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HPPA Industry News

  • 29 Nov 2022 9:45 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The paper used by Koozie Group (PPAI 114187, S13) in most of its calendars and all of its paper mouse pads, Souvenir Sticky Note pads and Souvenir scratch pad products now comes from facilities certified by either the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) or the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). These two organizations are the gold standard for responsible forestry management.

    • The initiative is part of the company’s Keep It. Give It. vision that is built on four pillars, including environmental stewardship as well as fostering diversity & inclusion, safety & social responsibility, and giving back to employees & the community.
    • Forests managed under the FSC and SFI must adhere to a strict set of guidelines. By choosing paper produced from certified forests, Koozie Group is ensuring that its supply chain supports the company’s environmental, social, and governance commitments. All three of Koozie Group’s domestic facilities received FSC and SFI certification in 2021.
    • Starting with the 2023 product year, nearly 95% of Koozie Group’s calendars will be produced with FSC- or SFI-certified paper. The addition of the FSC/SFI logo will be a rolling process, with full implementation on 2024 calendars. The FSC logo has already been added to the backer sheets of Souvenir Sticky Note pads. All certified products are now identified on the company’s website.
  • 23 Nov 2022 11:34 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Geiger (PPAI 105182, D12) has hired Stephanie Whitman as vice president of marketing.

    • Whitman joins Geiger from Hussey Seating Company, a leading international seating manufacturer, where she previously served as manager of marketing operations.
    • “I am thrilled to be joining this iconic business at a time of exciting opportunity,” Whitman said. “The rich history of the organization combined with serious investments in both people and acquisitions set Geiger on a path of impressive growth.”
    • As vice president of marketing, Whitman will oversee marketing and corporate communications for Geiger’s international brand, which boasts more than 500 employees and 450 independent sales representatives.
  • 17 Nov 2022 8:52 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The U.S. mid-term elections have come down to a close finish with, as of publication, the Democrats holding onto control of the Senate and the Republicans appearing to win a slim majority in the House.

    The effects of this shift in legislative makeup will ripple through the country in myriad ways. For the promo industry, one outcome that bears watching is the elections’ impact on foreign trade.

    Trade Policy

    The 118th Congress – January 3, 2023, to January 3, 2025 – may shake up U.S. trade policy. With a divided legislature, observers expect much of the White House’s domestic agenda will likely be stalled but that possibilities exist for common ground in foreign and trade policy. Politico cites legislators on both sides of the aisle who see openings for more traditional free trade agreements in the years ahead.

    • Due to their popularity with unions and domestic manufacturers, the Biden administration has largely maintained tariffs on certain Chinese imports put in place during the prior administration.
    • In a sign of entrenching trade and geopolitical disputes between the countries, the U.S. in October announced prohibitions on the export of computer chips and chip fabrication equipment to China.
    • This week, President Biden will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 summit in Indonesia to discuss trade, Taiwan and other points of contention.

    Trade policy has found bipartisan support in recent years, with the Trump administration’s U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement passing the House 385-41.

    • Observers suggest that there may eventually also be pressure to rejoin the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other international agreements.

    The Promo Perspective

    “With a divided Congress… the President’s domestic agenda will become a bit more stifled,” says Brian Deissroth, CAS, senior key accounts manager at Augusta Sportswear, PPAI Regional Relations Committee chair and frequent Legislative Education and Action Day delegate at both the state and federal levels. “This will create room for foreign policy and trade initiatives.

    “It is likely that the new Congress will look to adapt new trade policies given the aggressiveness of China in recent years. Republicans will seek to highlight trade and push the President on trade promotion authority, which allows for expedited Congressional approval on trade deals. The key to any legislation moving forward is bipartisan cooperation from both chambers.”

    The promo industry has been dealing with the federal government’s Section 232 and 301 tariffs on Chinese imports since 2018 and has in many ways adapted to them. Deissroth says, “Because of the tariffs, buyers and end users seem to be leaning toward products and apparel that is not produced in China but rather produced in other nations.”


    For several years, PPAI and its partners across U.S. industry have advocated against tariffs and other barriers to trade. In particular, the Association has pushed back against Section 232 and 301 tariffs levied against Chinese imports in 2018 stemming from an investigation of China’s intellectual property policies and practices.

    • The tariffs were imposed on Chinese imports in four tranches. The third and fourth tranches significantly impacted the promotional products industry.
    • Numerous exclusions affecting goods subject to tariffs stemming from the Section 232 and 301 investigations lapsed in December 2020. PPAI and its coalition partners successfully lobbied the U.S. Trade Representative to have those exclusions reinstated, retroactively, earlier this year.
  • 17 Nov 2022 11:14 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    American Solutions for Business celebrates achieving another record year of growth. During their annual home office update meeting, President of American, Justin Zavadil shared updates regarding projects and events happening within the home office and field, while VP of Finance, Bill Finley, shared updates regarding ASB’s growth and increased stock share value.

    “It’s exciting to see the direction we’re moving as a company,” expressed Zavadil. “Together as a team, we’ve surpassed the goals that we set for this fiscal year. We attribute it to the hard work and dedication of our amazing salespeople, home office team and vendors.”

    “2022 was another great year thanks to the efforts of the American team,” explained Finley. “We achieved record financial growth, allowing us to reach a stock share value increase of 37%. As an employee-owned company, this makes an incredible impact on all owners within American.”
  • 15 Nov 2022 9:43 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    OrderMyGear (PPAI 704581) has acquired BrightStores (PPAI 256593), the Denver-headquartered provider of online company stores for promotional product distributors. Dallas-based OrderMyGear, an online platform for selling custom-branded merchandise, announced the acquisition today.

    The Sum Of Their Parts

    OrderMyGear and BrightStores’s technology platforms both operate in the team sporting goods and promotional products spaces. Together, they will target the online needs of promotional product distributors, apparel decorators, and team dealers.

    • The acquisition creates a fully configurable, feature rich online store solution to support complex, long-term use cases alongside OMG’s online pop-up stores.
    • Existing clients will continue to use their existing online store solutions while gaining access to additional capabilities.

    What They’re Saying

    “Kent McKeaigg founded OMG in 2007 with a vision to create a simple way for team dealers to sell to groups online,” says Leonid Rozkin, CEO of OMG. “Dan Halama founded BrightStores more than 20 years ago with a similar vision for promotional product distributors. Both founders recognized the market was evolving and sales channels of the past wouldn’t scale.

    “OMG and BrightStores have a shared vision to be the best online store provider in the market, and our complementary solutions and expertise allow us to do exactly that. The market continues to evolve, so we’re excited to help clients stay ahead of the game and grow their business online.”

    Dan Halama, CEO of BrightStores, says, “We are thrilled to join forces with a like-minded organization that shares our passion for partnering with clients to grow their business. This partnership will continue to push the branded merchandise space forward.

    “Our collective expertise is unmatched. With OMG’s history and leadership team, we will have more resources to innovate and serve our clients. We’ll be able to introduce more online sales strategies and use cases. This is exciting for the industry, our clients, and our team.”

  • 15 Nov 2022 9:41 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    PPAI has promoted two staff members to new positions serving Association members:

    • Christina Sanders, PPAI’s awards and recognition manager and executive director of the Specialty Advertising Association of California (SAAC), now has the additional title of regional relations manager.
    • Kathlene Brethowr, PPAI’s member engagement manager, is also the new executive director of the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF).

    Sanders has managed PPAI’s awards programs since 2010, overseeing the PPAI Pyramid Award Competition, the PPAI Hall of Fame and the Distinguished Service, Woman of Achievement, H. Ted Olson Humanitarian and Regional Volunteer awards.

    In February, Sanders became executive director of SAAC, helping its board of directors guide the direction of the regional association while engaging with members and potential members.

    As regional relations manager, Sanders will manage the relationship between PPAI and the promotional products industry’s 27 regional associations along with the Regional Relations Committee (RRC) – previously known as Regional Association Council).

    “I look forward to working with the RRC and the regional associations to foster strategic partnerships that allow the associations and all our members to continue to grow and flourish,” Sanders says.

    Brethowr, who joined PPAI in 2018, works with the PPAI Board of Directors and oversees the Association’s volunteer program and its summer conferences in her role as member engagement manager.

    As executive director of PPEF, Brethowr will manage the Board of Trustees and all PPEF activities, including the scholarship program, fundraising activities and donor recognition initiatives.

    Since 1989, the PPEF has awarded over $3 million in college scholarships to 1,618 promotional products industry employees and their children. This year, $299,000 in scholarship money was awarded to 130 new recipients and 32 renewal recipients.

    “Through the incredible donations it receives, PPEF is able to provide a lasting impact on the lives of families and employees within the promotional products industry. This includes awarding four-year scholarships for college students, Friends of PPMN Scholarships for industry employees, Chairman’s scholarships for college juniors, or one-year scholarships for college students and trade school applicants,” Brethowr says. “I am looking forward to being part of this foundation and hopefully growing the impact it has on our industry and the families involved. I have always wanted to be in a career that allows me to play a part in changing lives, and PPEF does just that.”

  • 15 Nov 2022 9:38 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    On August 31, pre-installed Pantone Color Books were phased out of Adobe applications. While users rely on Pantone color options in their Adobe products, Pantone and Adobe are separate companies, which has presented issues in providing the most up-to-date Pantone services. Pantone libraries had become outdated with missing colors and inaccurate information.

    The proprietary color design company says that purchasing Pantone Connect is the solution that will allow Adobe users to access all 15,000 Pantone colors.

    What Impact Will The Phase Out Have?

    The following Pantone Color Books will not be immediately affected by the change and will remain in the 2022 versions of Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign and Adobe Photoshop:

    • PANTONE CMYK Coated
    • PANTONE CMYK Uncoated
    • PANTONE Metallics Coated

    Existing documents containing Pantone References will keep those color identities.

    Adobe Photoshop will be affected as follows:

    • Photoshop files using swatches from Pantone Color Books, when opened, placed or edited in releases prior to August 2022, will continue to function as they did in those releases.
    • Photoshop files with spot channels where the color used is from a non-available Color Book will open with a color rendering error.
    • When the spot channels have color from non-available Pantone Color Books, the information is fetched from those Color Book for appropriate rendering. If the color is not fetched due to absence of parent Color Books, such spot channels will render in black/gray.
    • The color details are preserved, so files will continue to support production workflows, but will display as gray/black when opening, placing or editing the file in Photoshop.

    Adobe Illustrator will be affected as follows:

    • Illustrator files having swatches from Pantone Color Books, when opened or placed in previous or future releases, will continue to function without any impact.
    • When Illustrator files have place-linked Photoshop files that have spot channels, and such spot channels have colors from Color Books that are no longer available, placed Photoshop content will render gray/black in Illustrator.

    InDesign files having swatches from Pantone Color Books, when opened or placed, in previous or future releases, will continue to function without any impact. When InDesign files contain Photoshop files that have spot channels and such spot channels have colors from Color Books that are no longer available, placed Photoshop content will render gray/black in InDesign.

    Pantone Connect Can Be The Solution

    All 15,000 Pantone colors and color design tools are available through Pantone Connect and will negate any of the above impacts of the phase out. 

    Purchasing a Pantone Connect subscription ensures consistency and accuracy with Pantone’s offerings. The platform also allows for sharing and collaborating with team members and clients, supports a remote work environment and is accessible at all times through its app.

    Features include:

    • Search any colors.
    • Pick any colors visually.
    • Measure any colors in the physical world.
    • Convert RGB/CMYK/HEX/L*a*b* data to closes Pantone Color.
    • See Color Data, Color Psychology and Cross Reference against all Pantone Libraries.
    • Build mood boards with Color Story.
    • Accessibility support for color blindness.
    • Compare color choices with Light & Dark Simulations.
    • Share Palettes with anyone.
    • Change and update shared palette in real-time.
    • Trend and palette exploration

    Pantone Connect is available through connect.pantone.com, IOS/Android mobile application or Adobe Extension in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

    Higher pricing for a Pantone Connect subscription will go into effect September 15, so there is still time to take advantage of lower pricing.

  • 15 Nov 2022 9:35 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    This week, PPAI joined a roundtable discussion hosted by the U.S. Small Business Administration to discuss the Department of Labor’s proposed rule on independent contractor classification under the Fair Labor Standards Act and share how it would affect the promo industry.

    PPAI has been tracking changes to independent contractor classification for some time and advocating on behalf of the promotional products industry at both the state and federal levels. Working with industry representatives through its Government Relations Advisory Council, the Association believes that should the DoL’s proposed rule be implemented, it would become extremely difficult for thousands of entrepreneurs in the promo industry to maintain their status.

    Industry Advocacy

    The SBA’s Office of Advocacy held the roundtable to receive feedback on the numbers of small businesses affected and the compliance costs of the rule, and potential regulatory alternatives that would minimize its impact. PPAI Board Chair Dawn Olds, MAS, and PPAI Public Affairs Manager Maurice Norris joined the discuss to educate the SBA on the promotional merchandise market and this rule’s effects on the industry.

    • The promotional products industry employs approximately half a million Americans and about 100,000 of them serve in it as salespeople. Of those, by PPAI’s count, roughly 30,000 are independent contractors.

    During the roundtable, Olds and Norris explained the role independent contractors play in the promotional products industry and focused on the new test that the DoL has proposed.

    • PPAI is seeking particular accommodation for the industry on one factor of the proposed new test: to what extent the independent contractor is integral to the employer’s business.

    “Our industry is made up of thousands of small, proudly entrepreneurial businesses, many owned by historically disadvantaged groups,” Olds says, sharing her remarks from the roundtable. “The proposed DoL changes ignore independent contractor precedence in place for well over 50 years in our industry. This precedence has been supported by the IRS. Congressional representatives, who understand economic and personal impact – as a result of PPAI’s advocacy efforts – have correctly refused to make the changes DoL is considering.”

    The promotional products industry’s business model relies heavily on independent contractors. For example, small suppliers leverage them as their representatives at the flood of trade shows held across the country during late spring and summer. Olds notes that without this support, small suppliers cannot reach the broader audience and are likely to lose sales to larger companies.

    “Diversity-owned businesses who are affiliated with a larger company for financing and back-office outsourcing support may be forced to lose their independence, leave the industry, or build this infrastructure on their own,” Olds says.

    She concluded the industry’s remarks at the roundtable by calling on the DoL to give its commissions-based, independent contractor salespeople the freedom to run their own businesses. Olds says, “We request an exception for this industry or clarification … of the proposed rule to make clear this kind of relationship is not part of the ‘integral to business’ definition.”

    Norris also spoke, following up Olds to point out the difficulty the test factor places on small businesses. He said, “It seems to lean toward employee status and places the onus on small business owners to prove otherwise.”

    Take Action

    Members of the promotional products industry are encouraged to contact the Department of Labor and share their own accounts of how the DoL’s proposed rule would affect their business. PPAI has also prepared comments that industry members can incorporate into their outreach.

    • Industry members perspectives can be uploaded or copied directly into the Federal Register ahead of the December 13 public comment deadline.
  • 3 Nov 2022 12:00 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    NC Custom, a leading top 40 promotional products supplier, announced today it has rolled out a new Fresh Beginnings® Gourmet Cookies and Holiday line with new tin and packaging options, and an expanded line of cookies, confections, assortments and seasonal offerings made exclusively by Chocolate Inn. These new offerings come just in time for the holiday season, offering distributors and their customers even more ways to customize employee and client gifts, paired with the added assurance of stock position in a challenging supply chain environment.

    “With food gifting at record demand this year, paired with issues plaguing the supply chain, Chocolate Inn has become a trusted asset for those looking for promotional baked goods and confection solutions,” said Lance Stier, CEO of NC Custom. “Our new Fresh Beginnings® baked goods line offers distributors an easy way for their customers to deliver a custom, branded experience and leave a delicious, lasting impact. Because we incorporated the Fresh Beginnings® bakery into our Chocolate Inn facility, it allows our distributors to deliver premium holiday gifts to their clients and customers on time.”

    The new Fresh Beginnings® line enhances the previous Fresh Beginnings® offerings with new full color lid customization and additional packaging options such as customized buckets and towers. In addition, the new offerings contain various non-melt options and cookies that boast a 3-month shelf life. What’s under the lid has been enhanced, too. Seasonal tins offer a selection of chocolate drizzled cookies along with various best-selling nuts and confections that Chocolate Inn has been traditionally known for.

    “We have tremendous respect for the Fresh Beginnings® business, and the product quality and taste of their freshly baked goods. We are excited for NC Custom to further expand its footprint in the baked goods space,” said David Miller, President of NC Custom (Chocolate Inn, Lanco, and Ace).  “This addition complements the success of several recent bakery category offerings, and further solidifies our current position as a market-leading manufacturer in what we see as an untapped segment in the marketplace.”

    The new Fresh Beginnings® Holiday Assortments are available immediately and can be found www.nccustom.com.

  • 2 Nov 2022 1:25 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Top 20 supplier Edwards Garment Co., known as Edwards, has named Brett Garran as their new Vice President of Sales.

    Brett has been in the apparel industry for nearly 15 years and has been a vital part of the Edwards sales team since joining the company in 2013. Most recently, Brett has been leading the effort of growing sales with Edwards National accounts as their National Sales Director. Over the past 9-1/2 years at Edwards, Brett has contributed to the growth and visibility of Edwards and has grown accounts under his care double digits each year.

    In his new role, Brett will guide all sales efforts for the Edwards catalog division including directly overseeing Edwards Territory Managers and leading account management efforts across all markets. He will closely collaborate with Customer Service, Marketing, Merchandising, and the Vancouver-based EdwardsX custom division. With this promotion, Brett has also been added to the leadership team at Edwards.
    This successful history of growing sales and visibility gives Edwards the confidence that Brett will continue to lead efforts to grow and be a major player in the corporate apparel industry.

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