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HPPA Industry News

  • 6 Apr 2023 10:51 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Gemline has expanded its product offering to include Igloo Playmate coolers. 

    • This offering will include the Igloo Playmate Pal 7 Qt. Cooler and the Igloo Playmate Elite 16 Qt Cooler.
    • Both will be part of Gemline's Summer 2023 Collection.
    • Gemline utilizes its recently expanded digital decoration capabilities for these offerings. 
    • The partnership between Gemline and Igloo began over 10 years ago. 

    "We are coming off back-to-back record sales years with Igloo products and continue to look for opportunities to offer our distributor partners the most sought-after products and the best branding options available," says Frank Carpenito, president and CEO of Gemline. "We also continue to invest heavily in state-of-the-art decorating technology."

  • 5 Apr 2023 10:21 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Based on PPAI’s annual Sales Volume Estimate, it’s hard not to feel good about the state of the promotional products industry. It was a record year, with promo topping $25 billion in total sales for the first time ever.

    A 13% increase over 2021 total sales suggests that the industry has fully rebounded from the unprecedented circumstances of the first year of the pandemic. But a record-breaking year inevitably leads to questions about 2023: Is this type of growth sustainable? Or is down the only direction left for 2023?

    Most would agree that 2022 required, as Proforma CEO Vera Muzzillo calls it, a “confluence of positive events that contributed to the significant growth.” Quite a few factors went into the exceptionally high sales totals in the promo industry in 2022. Since early 2023, when the early results of the Sales Volume Estimate were indicating a record year, PPAI Media has spoken with key leaders from some of the industry’s biggest companies to get a clearer picture of what those factors truly are.

    Some of them might prove to be specific to 2022. Others might have staying power. Examined together, rational expectations for 2023 may begin to emerge.

    The Flash-In-The-Pan Factors

    There isn’t an industry – or perhaps even an individual – who can realistically talk about 2022 without bringing up inflation. It may well have been the word of the year, and it is very much part of the conversation when it comes to the promo industry’s big year.

    Inflated prices mean inflated sales numbers, at least to some degree.

    “It’s conceivable that, while we may have experienced record top-line numbers for the industry, we may not yet have eclipsed the same unit sales as the industry experienced in 2019, due to higher prices for similar items,” says Kevin Walsh, CAS, president of Showdown Displays and PPAI board chair.

    Thus, inflation is the big caveat that the promo world will have to wrestle with when using 2022 as an indicator of the future. Promo companies were forced to sell products at a higher price because they were paying higher prices for nearly everything that went into their promo business. As Nancy Schmidt, CEO of AIA Corporation, says, “Inflationary prices drove higher total revenues.”

    Parsing out how much price inflation might have inflated sales totals is no easy task, considering that independent of inflation, many promo companies were very happy with the number of sales they achieved in the year. Furthermore, inflation began to show signs of letting up in the latter half of the year, meaning promo companies, like many industries, no longer had to constantly react to inflation’s whims.

    “Price fluctuation amongst various commodities started to level out, which thus made it easier to stabilize pricing for a longer period of time,” says CJ Schmidt, CEO of Hit Promotional Products.

    Another factor potentially specific to 2022 was that many clients might have stockpiled marketing budgets from more cautious spending in the two years prior. It wasn’t until a few months into 2022 that many brands went full throttle back into their marketing plans, likely with some amount of surplus carried over from a spending pause in 2020 and 2021. Promo likely saw the dividends in 2022.

    “I believe that most corporations had a larger budget piling up from the previous two years, which increased their promotional spending,” says CJ Schmidt.

    Calling this a flash in the pan would be presumptuous. Certainly, some of that spend on promo was used with surplus dollars, but if the strategy was effective, there’s no reason to think most clients will not continue to double down.

    “Distributors and end buyers are increasingly incorporating promotional products as part of their integrated marketing strategy, resulting in a higher share of their budgets being devoted to promo,” says Nancy Schmidt.

    The Promising Factors

    If a big portion of stockpiled marketing budgets went toward promotional products, it certainly wasn’t for arbitrary reasons. The return of in-person events such as concerts, sporting events, conferences, sales meetings, trade shows and other events were significant contributors to 2022’s growth.

    Live events often go hand-in-hand with promo, but they also create a buzz that reminds clients of the lasting effect of promo. It’s almost a domino effect.

    “We returned to events in full force, recapturing the annual energy of promo for the first time since the pandemic began,” says Nancy Schmidt.

    All of this was only made reasonably cost effective, however, because of a fairly dramatic improvement to the supply chain – a major talking point in Q1 – as we progressed deeper into 2022.

    “Having the goods available for sale at the industry’s peak season was a major contributing factor,” says Walsh.

    As China contends with its own major wave of COVID-19, complications may still arise going forward, but a supply chain turnaround can only be seen as good news. CJ Schmidt agrees that inventory levels “started to creep their way back to a level of normalcy towards the latter half of 2022,” which was ultimately a prerequisite for record-breaking sales numbers.

    Essentially all of these factors are related to the COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented global and economic effects. Times were hard, and there’s no getting around that.

    “Many businesses thrived through the pandemic, but generally speaking, that was not the case with promotional products,” Walsh says.

    The further we get from the onset of the pandemic, the easier it has become to do business, resulting in something of a delayed recovery for the promo industry.

    What About 2023 (And Beyond)?

    The promo leaders we spoke to all seem confident in another strong year for promo in 2023, albeit with possibly less growth than in 2022. Of course, there is the remote but lingering possibility of rockier economic conditions ahead.

    “I see the industry growing again, at least 5-10%,” predicts Muzzillo. “If we hit a recession, all bets are off.”

    To Muzzillo, much of what has been detailed above indicates positive and relatively sustainable momentum. Surviving the pandemic brought more than just survival. Proforma’s pivot into PPE products and e-commerce improvements actually laid the groundwork for growth that paid off in 2022.

    “A lot of what we did really set our owners and our distributors up for success, because it brought on new customers, new opportunities, and we delivered quality products on time during COVID,” Muzzillo says.

    Independent of economic and global factors, there are two impactful areas that the promotional products industry focused on and improved in during 2022: higher-quality products and education.

    Much of the promo world understands that higher-quality products will be a requirement of the industry’s growth. End users care about the sustainability of the products put in front of them. That means products that last longer, and in turn, come at higher price points. It’s possible 2022 proved that clients are willing to pay those higher prices for the idea that end users will equate the quality of the brand with the quality of the promotional product.

    “Eco-friendly, renewable products and products with social impact tend to carry a higher price point to match the higher perceived (and real) value,” Nancy Schmidt says.

    Additionally, the industry and PPAI have made efforts to explain to clients what we already know: Promotional Products Work! That’s the name of the Association’s initiative to translate the range and effectiveness of promo to potential and existing clients. Perhaps 2022 is the beginning of those efforts landing with their intended targets.

    “People are really starting to understand that the cost per impression, and the return on the investment of a promotional product and the longevity of it, has such tremendous value relative to other forms of advertising,” Muzzillo says. “I think we, as the leaders of this industry, have a responsibility to continue to get that message out.”

    All of this has promo leaders confident that, even with the inflation caveat, 2023 will be another year of growth.

    “We are expecting a low double-digit growth in 2023, after a very strong year in 2022,” says CJ Schmidt.

    Perhaps we are emphasizing the wrong metrics when looking toward the future. Muzzillo points out that promo still makes up a relatively small portion of many companies’ advertising spending, while delivering great results. Her big prediction is that we may see a change in that regard.

    “[Promo] will continue to propel this industry  forward, I believe, at a slightly enhanced rate relative to other forms of media and advertising,” Muzzillo says.

  • 3 Apr 2023 12:18 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    alphabroder, the leading supplier of wholesale apparel and promotional products, is launching its enhanced, One-Stop-Solution via alphabroder.com. The upgraded alphabroder.com will combine alphabroder and Prime Line®’s full assortment and have the most extensive assortment of apparel and promotional products in the industry.

    alphabroder's goal in creating its enhanced One-Stop Solution is to give its customers one place for all their blank and decorated apparel and promotional product needs.

    “alphabroder is committed to evolving to better serve our customers and partners,” said Dan Pantano, President and CEO of alphabroder. “The enhanced alphabroder.com will streamline the ordering process in a way that hasn’t been done before.”

    The updated alphabroder.com will allow customers to decorate any promotional product through alphabroder’s online decoration configurator. The industry leading configurator takes what can be a cumbersome off-line process and creates a turnkey, digital experience.

    alphabroder vetted their One-Stop Solution through independent research, focus groups and customer feedback. The result is a more robust alphabroder.com that provides customers with:

    • Full apparel and hard goods assortments
    • Industry leading end-to-end online Decoration Configurator
    • Order status tracker through entire production process
    • All apparel and hard goods order history

    For more information about alphabroder and to explore its wide variety of promotional products, visit www.alphabroder.com.

  • 28 Mar 2023 5:14 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Supplier company LarLu is pleased to announce the addition of Reisack Sales & Marketing as Multi-line representatives in the Southwest states of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas.  Joe Durand, SVP of LarLu stated “the Reisack team shares our commitment to customer service and professionalism.  We’re excited for our customers to have a local LarLu representative to help them grow their business!” Please feel free to reach out to them today for ideas…. www.reisack.com

  • 28 Mar 2023 4:28 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SAGE, the leading provider of information, marketing, and business management solutions to the promotional products industry, invites SAGE Supplier Advantage Members to join the SAGE Community through its new web-based supplier portal.

    SAGE Community is an industry-specific, collaborative social network where suppliers and distributors can share news, best practices, ask questions, and connect and engage with other industry professionals, all-in-one platform.

    SAGE Community has long been available in SAGE Total Access, SAGE’s flagship distributor tool, for distributors to network with their industry peers. With the addition of the SAGE Community to the new web-based SAGE Supplier Center, it is now open to everyone in the industry.

    “In today’s world, social media is so ubiquitous that for many of us it has blurred the lines between personal and professional communication. We all have so many connections on so many platforms, and with the amount of information on all of these platforms, we end up missing a lot of important things,” said David Natinsky, President of SAGE. “With SAGE Community, distributors, and now suppliers, have one central location where they can go just for industry-related content. Whether that’s news or advice, our customers can be intentional and efficient with their time, get answers to their questions, and never miss important industry update.”

    The new web-based SAGE Supplier Center is available now to all supplier Advantage Members at no additional cost. Simply visit www.sagesuppliercenter.com to log in. To join SAGE Community, select Community on the left side menu, then search and follow the Community group of your choice on the right side under Groups.

  • 28 Mar 2023 2:02 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    SanMar announced the Fair Labor Association (FLA) has reaccredited the company’s social compliance program. The decision demonstrates SanMar’s continued commitment to advancing better labor conditions throughout its global supply chain.

    SanMar’s sourcing network spans over 100 facilities in 21 countries. The FLA’s decision follows a multi-year review of the company’s mechanisms to ensure these facilities are in compliance with international labor standards.

    As the only comprehensive program of its kind based on international frameworks, the Fair Labor Accreditation holds companies to the highest standards in labor rights. SanMar first earned its Fair Labor Accreditation in 2012.

    “SanMar is honored to build on our decade-long legacy of accreditation with FLA,” said Jeremy Lott, CEO of SanMar. “Our people are our top priority, and the work we do with supplier relationships, data management and workplace training are critical steps toward setting a high standard for labor rights in the apparel industry.”

  • 28 Mar 2023 2:01 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Parker Stephens, formerly of T-Shirt Tycoon, has joined Zing Manufacturing as its regional sales director for Texas, serving industry distributors in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas as well as the National Sales Manager for BDA.

  • 28 Mar 2023 1:49 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Proforma celebrated 2022’s sales performances at its Million Dollar Club event at The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Ohio-based distributor hosted 350 of its owners and their guests, 45 supplier partners and more than 60 support center team members to mark close to $500 million in collective sales.

    • This year’s event was the largest Million Dollar Club event in the company’s history.
    • Individual companies within the Proforma community reported annual sales ranging from $1 million to almost $50 million in 2022.

    At the event’s awards ceremony, Proforma acknowledged the achievements of its top-performing distributor owners and supplier partners, as well as nearly 50 new and next-level members of the Million Dollar Club.

    “The best part about this event is having the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts of success from the largest gathering of Million Dollar Club performers in the industry,” said Proforma Chief Sales Officer Greg Armstrong. “Also, the ideas exchanged about our technology and business support programs will continue to propel our distributor owners to future record-breaking growth and their next levels of achievement.”

  • 27 Mar 2023 11:41 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    As the pandemic slowly receded in 2022, promo pros helped clients of all stripes get back to business. Entries from the latest PPAI Pyramid Awards demonstrated the boundless creativity of the promo industry, as well as its ability to provide memorable experiences that yield measurable results.

    The PPAI Pyramid Awards, sponsored by Pacesetter Awards, have identified the leading achievement in promotional product marketing for more than 60 years. PPAI salutes the 2023 winners, chosen from campaigns created between April 1, 2021, and April 1, 2022, for the innovative and forward-thinking programs they developed to help clients build lasting and lucrative relationships with customers and end users.

    Here, we take a closer look at 12 winners of this year’s competition for client programs.

    Business-to-Business Programs

    Gold Winner: Cliff Quicksell Associates

    Cliff Quicksell Associates drafted the “Make It A Home Run With KMK” program direct mail campaign to “pitch” the client’s team as a new baseball season approached. The program targeted 100 prospects with a goal of 25% making a sales appointment with the client. A box decorated inside and out with custom baseball graphics was filled with custom baseball cards of each member of the KMK team that listed relevant “stats” and experience, plus logoed baseballs signed by the salesperson sending the kit. Each box was equipped with a custom light-activated sound chip that, when opened, played a series of ballpark souds: an umpire yelling “Play ball!”, the crack of a bat, a crowd cheering and an announcer declaring “That’s a home run!” The multi-sensory box produced an 80% appointment rate, generating 52 new clients at a cost of $86.54 each – a home run, indeed.

    Silver Winner: Cliff Quicksell Associates


    When the client wanted a low-cost, high-visibility direct mail piece to reactivate 79 dormant accounts, Cliff Quicksell Associates created a punny puzzle to physically engage recipients with their message. The loose pieces were delivered in a custom box bearing a teaser on the outside to build intrigue and an invitation to schedule a meeting on the inside lid, featuring the sender’s business card. Underneath the puzzle pieces inside the box was a printed maze bearing the slogan, “We can start you on the right path to improve your bottom line.” Once assembled, the puzzle let the recipient know, “We have all the pieces to elevate your marketing.” Nearly 9 in 10 recipients said they assembled their puzzle, and the program beat the standard 2-4% return for direct mail, achieving an outstanding 68% engagement that ultimately yielded 17 reactivated accounts (31.4%) – far exceeding the client’s goal.



    Client Branding Programs

    Gold Winner: Hillary’s

    Construction company Greiner engaged the promotional professionals of Hillary’s to fully refresh their brand. The project, which began in January 2020 and launched fully in September 2021, encompassed everything from the company’s logo and companion graphics to a tagline, website redesign and branded products to promote the updated look and feel of the company and its marketing. Although the scope and length of the project expanded beyond initial expectations, Greiner was pleased with the insights gained into their position in the market, as well as the broad range of practical and functional promotional products that reflect the brand in memorable ways for a variety of end users, from hard hats and notebooks to a snack gift box and portable speaker.



    Consumer Programs

    Gold Winner: IMAGEN Inc.


    IMAGEN Inc. helped entertainment website Fandor re-establish itself as “The Home for Cinephiles,” attracting and engaging users with the goal of growing its paying subscriber base. Fandor-branded prizes were awarded to trivia contest winners to make wearing and carrying Fandor gear a badge of honor for cinephiles wanting to show off their knowledge of film. IMAGEN helped the client curate a diverse yet cohesive collection of items to offer multiple Fandor-branded options. An online Fandor Gift Store allowed winners to select their gift, enter their address and submit their selection for fulfillment – all handled by IMAGEN. Through the use of the carefully selected branded merchandise, in conjunction with regular online trivia contests and other activities over the course of seven months, Fandor more than doubled its online community activity, grew its membership base and increased premium paid memberships by 10%.

    Silver Winner: WHOOPLA


    WHOOPLA helped Agency Guacamole and Matrix hair care invite 125 social media influencers to try the Unbreak My Blonde hair care product line and post about it to generate buzz. The client wanted an interactive “Break in Case of Hair Emergency” box, similar to a fire alarm box. The emergency glass component raised safety concerns, but the WHOOPLA team came up with a paperboard box with perforated lid and custom insert tray to hold the products. The box was fully sealed, so the only way to open it was to “break” the top of the box, which was designed to “break” in a shattered glass pattern. A small mallet was included to enhance the experience. The campaign reached nearly 4 million people through high engagement on TikTok and Instagram, with over 400,000 views for the top TikTok video.



    Educational Programs

    Gold Winner: Arid Zone


    Arid Zone designed Kinder Kits, a bright and engaging collection of resources for 3-year-old children, for the Victoria State Government Department of Education & Training in Australia. The kits were distributed to about 60,000 kindergarten students to encourage learning at home through play. An expert panel evaluated the kit packaging and contents to ensure that everything was age-appropriate, safe, engaging and inclusive, and the multi-use activity case was designed to be both robust and light enough for a child to carry. Contents included colored markers with washable ink, a whiteboard panel and eraser, and an animal magnet puzzle – all intended to help recipients develop language skills, social skills, emotional expression and creativity. Feedback from Early Childhood Services and recipient families was extremely positive, and funds have been approved to extend the program for two more years.



    Employee Incentive & Recognition Programs

    Silver Winner: IICON Creative Strategies


    The leadership team at Carpenters Local 494 Skilled Trade Union in Windsor, Ontario, Canada wanted to reconnect on a personal level with as many of the more than 500 active members as possible and thank them for their dedication and loyalty. IICON Creative Strategies had previously developed Local 494’s winged logo to appeal to the many motorcycle enthusiasts among the membership, and they built on the previous year’s well-received Union Made in Canada full zip hoodie with a “Welcome Home” campaign featuring new long-sleeved tees and beanies. IICON sourced the union-made garments from a Canadian manufacturer, and the beanie featured a small red maple leaf label to acknowledge the union’s Canadian roots. Union leadership was delighted that roughly 90% of members attended the event, held at the union hall shortly before Christmas 2021, to claim their gifts and visit with fellow members.



    Internal Communication Programs

    Gold Winner: Martket Branding


    Visier, a workforce planning software company, engaged Martket Branding to help introduce the company’s five key values – Roll up our sleeves, Play to win, Never stop learning, Make it easy and Be proud – to its 500 employees. The values were launched at a company-wide meeting, and Visier employees were invited to order a variety of fun and functional products celebrating those values. The branded apparel and accessories include five T-shirts, one for each value; a clear tumbler with straw; a five-pack of pens (plus bookmark), each highlighting a different value; hoodies; a ring light and cellphone holder; and a waterproof Bluetooth speaker. Martket Branding built and manages the online shop and fulfillment across Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., and the values collection drew more than 450 orders in its first year.



    Not-For-Profit Programs

    Gold Winner: Render Ad Service


    Render Ad Service helped the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association and Henry County Sheriff’s Office launch a community car show to raise money for the Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes nonprofit organization, which supports at-risk children. The event committee wanted a distinctive award to create buzz and attract participants. Render Ad Service recommended a full-sized basketball, autographed by former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, who had agreed to donate $5,000 as a grand prize, as the trophy. A local news station reported that the top 25 cars would receive an autographed basketball, and calls came from around the Southeast to enter. The venue lot was filled, with 550 cars entering the contest and more than 1,500 people attending. The fun, all-ages event raised $32,000 – over three times the original goal – and will be held annually in a much larger venue.

    Silver Winner: Martket Branding


    Martket Branding designed and produced custom playing cards for the BC Hydro Power Pioneers, a nonprofit group representing more than 5,000 BC Hydro retirees and their families in western Canada. The goal of the product was threefold: to provide a unique and engaging way to preserve and share the legacy of the utility company’s history; provide members with a safe, stay-at-home activity during COVID-19; and to raise money for BC Children’s Hospital. Each of the 54 playing cards, printed on premium casino-grade linen playing card stock, features interesting historical facts and imagery. More than 100 decks were sold online via the PowerPioneersGear.com shop; another 200 decks were sold or gifted to museums, libraries and community groups; and all sales proceeds were donated to BC Children’s Hospital.



    Social Responsibility Programs

    Gold Winner: Arid Zone


    The Kinder Kits designed by Arid Zone, a bright and engaging collection of resources for 3-year-old children in Australia, were also recognized for sustainability. In addition to ensuring that everything was age-appropriate, safe, engaging and inclusive, the kits were also carefully designed and sourced to be as durable and eco-friendly as possible. The Arid Zone team spent six months sourcing recycled and recyclable materials that also met strict compliance standards. For example, the kit’s custom washable markers designed especially for small hands were made from recycled plastics and filled with washable ink. The final product was 100% carbon neutral thanks to carbon offsets, with the credits benefitting the Tasmanian Native Forest Protection project of Australia. The colorful case received high praise for its engaging, functional and environmentally-friendly design.

    Silver Winner: The Dunstan Group


    After its successful survival kit program, Duke Energy again engaged The Dunstan Group to supply vulnerable customers with tools to keep up with critical alerts, call for help or report an outage if a storm knocked out electricity to their homes. The Dunstan Group helped select and deliver 7,000 handheld emergency tools (weather radio with LED flashlight, power bank, solar and hand crank power) branded with the Duke Energy logo to customers in coastal Florida and the Carolinas at the start of hurricane season. Also provided was a manual including a phone number and directions in English and Spanish to report outages. By sourcing a multi-function product likely to be put in a prominent location and used as part of storm preparation and recovery, rather than kept in a drawer, The Dunstan Group helped Duke Energy boost brand awareness and make sure its customers know their power provider and how to reach them.

  • 26 Mar 2023 7:35 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Next Level Apparel has partnered with Grupo M, a leading textile manufacturer based in the Dominican Republic, to provide nearshore production while supporting NLA’s move to 100% U.S. cotton for its entire apparel line.

    The Partnership

    NLA, which specializes in designing, manufacturing and supplying premium blank apparel – announced that this strategic partnership “will bring production closer to home for improved speed-to-market, decreased geopolitical risk and increased supply chain transparency, including upstream traceability of the cotton it uses.”

    NLA and Grupo M are aligned on key priorities: providing global partners and customers with apparel that prioritizes ethical and sustainable production.

    “With our premium products, our customers not only look good, but they also can feel good about how those products are sourced,” says NLA CEO Randy Hales. “As part of our ethos, we seek like-minded suppliers who prioritize sustainability and uphold equally high standards. This exciting partnership with Grupo M is another step forward in our longstanding commitment to supply chain visibility and accountability.”

    Ongoing Commitment

    NLA has been committed to quality and socially conscious operations since its founding in 2003.

    • NLA recently announced a partnership with Oritain to provide origin verification for its worldwide cotton program through cutting-edge science. NLA is an approved member of the Fair Labor Association, committed to upholding its Principles of Fair Labor and Responsible Sourcing throughout its global supply chain.
    • The company has also partnered with Better Work – a comprehensive program bringing together all levels of the garment industry to improve working conditions – on a factory, national and international level, and has received Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production certification for its factories.

    “We are thrilled to collaborate with NLA to offer nearshore production while furthering our shared visions of innovation and transparency,” says Grupo M President Fernando Capellán. “We appreciate Next Level Apparel’s passion, enthusiasm and diligence in bringing the highest quality products to its customers while being equally committed to ethical and responsible sourcing.”
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