% of companies use non-cash channel/distributor/partner programs.
    • Previous iterations were released in 2013 and 2016.

    Most of the businesses in the study—91%—reported revenues from $1 million-$10 million. The study also found:

    Another recent study also showed encouraging growth in the corporate gifting market as a whole, which is projected to top $300 billion in the U.S. by 2024.

    An alliance and umbrella organization of associations and corporations involved in various aspects of the incentive marketplace, the IFI undertakes related research and seeks to educate state and federal governments and agencies, as well as corporations, on the field. This is the third time the IFI has conducted a version of the Estimate Research Study. It sought to determine the strength of the current non-cash incentive market and how much U.S. companies of $1 million or more in annual revenues were spending on non-cash rewards and incentives, among other questions.

    The IFI conducted the survey in partnership with Rickard Garlick & Associates Consulting and Market Research Services. Data was drawn from a national sample of 1,000 business executives responsible for non-cash incentive programs in companies with at least $1 million in revenues. The study was made possible with major assistance from the Incentive Marketing Association, the Incentive Research Foundation, PPAI and a host of corporate sponsors.

    The full results from the Marketplace Estimate Research Study will be released to the public on September 15.“This study reaffirms that the use of non-cash incentives has been and continues to be an important part of many businesses’ growth strategies,” says Mike Donnelly, chair of the IFI and president of Hinda Incentives, a Chicago-based incentive solutions provider. “The growth in the use of non-cash incentives is an important signal that U.S. businesses value tangible incentives over simply using cash to recognize performance and loyalty.”

    Steve Slagle, the IFI’s managing director, says, “The Federation’s research in 1996 revealed that only 26% of U.S. businesses were using non-cash incentives, and our 2000 research reflected a $27 billion marketplace. The growth in the marketplace over 25 years is certainly gratifying and a tribute to the excellent work by the industry’s companies to educate businesses about the value of all forms of non-cash incentives.”

  • 2 Aug 2022 9:45 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    ShopWorks, a promotional products business software, has added shopping cart integration to their OnSite system’s offerings via their API (application programming interface) integration with SAGE, a leading provider of product research and business management solutions to the promotional products industry.

    ShopWorks already allows OnSite customers to source over 1 million promotional products from over 4,300 suppliers through their integration with SAGE. ShopWorks users can paste SAGE product IDs into their OnSite system, and all product details, pricing, and vendor information are transferred with no duplicate data entry.

    Now, ShopWorks customers can seamlessly import their shopping cart transactions from their SAGE Website or SAGE Company Stores into their OnSite software, where the order process will be completed. This new integration saves ShopWorks’s customers valuable time and eliminates potential mistakes from rekeying orders.

    “We are excited to expand our integration with ShopWorks to help alleviate some pain points for their customers,” said Jarod Thorndike, Vice President of Business Development. “We continuously strive to improve our relationships and build on the comprehensive services we can offer our integrated partners.”

    ShopWorks’s OnSite customers will need an active ManageOrders subscription to import transactions from their SAGE shopping carts. They can request their URL details from support@shopworx.com.

    For more information on SAGE, ShopWorks’s users can learn more at www.sageworld.com.

  • 2 Aug 2022 9:26 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Alan Peterson is stepping up into a new role at PPAI and taking on greater responsibilities. Peterson, who joined the Association in 2016 as its vice president of business development, will now serve as senior vice president, with expanded oversight of PPAI’s operations and programs.

    Peterson joined PPAI with an extensive background in business development and strategic management, trade shows and business-to-business media. During his career, he has held senior leadership roles at several prominent exhibition management and trade publication firms, with a direct hand in the success of numerous shows and publications serving a wide range of industries.

    As the Association’s vice president of business development, Peterson oversaw the business development, sales and marketing efforts of PPAI. In his new role as senior vice president, his responsibilities grow to include a larger share of the organization’s initiatives to help achieve member and association success.

    “My responsibilities will change significantly,” Peterson says. “I will be responsible for a number of new departments and will evaluate how we add key talent and find creative ways to reset expectations.”

    Looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities of his new role at the Association, Peterson says, “In response to COVID and all of the unfortunate aspects of the pandemic, PPAI and promotional products businesses have had to completely revamp how things are done. While I am sure I am not alone in preferring that the pandemic had never happened, the silver lining is that it allows us to create new products, elevate our colleagues and explore creative ways to serve our members.”

    But up first will be a fresh assessment of where PPAI stands. Peterson says, “My immediate goals are to dig deep on what are our key offerings, benefits and access to market that will provide our members with a trusted association focused on growing the market, industry and their businesses.”

    Now more than six years into his tenure in the promotional products industry, Peterson reflects on what he’s discovered about the field and the professionals within it, particularly over the last few tumultuous years.

    “It has been interesting learning more about the promotional products industry and how the engaged professionals, both at PPAI and in the industry, adapt,” Peterson says. “It amazed me how quickly both PPAI and companies changed the way they go to market and how they created products that were a small part of the spend within the industry—things like masks, Zoom, packaging, working from home, etc.—quickly became part of how business was conducted. Suppliers who never sold masks had them in their inventory within weeks to keep their people working and selling the product that distributors needed.”

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