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HPPA Industry News

  • 15 May 2023 7:23 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Alan Vaught is retiring.

    The co-founder and president of Garden Grove, California-based supplier and HPG subsidiary Evans Manufacturing, announced that he is stepping down, effective June 30.

    Industry Leader

    Evans was founded in 1983 as an injection molding company with a focus on retail markets. In the company’s early days, Vaught would sleep on the factory floor to make sure the injection-molding machines ran through the night. He and Evans have come a long way. In 1992 it moved into promotional products.

    • Evans operates in many categories, including healthcare, household, office, drinkware, pet, writing instruments, travel, auto, golf, outdoor, tech, spirit, school and more.
    • It added a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Nogales, Mexico in 2008.
    • Evans was named to PPAI Magazine’s Greatest Companies To Work For list as recently as 2021.

    The company was acquired by HPG in December 2022. As part of the transaction, Vaught continued to lead Evans as division president.

    "It has been an incredible journey working with the talented individuals at Evans Manufacturing,” Vaught says. “I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together, and I am confident that the company will continue to thrive and flourish in the years to come as part of the HPG family."

    What’s Next

    Vaught leaves an indelible mark on the company he co-founded. Credited with being an inspiring mentor and role model for numerous colleagues throughout his career, he is applauded for his willingness to share knowledge, provide guidance, and nurture talent.

    After retiring, Vaught plans to focus on personal interests such as sailing and spending quality time with his loved ones.

    “The HPG team wishes Alan a fulfilling and joyous retirement and expresses deep appreciation for his unwavering dedication and remarkable achievements during his tenure,” says Chris Anderson, CEO of HPG. “Evans and HPG remain committed to upholding the legacy Alan leaves behind, as it continues to deliver high-quality products and frictionless services to its valued customers. That said, Alan remains a significant HPG shareholder, and a trusted advisor to the company, and to myself.”

  • 9 May 2023 12:12 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Like many industries, two of promo’s biggest daily challenges are cybersecurity and order management efficiency. Through a third-party vendor, Florida-based supplier Koozie Group (PPAI 114187, S13) is finding solutions to both areas on the journey to digital transformation.

    The Florida-based supplier sends 300,000 order updates to customers per month, according to a case study by Bitly. The sheer volume of business is likely one reason Koozie Group became a client of the leading connections platform, which provides companies the use of branded links, custom QR codes and link-in-bio solutions.

    Koozie Group’s 300,000 monthly order updates are sent through Bitly’s secure short link technology, giving customers a sense of security as well as a clear and streamlined communication process.

    "With tens of thousands of orders being placed each month with Koozie Group, it's important to us that we create the best possible experience for our customers when they receive a communication from us," says Phil Gergen, SVP of Technology at Koozie Group. "With the Bitly Connections Platform, we are able to generate hundreds of thousands of trackable links for email and SMS messaging that are always stable, reliable and customizable. And because all of Koozie Group's shortened links are powered all in one place by Bitly, we can also continuously improve their performance and the overall customer experience."

    Koozie Group is one of several companies spotlighted by Bitly’s “Imagine The PossiBITLYties” campaign that shows how customers are using its Connections Platform to engage with their audiences.

    According to Bitly’s case study, Koozie Group uses Bitly short links to send customers directly to their orders through encrypted links without having to log in or receive other status updates, “which is a smoother user experience and still keeps their information secure,” Gergen says.

    Koozie Group has always used encrypted links in email updates to customers, but those links could be over 100 characters long. The shorter links are both safe and more user-friendly, and will be “much more appropriate for updates via text, which is an option on the horizon,” the company said. Customers can still choose to bypass the link and log in to their Koozie Group account.

  • 8 May 2023 11:41 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SAGE has officially released its Global Statistical Report for the first quarter of 2023, using data obtained through SAGE Total Access. The Q1 report takes data of various distributor activities and compares it to previous quarters and years in an effort to get a glimpse of the state of the promotional products industry.

    Overall, the results from the Q1 reports point to positive trends, which falls in line with what PPAI Research’s Q1 Survey had indicated about a strong start to 2023.

    Notable Results  

    SAGE is a valuable tool for product searches, and so far in 2023, distributors are using it in this manner even more than they were in January, February and March of 2022.

    In terms of total product searches:

    • January 2023 yielded a 20% increase over January 2022.
    • February 2023 yielded a 7% increase over February 2022.
    • March 2023 yielded a 1% increase over March 2022.


    As is often the case, the new year saw a big increase in product searches from distributors who began searching for orders to be delivered later in the year, after the usual dip during the holidays.

    • There was a 30% increase in distributor product searches from Q4 2022 to Q1 2023.


    When it comes to product category searches, bags are still king…

    • Bags were the most searched product category in January, February and March 2023, as they were in those months in 2021 and 2022.

    ...and pens have made a significant leap…

    • Pens were the second-most searched category in January, February and March 2023, despite not claiming that spot in any of those months the prior two years.

    …which means shirts took something of a dip.

    • Shirts, which had been the second-most searched category in all months of Q1 in 2021 and 2022, dropped to the third-most searched product category in January, February and March 2023.


    Meanwhile, distributors have been more commonly making sales presentations in early 2023, relative to Q1 of last year.

    • Total sales presentations by distributors in January 2023 were up 18% over January 2022.
    • Total sales presentations by distributors in February 2023 were up 9% over February 2022.
    • Total sales presentations by distributors in March 2023 were up 1% over March 2022.

    ^Total Sales Presentations Created By Distributors Q1 Year-Over-Year Comparison

    A full list of the top-50 product category searches for Q1 of 2023 include many of the usual suspects.

    • Magnets made a leap into the top 25.
    • Phone accessories moved into the top 50.

    View The Full Report

    The SAGE Global Statistical Report is a snapshot of how the industry is using one of its most powerful search tools. Information about trends, habits and volume can be gleaned by looking at the collected information.

    To view the full report for Q1 of 2023, click here.

  • 8 May 2023 11:38 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    PPAI has appointed Karie Cowden, MAS, to the Association’s Board of Directors with immediate effect. Cowden is joining the board to fill the remaining term of Noah Lapine.

    Lapine is stepping down from the board to focus on his work as CEO, Americas of the UK-based adm Group, parent company of distributor Lapine Associates. Lapine Associates was acquired by adm Group in May 2022 and Lapine was appointed to his new role at the private equity-backed company in January 2023. Lapine was elected to the PPAI board in 2020.

    Meet Karie Cowden, MAS

    Cowden is the president and founder of Connect the Dots Promotions, LLC, based in Phoenix. Starting her business in 2008, Cowden has come to understand and appreciate the challenges the promo industry faces. She is also an active volunteer:

    • She previously served as president of the Regional Association Council.
    • She is active in the Arizona Promotional Products Association.
    • She is a director of PromoCares, a volunteer-driven group of industry members dedicated to corporate social and environmental responsibility.
    • She previously served as a PPAI board member from 2008-2012.

    What They’re Saying

    “So much has changed since I had the honor of serving on the board last time around,” Cowden says. “I look forward to digging in and seeing how we can continue to propel our industry association forward!”

    PPAI Board Chair, Kevin Walsh, CAS, adds, “I am delighted to welcome Karie as a new board member to PPAI. Cowden brings the ‘solopreneurial’ perspective that comprises the majority of our member community, and I’m look forwarding to her greater involvement with the Association.”

  • 8 May 2023 11:36 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    If you’ve been in the promotional products industry for very long at all, you’ve probably picked up on a trend: Your colleagues in this line of work were either born into it and shown the ropes by their family members, or they fell into promo by complete accident.

    I’m the latter – a first generation American, the daughter of Caribbean-born parents from Trinidad and Tobago. They raised me in Brooklyn, New York, a long way from Houston, where I now live, or ePromos headquarters in Minnesota. I entered this industry by chance.

    When I started my career at ePromos, I knew nothing of promotional products. I didn’t think anything of them except that they were free: the T-shirt you receive at a sporting event or the pen you use at the bank. I told myself that I would stay for six months and then get into something else.

    Those six months have turned into 18 years and counting – the same length of time it takes for a baby to become an adult. I wasn’t born into promo, but you could say I’ve been raised by it. And just like your parents teach you common sense, this industry has taught me what I call the basics, which apply no matter how high you climb on your career ladder.

    My knowledge of operations comes from years of working in the trenches. I’ve learned by osmosis mixed with being told no and a lot of trial and error. I worked my way up from an entry level role to a C-suite position, and along my journey I have learned and seen so many things. But I always come back to the basics. No matter how many books you read on management, at the core there are basics steps or tips that determine every outcome.

    Let’s get back to the basics in running successful promo businesses. Here are five quick tips to achieve operational success.

    1) Do The Work

    Don’t skip steps in the process. Take time to do your research, vetting ideas and processes. Doing this will allow you to make better decisions that will directly affect what you are trying to accomplish. This preparation is essential to creating a solid plan. Slacking in this area can be costly and lead to the downfall of a project or process.

    While working smarter rather than harder is commendable, executing the work remains paramount.

    2) Listen And Solicit Feedback

    Listen and trust people of tenure in the roles or positions closely tied to the process or plan. Solicit feedback and stay in constant communication. Involve all key players and eliminate silos. This will create understanding and alignment amongst the team. Alignment ensures all players are working in unison to accomplish the goal. Working in unison is a superpower often forgotten.

    Having a team member out of alignment will derail what you are trying to accomplish. Having a pulse on the day-to-day and prevalent details will have you one step closer to securing a successful strategy.

    3) Execute 

    It’s easier said than done, but always critical. Be clear about what you are wanting to accomplish. Set goals or milestones and be accountable.

    Discipline will be notable, so you can avoid shiny things taking you off course or going down rabbit holes. It is easy to become overwhelmed, so execute each task in phases or steps. Break things down into bite size pieces, allowing a build up to completing the intended goals. It is important to know that the best plan can fall short, so be relentless and steadfast.

    4) Measure

    At this point you have done a sizable portion of the work. Too often, this is when fatigue kicks in. You have been working so hard that you neglect to measure the fruits of your labor, but the work is not over.

    Retrospective meetings are important, but it’s also crucial to have tangible data to prove out and or support what you are trying to accomplish. You want to identify strength and areas of improvement. These calls outs will lead to better decision making that will enhance your success.

    No matter the size of your company, you do not always need to break the bank to purchase tools to measure. Remember, it’s all about the basics. Re-use and recycle applies not only in sustainability, but in operations, too. Tap into the resources you already have in place. You will be surprised how many of your systems come with unused services apps or programs that can be taken advantage of. In addition, there are plenty of free tools online that can be tapped into.

    5) Step And Repeat

    Rome was not built in a day. Sometimes it takes more than one time for a process or task to stick. Do not get discouraged if what you laid out falls short the first time. Step and repeat – try and try again until you find a groove, and then watch what you have created bloom.

    ***

    On top of their likelihood to increase your odds of success with any project or process, practicing these tips repeatedly will increase your own skill level, value and awareness. Operations is not a race but a marathon, and you will improve with time and practice.

    If you can apply these tips, you are on your way to growth, scalability and operational success.

    Marshall is the vice president of operations at distributor ePromos Promotional Products. A self-described “operations fanatic,” she originally joined the company as a pre-production coordinator in 2004.

  • 28 Apr 2023 10:44 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Drinkware supplier ETS Express has launched a new sustainability initiative.

    The independent subsidiary of Top 40 supplier PCNA partnered with veritree, a restorative technology platform that partners with leading planting organizations around the world to provide evidence-based verification on their projects.

    tree forest

    ETS Express has partnered with veritree to support verified restorative tree planting.

    Once restoration efforts are verified, the impact data is published to a public blockchain to enforce traceability and transparency and to ensure that the data and evidence remain unaltered. As part of the new partnership, ETS Express has committed to supporting verified restorative tree (or kelp, in some cases) planting for every order placed.

    “We’ve been a reusable drinkware company since day one, so sustainability is part of our DNA,” Adam Stone, vice president of sales at ETS Express, told ASI Media. “With that said, we need to do more.”

    Partnering with veritree gives ETS Express the ability to work with reputable partners participating in restorative projects around the world; plus, the company provides verified data based on participation, according to Stone.

    “I think it’s important for us and the industry to provide more transparency as it relates to giveback programs, and veritree gives us this ability,” Stone added.

    Veritree was launched by the founders of Canadian sustainable apparel brand tentree, which has planted 10 trees for every one of its products purchased. Veritree CEO Derrick Emsley said in a Forbes interview last year that the company started as part of tentree’s efforts to verify and track its own sustainable impact. Emsley noted that tentree discovered projects where planting organizations didn’t fulfill their obligations – or years after a project, they’d go back and see there had been little long-term impact from their projects. “Poor planting practices, multiple organizations claiming the same trees, poor communication and more are all challenges we’ve wrestled with for the last decade,” Emsley added. “Veritree was created to help us solve these issues.”

    Veritree, along with its brand partners, has set a goal to plant over 1 billion verified trees by 2030, and so far, it’s had more than 21 million verified trees planted, according to its website. ETS Express isn’t the only promotional products company to partner with veritree. In January, Social Imprints (asi/164607) announced a pledge to plant 40,000 mangrove trees in Mombasa, Kenya in 2023, through a partnership with veritree.

    ETS Express has set a goal to plant 250,000 trees over the next few years. The supplier will be planting trees in the Forest Gardens of Tanzania and Rainy Bay in British Columbia. Thus far, according to its public veritree online dashboard, ETS Express has planted 7,000 total trees, which compares to planting 202 studio apartments full of trees; they’ve sequestered 305 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of removing 66 cars from the road for one year; and they’ve reforested 1.1 hectare of land, providing 140 workdays to local tree planters.

    The partnership with veritree is part of a broader focus on sustainability as a company, according to ETS Express. The supplier shares details of its sustainability initiatives here.

  • 28 Apr 2023 8:35 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Orbus Exhibit & Display Group®, North America’s largest producer and manufacturer of visual communications solutions for tradeshows and events, retail environments and corporate interiors, is excited to commemorate Earth Day and Earth Month by sharing that it has recycled an average of 75% of total waste each year for the past 10 years!

    In the past decade, Orbus has also diverted over 10 million pounds of waste from the landfill. This milestone is a testament to Orbus’ long-standing commitment to environmental sustainability and its ongoing efforts to reduce its impact on the planet.

    As part of Orbus’ sustainability initiatives, we have built and maintained a comprehensive recycling program that includes separating recycled waste into categories such as cardboard, paper, aluminum, fabric, steel, and other.

    Orbus has been ISO 14001:2015 certified since 2010 which recognizes our environmental management system that minimizes our impact on the environment in the design, manufacture, and storage of trade show displays and accessories.

    We are thrilled to celebrate Earth Day by reaching this significant milestone,” says Jim Concannon, Operations Manager & ISO Representative for Orbus. “We recognize the importance of taking care of our planet and are proud to do our part by implementing sustainable practices in our business operations.”

  • 25 Apr 2023 1:18 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Today, during day one of the two-day SAGE Conference, the industry’s largest online conference sharing practical, actionable takeaways for promotional products professionals, SAGE announced several new features and updates. Eric Natinsky, SAGE CEO, revealed new AI functionality in SAGE Online, SAGE Web, and SAGE Website Professional Plus, allowing distributors to instantly leverage the power of AI to provide fresh ideas, improve efficiency and effortlessly create dynamic content for their customers. Other notable releases include the addition of live order status and real-time inventory features in SAGE Web.

    SAGE has developed technology that fine-tunes the AI model to yield customized results specific to the promotional products industry. The new SAGE AI functionality will be added to the product search area and the presentation and projects modules in SAGE Online and SAGE Web. It will also be added to SAGE Website Professional Plus.

    In the product search area, the brand-new SAGE Idea Wizard AI assistant will help distributors brainstorm ideas relating to their project and generate search results based on the specified search criteria. After providing a plain English description of the event or promotion, the Idea Wizard will use SAGE’s vast information resources as well as the power of AI to identify creative and ideas based on the specific event or promotion. For example, if a client is looking for promotional items for a golf tournament with an eco-friendly theme, the Idea Wizard will take that information and respond with a variety of eco-friendly promotional items that relate to golf.

    Eric Natinsky, CEO of SAGE, remarked “This is truly a remarkable point in time for technology in general but also for the promotional products industry as well. The Idea Wizard represents the first time that we as an industry are able to utilize the power of AI as a tool to enhance our own capabilities and provide the best service possible. And this is only the beginning!”

    SAGE also announced the addition of AI-powered content creation in several areas within its Total Access distributor research and business management platform. For example, in the presentations area, distributors can now instantly create introductory text for a presentation that is based on the client, the client’s industry, the products in the presentation, and other relevant information.

    In addition, within the projects module, distributors can now instantly create customized thank you notes, again based on the specific client and project information to make the note relevant and unique.

    SAGE Website Professional Plus customers can now leverage SAGE’s AI functionality on their websites to help create new, dynamic content. With the click or tap of a button, SAGE customers can now create custom homepage text, blogs, and more by adding a prompt to the text box field and clicking the button for auto-generated content.

    SAGE’s content creation technology will also create content in other languages and will even adjust for dialect in different countries. For example, it can easily create content in French for a client in Quebec, Canada, or will use a different dialect of English when creating content in English for a Canadian-based client as opposed to a US-based client.

    Natinsky continued, “The biggest leap in AI that we’ve all seen recently with ChatGPT and other similar technologies is in language. Using these technologies to create a first draft of content is a huge timesaver and idea generator. Then you can always make changes from there to get it just the way you want it before you actually use the content.”

    In addition, SAGE also announced that live inventory and real-time order status updates are now available in SAGE Web in addition to SAGE Online. Distributors using SAGE Web can now access real-time, live inventory information from participating suppliers. Real-time order status updates enable distributors to see the actual status of their orders at any time, as well as the option to receive notifications and alerts anytime the order status changes.

    All of these new technologies announced at SAGE Conference will be available today in SAGE Online, SAGE Web, and SAGE Website Professional Plus.

    David Natinsky, SAGE’s President, said, “As an industry, it’s important that we keep looking for ways to use technology to help our industry innovate, grow and provide the service that the public expects in today’s time. That’s our focus here at SAGE and today’s announcements are the next step in that continuous evolution.”

    The recording of Eric Natinsky's keynote session, The SAGE 2023 Breakdown, announcing the industry's first AI-powered research and business management features will be available to view in the on-demand education area during day two of SAGE Conference. To attend day two of SAGE Conference, register now at www.sageworld.com/conference.

    To learn more about SAGE Total Access, visit www.sageworld.com.

  • 25 Apr 2023 9:11 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Orbus Exhibit & Display Group®, North America’s largest producer and manufacturer of visual communications solutions for tradeshows and events, retail environments and corporate interiors, sadly announces the sudden death of Simon Perutz, an extraordinarily revered, respected and honored founder of Nimlok, Orbus and 13 other exhibit and display companies around the globe.

    Simon died suddenly while in England with his wife Kim on April 19, 2023, at the age of 64.

    SIMON PERUTZSimon was a remarkable man of inspiration, intelligence, wit, energy, tenacity and generosity. He was an entrepreneur, mentor, associate and friend to many. Simon was a titan in the Exhibit Industry and leaves a legacy of relationship-building, innovation, hard work, and enormous success. More importantly, he was a loving husband, son, brother, father, and grandfather and is survived by his wife Kim, sons Andrew and Matthew, daughters Kate, Tessa, and Lucy, as well as granddaughter Daisy, and his siblings Tim and Sandie.

    Simon’s father, Gerald Perutz, and Neil Nimmo – inventor of the Nimlok lock & clip and the original modular display system – founded Nimlok Limited in the UK in 1970. The business grew rapidly and in 1977, Gerald relocated his family from the United Kingdom to the United States. In 1981, Neil, Gerald and Simon established Nimlok in the United States.

    Simon led Nimlok’s product development, sales, and marketing efforts with wild success. He formed relationships with business leaders across the nation and the globe, which led to the creation of a network of Nimlok Dealerships in the US, the establishment of Nimlok Canada in 1985, as well as Nimlok Italy and Nimlok Australia, among others.

    In 2001, Simon established Orbus Exhibit & Display Group in the United States. He continued to lead the Nimlok business in the US until 2010, when Nimlok merged with Orbus. Together, Simon, his brother Tim and Gerald established 15 exhibit and display-focused companies worldwide and formed the P3 Group (commemorating the three Perutz’s – Gerald, Simon, and Tim)

    “Words cannot express what a truly incredible person Simon was,” Gary Keefer, CEO of Orbus Exhibit & Display Group. “We are deeply saddened, yet extremely thankful to have had such a wonderful founder, mentor and caring leader. Simon will be profoundly missed and honored.”

    Please visit www.nimlok.com/Simon-Perutz to see two videos that honor and revere Simon.

  • 24 Apr 2023 11:38 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    A dental floss dispenser. A double-edged envelope opener. A facial tissue dispenser.

    These are among the dozens of patents filed by longtime industry pro David Lage. But to hear it from the colleagues who knew him well, they don’t begin to account for his contributions to the promotional products industry.

    Lage, who passed away on April 4 at the age of 86, served on the PPAI Board of Directors from 1982-86. He spent more than 25 years leading Missouri-based supplier Quick Point (PPAI 114051, S5). He is the father of PPAI Hall of Fame member Paul Lage, currently a board member of California Tattoos and the former president of IMAGEN Brands.

    In a Facebook post, the younger Lage called his father “a great man who was a positive influence for so many people. Needless to say, he was a wonderful father, a great friend, a mentor and my hero!”

    David Lage served as a Marine and later supported the Corps with volunteerism and products. When he wasn't working, he loved to hunt, fish and play golf, his son says. He had battled dementia in recent years, and his wife Sandy passed away last July.

    More than his innovative approach to building a product line, David Lage was known by promotional products colleagues as a willing mentor.

    Wayne Greenberg, a former PPAI board chair, remembers him as the mentor to respected industry contributor and motivational speaker Phil Carney, also of Quick Point. His list of friends seems ripped straight from the PPAI Hall of Fame yearbooks, and includes industry heavy hitters the likes of Gene Geiger, MAS+; Margie Price, MAS; Mark Gilman, CAS; Chuck Pecher; and many others.

    Price says she met David Lage when she was new to the industry and St. Louis. He was leading an education program for PPAMidwest. “For some reason he realized I was a newbie – probably because I asked too many questions,” Price says. “He taught me so many things beginning that day and never stopped answering my questions. He became a mentor and a friend and as years went by.

    “I became more involved with PPAI and went on the board of directors, where I met Paul Lage and learned how much like his father Paul was. I will always appreciate what I learned from Dave and will remember him fondly forever.”

    David Lage was named an honorary life member by the PPAI board in 2005, and in 2016 earned PPAI Fellow Recognition. His industry volunteerism included work on the Association’s Suppliers Advisory Council and Conventions Advisory Council, as well as its Strategic Planning Committee.

    Greenberg says David Lage was the brains behind many innovative products at Quick Point, but what he remembers most is that he was a gentleman.

    Geiger, who joined the PPAI board in the same class as David Lage, says the two formed a friendship that endured and deepened over the years.

    “Others can talk about his business accomplishments as the leader of Quick Point. What I loved about him was his humanity – his elemental goodness,” Geiger says. “He was without pretense personally or rushed judgments about others. He cared deeply about his colleagues, friends and our industry. And he was so much fun! One could not be with him without being lifted by his quick laugh and joyful spirit.

    “When we get to the end, all that matters is how we lived and how we impacted those we inhabit the world with. By that measure, Dave left this a better place and me a better person.”

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