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  • Tuesday, February 12, 2019 7:31 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    HALO Branded Solutions (PPAI 106462) has hired Heather Bridges as the company’s new chief financial officer. Bridges will succeed Linda Janczkowski who announced her intention in July to reduce her role with the Sterling, Illinois, distributor. Bridges will report to Marc Simon, CEO of HALO.

    Bridges’ career in finance and strategic planning at major consumer product companies includes 18 years at S.C. Johnson, where she most recently led the finance function and served on the executive committee for North America.

    “HALO is well positioned for continued profitable growth,” says Bridges. “The positive culture and complete focus on creating opportunities for key stakeholders drew me to the opportunity. I look forward to contributing additional leadership and expertise.”

    Simon adds, “Heather was the obvious choice after a very thorough search. She will be an exceptional addition to our leadership team. Her success in managing organizations of tremendous scale through acquisitions and ERP conversions and the development of sophisticated financial planning and analysis teams will add tremendous value to HALO. I could not be more excited to welcome Heather to HALO.”

  • Monday, February 04, 2019 9:13 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Pennsylvania-based Polyconcept has appointed Neil Ringel as its new CEO replacing Gene Colleran, the company has announced. Ringel will take over full group responsibilities for the firm including PCNA and PF Concept.
    “We appreciate Gene’s many contributions to Polyconcept and wish him the very best,” said Josh Klevens, managing director at PE firm Charlesbank Capital Partners, which has Polyconcept among its portfolio companies. “We’re delighted to welcome Neil to the company and are confident that his impressive experience and leadership track record will allow Polyconcept to continue its positive momentum while finding new and better ways to serve its customers and forge an even stronger future.”
    Ringel has more than 20 years of experience at Staples, where he held various executive roles with responsibility over the salesforce, digitization and M&A activity, as well as oversight for the Staples Promotional Products (asi/120601) business. As president of Staples’ North American delivery business, he helped grow the company’s B2B division into a $10 billion enterprise supporting more than 1.5 million customers. Most recently, Ringel headed the company’s Corporate Development activities, where he was charged with executing and integrating multiple strategic acquisitions.
    “Polyconcept is a market leader known for its innovation, global capabilities and strong customer service,” said Ringel. “I’m proud to join this talented, passionate management team and look forward to leveraging my experience to help the company strengthen its position as a market leader.”
    Added David Nicholson, president of PCNA: “We’re excited to welcome Neil to the Polyconcept family. His leadership and experience – both within the B2B domain and our market – will be an asset to the company. We’re looking forward to working with Neil to build upon Polyconcept’s terrific foundation and to enhance our value to our distributor partners.”
    In its most recent listing, Counselor ranked PCNA as the third largest supplier in the industry, with reported annual North American promotional products sales of $606.3 million. Follow www.asicentral.com/news and Counselor PromoGram for more details on this developing story.

  • Saturday, February 02, 2019 10:02 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF), the industry's nonprofit founded to recognize and encourage scholastic excellence and academic performance among promotional products industry employees and their college-aged children, will award $230,000 in college scholarships in 2019. Since 1989, PPEF has awarded a total of $1,942,000 in college scholarships to 1,113 students.

    In 2019, the $230,000 in scholarships will fund 34 recipients' renewal payments on scholarships awarded in previous years and 117 new scholarships. PPEF will present 10 Four-Year College Scholarships, two Chairman's Scholarships, 104 One-Year College Scholarships including the Named Scholarships and one Friends of PPMN Scholarship. Awards are determined through a competitive application process with the recipients being announced at the end of May each year. The deadline to apply is March 15 at midnight PT. Application links and more information can be found here.
  • Friday, February 01, 2019 8:26 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    A record-breaking deep freeze has gripped the upper Midwest for the past two days shutting down schools, halting UPS, FedEx and USPS deliveries, closing some businesses and keeping most people indoors.

    HALO Branded Solutions closed six of its offices across Illinois, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin on Wednesday because of the dangerous weather conditions but resumed normal operations at noon today.

    Supplier Howard Miller’s Michigan plant was also closed Wednesday for the safety of its employees, along with supplier Raining Rose, Inc. in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which has since reopened, but a number of promotional products companies across the region remained open, operating with fewer employees and with some employees working from home.

    At supplier ADG Promotional Products in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, some of the company’s marketing and salespeople worked from home but the customer service team was in the office all day. President Bill Mahre, CAS, says the biggest challenge has been that schools and daycare facilities have been closed for the past three days. He says folks in the region are hardy and capable of handling adverse conditions, but this week’s temperatures were exceptional. Still, he closed the office every day by 4 pm so his employees could make it home before dark.

    When Jodie Schillinger, CAS, executive vice president at supplier Maple Ridge Farms in Mosinee, Wisconsin, woke up at 5 am the thermostat read -27 degrees Fahrenheit. Still, she says the bitter temperatures have not affected their employees or customers’ orders, even though shipping carriers have experienced a few delays in some deliveries.

    “Ironically, over the past two days, we gave all employees the opportunity to rideshare or call leadership teams for a ride, bring child/pet to work or simply stay home. We only had one employee who did not make it to work. We love to believe that it is pure passion for our amazing Maple Ridge Farms culture (and our fun industry) that brings people to work safely each day. We are fortunate to have such an amazing team,” she says. Company owner and founder Tom Riordan adds, “We are rugged, tough Wisconsinites and never let a little winter weather bother us. Please continue to send orders!”

    Mary Jo Tomasini, MAS+, CEO of distributor Competitive Edge in Stevensville, Michigan, reports employees are working in the office and from home as they choose using a cloud-based system that allows them to do all CRM sales and customer service functions remotely. “Aside from being miserably cold today, we had a very good sales day and business continued as usual,” she says. She also brought in pizza and soup this week, so team members didn’t have to brave the cold for lunch and allowed them to wear jeans or whatever else they needed to stay warm. “Customers don’t stop in on days like today … or tomorrow.”

    FedEx’s website says it’s closely monitoring the winter storm and has contingency plans in place to ensure safety and to minimize the storm’s effects on service. The site recommended checking with local offices regarding service delays. For today, UPS is reporting no service because of severe road conditions to cities across some areas of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and New York, and limited service to cities in those states, as well as in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Likewise, USPS mail service has been suspended to dozens of ZIP Code locations in the region.

    David Glenn, president of supplier CoasterStone in Carmel, Indiana, says the temps there got down to -37 degrees but the company has been open for business as usual, although FedEx was not operating in his area. “So, I loaded up my car and took the packages to the terminal. Our customers have events and we need to do what we can to get their items to them. We cranked up the heat in the warehouse and brought in a heater to get the warehouse to 68 degrees, keeping things toasty. For lunch, we brought in soup and salad to warm up and keep everyone from having to go out in the cold.”

    Dan McIlroy, CAS, president of distributor ProAdSpec, Inc. in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, is glad he moved his office home nearly two years ago, so his commute is up a couple of flights of stairs and he says he has no reason to go out. “The whole state is essentially shut down so appointments and meetings for the past three days are being re-scheduled,” he says. “Fortunately for me, I have clients across the country, so business has not stopped.”

    For other promotional products professionals, the show must go on—literally. Michael Reisbaum, director of national accounts for supplier New Jersey-based Blue Generation, braved the dangerous temperatures to fly into Chicago this week for his planned visit with clients, to work a trade show and then drive to Wisconsin for more appointments. Despite driving 163 brutal miles on a snowy and treacherous highway, he says he arrived safely, had excellent meetings with his customers and was expecting a great trade show today—even though its opening was delayed. “When it comes to challenges on the road, weather related or otherwise, toughen up, buttercup, and just do the job,” he says. “Respect your clients, respect your company and respect yourself. Be a professional and do what you promise to do.”

    Still, everyone in the region is holding their breath for Friday’s forecasted high in Chicago of 21 degrees.

  • Thursday, January 31, 2019 8:25 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    This week, delegations from the U.S. and China are meeting in Washington, D.C. to continue negotiations on the trade dispute between the two countries. The talks come only one month out from the deadline when U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products are set to increase from 10 percent to 25 percent.

    Chinese Vice Premier Liu and 30 Chinese trade officials began negotiations with U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and others on Wednesday. The U.S. has identified over 140 items it wants China to change in relation to trade policies and practices. The Chinese Vice Premier has been tasked with conveying China's willingness to reform its economy to meet U.S. demands. Although the Chinese Vice Premier is reportedly prepared to offer significant concessions during this round of negotiations, trade experts have expressed little expectation of a major breakthrough resulting from the talks. So far, neither the USTR office or White House have released updates on how negotiations went on Wednesday.

    Negotiations continue today with Liu set to meet with President Trump. The president tweeted this morning, “China’s top trade negotiators are in the U.S. meeting with our representatives. Meetings are going well with good intent and spirit on both sides. China does not want an increase in tariffs and feels they will do much better if they make a deal. They are correct…China’s representatives and I are trying to do a complete deal, leaving nothing unresolved on the table. All of the many problems are being discussed and will be hopefully resolved. Tariffs on China increase to 25% on March 1st, so all working hard to complete by that date!”

  • Wednesday, January 30, 2019 1:16 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Top 40 distributor Brown & Bigelow (asi/148500) has announced the purchase of Washington, D.C.-based Specialties Inc. (asi/331340). Financial terms and valuations of the deal, made public this afternoon, were not disclosed.

    “We’re very excited to have an organization the caliber of Specialties, Inc. join the Brown & Bigelow family,” said Bill Smith, president and CEO of B&B, in a statement. “We look forward to continuing their excellent reputation and service to their clients.”

    Founded in 1984 by Joel Kaplan, Specialties, Inc. will maintain its “order processing and supplier relationships” in its D.C. and Rockville, MD, offices, the companies said. “It’s been a wonderful run for me in this industry, but it was time for me to sell my business and to partner with a national distributor to support our next stage of growth,” added Kaplan. “We chose Brown & Bigelow because their unique business model allows us to maintain our identity and to support our sales executives and customers locally.”

    In its latest listing, Counselor ranked Minnesota-based Brown & Bigelow as the 30th largest distributor in the market, with estimated 2017 North American promotional products sales of $57 million.
  • Tuesday, January 29, 2019 12:42 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The Dollars4Disasters Step Challenge raised awareness and funds for PPAI’s Promotional Products Disaster Relief Fund (PPDRF) at The PPAI Expo. This was a first-time event organized by Jeff Solomon, MAS, publisher of FreePromoTips.com; Dana Zezzo, vice president of marketing and vendor relations at American Solutions for Business; and Dana Geiger, PPAI regional relations manager. Dollars4Disasters raised close to $2,000 for the cause.

    David Hawes, MAS+, Geiger, and Dan Livengood, CAS, of 2020 Brand Solutions challenged each other to help raise money on behalf of UMAPP for PPDRF. Livengood and Hawes raised $500 with their step challenge. Paul Kiewiet, MAS, executive director of the Michigan Promotional Professionals Association (MiPPA) also donated his speaking engagement fee to any regional association that raised $500.

    Megan Zezzo, S&S Activewear; Brian Stidham, EMT; and Laura Brewer, Ariel Premium Supply, provided products supporting the event and PromoCorner created the logo.

    The Promotional Products Disaster Recovery Foundation has been set up to help promotional products industry members and nonmembers get back to business in the wake of a federally-declared natural disaster. The fund can help replace lost equipment and supplies—computers, cell phones, office supplies, promotional products catalogs and samples—provide a work area or give other assistance as needed to get a business up and running as soon as possible. Learn more about PPDRF here.

  • Monday, January 28, 2019 12:41 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    HALO Branded Solutions (PPAI 106462) has hired Rick Goddard as the Sterling, Illinois-based distributor’s chief information officer. Goddard will succeed Dale Moir who last year announced his intention to reduce his role at HALO. He will report to Adam Weisman, HALO chief operating officer.

    “HALO is committed to driving the growth of the business with the most advanced technology available delivered by the most qualified people possible,” Goddard says. “I am excited to support the vision the company has for continued growth.”

    Goddard brings more than 15 years of experience in key technology leadership roles in a variety of high-growth companies to the role. He most recently served as director of technology services for Liberty Technology Advisors where he advised and assisted Fortune 1000 clients.

    Weisman adds, “I am very excited to have Rick join us with his strong leadership skills and track record of developing technology teams to bring high value solutions to our clients, customers, employees and investors. We are also thankful for Dale’s 18 years of service leading our IT area, and his willingness to stay on to effect the most successful transition to Rick in this very important area of the company.”

  • Sunday, January 27, 2019 7:48 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The Magnet Group (PPAI 338534) has named Curtis Grotting, the Washington, Missouri-based suppliers’ vice president of logistics and an 11-year veteran of the company, as the winner of its inaugural Fran Ford Award. The award is named after Francis “Fran” Ford, Jr., CAS, president of supplier Castelli, a division of Magnet, LLC, and 2015 PPAI Hall of Fame inductee, who passed away in 2018.

    The Magnet Group describes the Fran Ford Award as the highest honor it bestows on its employees. It is given to the employee who embodies the characteristics that defined Ford. An eligible candidate must possess the qualities of kindness and generosity, offering friendship and mentorship to others, and have participated in a volunteer capacity either inside or outside the industry during the calendar year of their nomination.

    In announcing Grotting as the inaugural recipient of the award, the company said in a statement, “Curtis was nominated by his peers and truly epitomizes the characteristics that embody this award. He is kind, generous, a great friend, mentor and a passionate volunteer. In addition to all of these, he has done an amazing job going above and beyond for The Magnet Group and we look forward to his continued successes.”

  • Saturday, January 26, 2019 7:47 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) has released its 2019 IRF Trends Study, which highlights 10 key trends that will affect organizations, their products and services and the workforce in 2019.

    “The IRF 2019 Trends Study reports very positive trends for incentive travel, merchandise and gift cards—and also highlights areas of concern,” says IRF President Melissa Van Dyke. “As economic and technological changes continue to accelerate, the IRF is tracking shifts in the industry and providing insights into how to anticipate and respond to these changes to gain a competitive edge.”

    The 10 trends identified in the study include:

    • A strong economy and robust merger and acquisition in the hospitality and incentive house markets will impact how the incentives industry conducts business and runs programs.
    • Both physical and data security remain a top concern not only when planning incentive travel and motivational meetings, but also when administering gift card, merchandise and points programs.
    • Executives’ goals are shifting to focus on rewards aimed directly at building relationships, encouraging inclusion and knowledge-sharing, and promoting engagement.
    • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is already being used to understand who is drawn to which types of rewards, personalize rewards and encourage greater participation, and it will continue to develop at a rapid pace.
    • Expanding budgets, increased participant eligibility and improved internal and public perceptions all point to growth of incentive travel programs.
    • Market optimism in the non-cash reward and recognition market continued its climb in 2018, with the IRF’s net optimism score reaching a peak 43 percent—a score only previously seen in 2013.
    • Gift cards continue to be a popular option, with high utilization for open loop cards and brand-specific cards. Restricted-use cards, vouchers and e-gift cards continue to gain momentum.
    • An increasing need for cost containment, concerns over terrorism, high transportation costs and trade restrictions will impact incentive travel and merchandise programs.
    • Transformational travel—incorporating concepts like wellness, community and personal fulfillment—will continue to push and extend the experience economy even further.
    • Program designers will need to adopt the test-often, fail-fast, customer-centric nature of design thinking to keep pace with ever-changing technology and content expectations.

Promotional Products Association Southwest (PPAS) is a 501(c)6 non-profit organization.

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