• 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.
  • Friday, January 25, 2019 8:39 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    When it comes to giving back and paying-it-forward, some companies talk a good line. Top 40 supplier Sweda (asi/90305) is walking it.

    The California-based firm announced this week that it recently donated $100,000 to help fund double-amputee-wounded Iraq War veteran Dan Nevins’ Warrior Spirit Retreat, a place where veterans learn to heal from the physical and mental wounds of military service.

    Sweda was able to donate the six-figure sum by setting aside a portion of the proceeds from sales of Basecamp, the supplier’s outdoor adventure line featuring products like backpacks, bear-tested coolers, drinkware, multi-tools, tents, weatherproof Bluetooth speakers and more. A veterans’ advocate, motivational speaker and nationally recognized yoga master, Nevins is the official brand ambassador for Basecamp. “Since 2017…Sweda has donated over $250,000 in monies and product to support the Warrior Spirit Retreat,” the supplier said in a statement.

    Sweda CEO Jim Hagan, SVP of Sales & Marketing Kellie Claudio and VP of Finance Ginalin Tan presented Nevins with the donation at the recent PPAI Expo. News of the altruistic outreach continues recent positive momentum for Sweda, which announced in December that it will now sell apparel in the promo space. The apparel initiative for 2019 includes Made-in-America basics, an exclusive partnership with fashion-forward surf/skate-inspired brand Mill42, and clothing from retail brands like Adidas, Oakley, Champion and more.

    With reported 2017 North American promotional product revenue of $91.6 million, Sweda ranked 19th on Counselor’s latest list of the largest distributors in the promotional producs industry.

  • Thursday, January 24, 2019 8:30 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    North American promotional products distributors increased annual revenue in 2018 to $24.7 billion, a 4.9% rise over the prior year, according to exclusive new data from ASI. Marking the ninth consecutive year that a record industry tally was set, 2018’s sales surge considerably outpaced 2017’s growth, which was 3.2%.
    In all, nearly half of distributors (48%) increased revenue last year, while 30% held steady on sales. The market’s largest firms performed best: 70% of distributors with revenue of more than $1 million reported a 2018 year-over-year sales rise. Many smaller distributors held their own in 2018, as well. About 4-in-10 firms with revenue of $250,000 or less recorded an annual increase, while 48% of distributors with sales between $250,001 and $1 million also made gains, ASI data shows.
    Click here to see complete coverage of the 2018 distributor sales report and follow for additional details.

  • Wednesday, January 23, 2019 5:20 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    After months of preparation by exhibitors, PPAI staff and the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, the PPAI Expo 2019 officially got under way on Tuesday morning and wraps up its third full day of exhibits today.

    For some attendees, it was their first time at the show. Among those was Thea Kelly, who recently purchased Alchemy Promotional Products in Dorset, Vermont, and who came to the Expo with a set game plan. “I hit all of the education workshops right away. I planned ahead what I wanted to attend so I already have the resources and tools for productivity that will set me up for the year.” She applied the same game plan to the show. “I planned to see the exhibitors I already do business with first and had clients and programs in mind. I’m going to hit this show every year; in terms of what PPAI provides, I’ve got my total ROI already.”

    Andrea Damian, owner of Swag Promo in Los Angeles, decided to fly out at the last minute to attend the show. “It is good to come and get new ideas and see the people I’ve had relationships with for years,” she says. “I do business with a lot of breweries, and I saw games and dart boards that I can definitely use to market to them.”

    Ronan Emrani with, also in Los Angeles, says, “As a decorator I find it fascinating to come to this trade show, because you see all kinds of distributors looking for the next thing to sell to their customers. We deal directly with distributors to do embroidery, screen printing and sublimation in-house so we are looking for new trends as well. The show is better organized this year and the flow is better than in years past so the experience has been good.”

    For Zubi Olin, owner of Central Coast Promotions in Simi Valley, California, it’s not a product or company she’ll remember most when she thinks about her first PPAI Expo—but an experience. “The thing I will remember most is when I went to registration to get my badge, the sweetest lady saw that I was from Simi Valley, which is right next to Thousand Oaks, and recently we’ve suffered from two massive wildfires, a shooting and now mudslides. She asked if I was okay, and how I was coping and handling things. As a first-time distributor, that’s going to be what I’ll remember most.”

    Expo exhibitors looking to create a fuller experience for distributor attendees went far beyond a simple table and product setup; some exhibitors went all out with their displays to help build their brand image. Among the most eye-catching ones were Travel Chair (booth #1432) with its rustic redwood wall that set the perfect stage for its products.

    ETS Express displayed its colorful translucent and opaque drinkware styles against a backlit panel for a stunning effect and HUB Promotional Products (booth #1547) incorporated two engaging, interactive elements at both booth entrances. At one, labeled Hot & Fresh!, distributors could pick up samples. At another, the company’s Jason Lucash conducted a Price Is Right game with contestants guessing the price of products. Both elements drew large crowds of distributors wanting to take part.

    QUINN (booth #2341) was running an Expo challenge where participants could win a free 10-by-10-foot canopy tent by taking a photo with their SUPERQUINN character and posting it to social media.

    Among some of the interesting products seen at Expo, Branded Logistics introduced the first integrated customizable OtterBox phone case with built-in PopSocket to the promo Industry—the Otter + Pop.

    DBest Products, a company featured on Shark Tank that makes smart carts and trolley dollies, introduced a new smart cart that weighs less than two pounds and carries up to 130 pounds.

    Beyond the latest products, the Expo’s reputation as a big tent for the promotional products industry saw young professionals come together last night for a SPARK networking reception. SPARK is PPAI’s education and networking opportunity for young professionals working in the promotional products industry. Highlighting the initiative’s growing popularity, this year’s reception drew more than 100 attendees.

    In its journey across the U.S. connecting with industry companies ahead of Expo, the PPAI Promomobile hosted a series of pop-up lunches at restaurants along its route. The pop-ups continued inside the Mandalay Bay over the past two days with a series of attractions to surprise and delight attendees on the show floor. These included a caricaturist and an illusionist; various treats such as coffee, ice cream, tiny pizzas and chocolate-covered bacon; and probably most popular, an opportunity to relax with a gaggle of playful puppies.

  • Tuesday, January 22, 2019 5:15 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Top 40 supplier Chocolate Inn/Lanco (asi/44900) has announced a strategic combination of Screen Printers Design (SPD) – its screen print and embroidery decorating business – and Westchester County, NY-based Shoreline Monogramming Inc. The pairing will now be called SPD/Shoreline. Financial terms of the deal were not released.

    “We believe the decorating business is a highly fragmented market,” said Lance Stier, chairman and CEO of Nassau Candy Confections, which owns Chocolate Inn/Lanco. “We are excited to combine SPD and Shoreline and to leverage our experience as a Top 40 supplier, servicing promotional products distributors with technology, service and quality to build a scaled platform in the decorating business.”

    Founded in 1984, Shoreline specializes in sustainability, using Phthalate-free screen-printing inks, recycled fibers for embroidery backing, and soy-based, non-toxic printing solvents and cleaning solutions. “We are proud of what we have accomplished since Shoreline’s inception, with our stellar team and production expertise, and now look forward to expanding our production capabilities and product/technological offerings with this new venture,” said Andy Moller, CEO of Shoreline.

    This is the third soft goods/apparel decorator that Chocolate Inn/Lanco has acquired in the past nine months, joining SPD and Stitches in View. In addition to decorating services, Chocolate Inn/Lanco will offer multi-category kits and gifts, combining edibles, hard goods, apparel, health and beauty and other items.

    “We also are excited to continue to strengthen our ability to offer ‘kitting solutions’ to our products,” Stier said. “By working with Chocolate Inn/Lanco, distributors will have the ability to place a single purchase order to deliver multi-category solutions. Imagine, for example, a custom flavored lip balm with custom lotions, custom scented candles and custom sugar scrub, all packed in a beautifully embroidered toiletry bag.”

    With reported 2017 North American promotional product revenue of $49 million, Chocolate Inn/Lanco ranks 33rd on Counselor’s latest list of the largest suppliers in the industry.

  • Monday, January 21, 2019 6:30 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Two industry legends, Gene Geiger, MAS+, of Geiger and Chuck Pecher of Skinner and Kennedy Co., were inducted into the PPAI Hall of Fame on Monday evening during the PPAI Chairman’s Leadership Dinner at the PPAI Expo in Las Vegas. The elegantly designed affair, held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center ballroom, brought out the industry’s luminaries, dignitaries and leaders to celebrate the achievements of these honorees, and to pay tribute to this year's winner of the Distinguished Service Award, Michele Jennrich, MAS, and the H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award winner Daryll Griffin, MAS.

    PPAI Chair Dale Denham, MAS+, and President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, emceed the ceremony, which began with silent recognition of those industry members who passed away in 2018.

    PPEF Chair Wayne Greenberg, MAS, was then welcomed to the stage to provide an update on the Foundation’s scholarship program.

    Next, suppliers Fey Promotional Products and Kellmark Corporation were presented with PPAI’s Milestone Award to celebrate their remarkable 50 years in business. The trophies were accepted by Tom Carpenter, MAS, and by George Kelly and James Jones, respectively. A presentation followed highlighting this year’s class of PPAI Pioneers—a group described as representing the industry’s past and ensuring its future. The honors went to the late Martha Sanders, former president of supplier Sanders Manufacturing Co. and the first female chair of the SAAI Board of Directors, and to the late George Kling, Jr., owner of Potential Profits Group and an icon the incentive industry.

    Bellantone stepped on stage to introduce the first award presentation. This year’s winner of the H. Ted Olson Humanitarian Award was Daryll Griffin, MAS, of Accolades, Inc. who was introduced by one of her nominators, Mary Ellen Sokalski, MAS. With humor and amazement, she reeled off Griffin’s many substantial accomplishments over the years including mentoring students at Stephens College and Spelman College, and supporting the Minority & Hispanic Councils of Atlanta and of Georgia, among many others. Amid thundering applause, Griffin’s son, Michael Griffin, joined Sokalski on stage to accept the award for his mother who was unable to make the trip, but the audience was treated to a pre-recorded video acceptance from a grateful Daryll Griffin.

    Denham then welcomed Joel Schaffer, MAS, who introduced Michele Jennrich, MAS, of Howard Miller Clocks, as winner of the PPAI Distinguished Service Award. His introduction told the story of a woman whose longtime and dedicated volunteerism is well known across the industry within PPAI and her regional association, Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York, as well as in her local community where she serves schools, her church and many charities. She is also a tireless volunteer for the industry in Washington D.C., having participated for many years in PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day.

    Jo-an Lantz, MAS, CEO of Geiger and a past Hall of Famer, introduced the first Hall of Fame inductee. She began by describing how she first met Gene Geiger on September 18, 1978—a day she remembers vividly—and proceeded to describe her relationship with the family company over the decades that followed, along with her admiration and appreciation for Gene Geiger. “I often think of Gene as Jimmy Stewart in A Wonderful Life. Can you imagine what our lives would be like without Gene Geiger?” she asked.

    As the audience delivered a standing ovation, Geiger humbly came forward to accept the award. He spoke of his early years when he debated about succeeding his larger-than-life father and joining the 140-plus-year-old family business, and about the highlights and challenges he has faced over the past 45 years. “It was several more years before I came to understand that I had different gifts and skills than my father—which I later realized were, in many ways, more valuable for the company we needed to become,” he said.

    Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Pecher was introduced by longtime friend, Mark Gillman, CAS, chairman of Gill Studios. Gillman began by describing the historic industry company into which Pecher was born and the rich history he inherited along with admiration for Pecher’s strong work ethic and skills that helped him nurture and grow the company. In accepting the award Pecher thanked his wife, Trisha, and other family in attendance along with company employees, and also noted that he was the fourth person from one of his family’s companies to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. He smiled at the thought. “Tonight, I know that my uncle and his brother and long-time partner, my dad, Bob Pecher, are looking down and saying, ‘Good job kid!’”

    The program wrapped up with Denham inviting all Hall of Fame inductees in attendance to the stage to be recognized. Joining him were: Willis Bywater; Bob Davis, CAS; Mark Gilman, CAS; Gene Geiger, MAS+; Wayne Greenberg, MAS; Paul Kiewiet, MAS+; Jo-an Lantz, MAS; Chuck Pecher; Joel Schaffer, MAS; Paul Lage, MAS and David Woods, CAS.

  • Sunday, January 20, 2019 6:27 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The R.S. Owens’ designed and manufactured Allstate Sugar Bowl trophy that was won on New Year’s Day by the No. 15 ranked Longhorns in a 28-21 win over No. 5 ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

    The trophy is proudly made in America by the R.S. Owens award winning group of artisans and is emblematic of the quality of workmanship that goes into making a world-class award. An interesting fact about the Sugar Bowl trophy is that it didn’t get its name from the shape of the trophy but from the fact that the original stadium was built on the site of an old sugar factory.

    The trophy is hand-cast metal with an antique silver finish and is embellished with a 24k gold and polished silver replica of the Superdome in Louisiana where it is played.

    Holding this massive trophy over the winning team’s heads takes a team effort worthy of the accomplishment it took to earn.

  • Saturday, January 19, 2019 6:25 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    In today’s rapidly changing world, it is important for the Association to remain adaptable and nimble. With this sentiment in mind, the PPAI Board of Directors has made a significant change to its governance intended to provide more transparency, inclusiveness and representation with a focus on the future.

    As membership organizations have become more complex and diverse, boards of directors must have a wide range of knowledge, skills and experience to address the needs and challenges of the industry. A growing trend for associations is to develop a governance model based on a more intentional, skill-based process to recruit directors.

    According to BoardSource, the recognized leader in nonprofit board leadership, “the most successful boards are thoughtfully composed as it relates to skill sets, leadership styles, and diversity of thought and background. They understand the leadership needs of their organizations and seek out board leaders who can bring the expertise, passion, and external leadership that they need both now and into the future.”

    As PPAI works to develop a board with balanced competencies (e.g., qualities, skills and expertise) to lead the organization, it has adopted a new nomination and selection process for new directors going forward. PPAI will continue to use a proven approach to identify and leverage the diverse experience base of its membership, and an extensive process to access candidates and present both a supplier and distributor finalist to the membership for approval.

    Currently, the Elected Directors Nominating Committee (EDNC) selects multiple supplier and distributor candidates for a general election by the PPAI membership. One supplier candidate and one distributor candidate with the most votes serve on the board.

    In November, the PPAI board voted to change this process. Supplier and distributor members are now eligible to apply or to be nominated to serve on the board—a change that should encourage more members to consider board service. The Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC), a group whose membership is representative of the PPAI membership, will review all applications, conduct interviews and submit a recommended list of candidates who meet the competencies sought for open board positions. Candidates selected will also complement the balanced leadership skills needed to fulfill PPAI’s strategic goals. The EDNC will then select one final candidate for each open supplier and distributor position and those two individuals will be presented to the PPAI membership for approval.

    By refining the nomination and selection process, PPAI members will be provided with strong and effective leadership that supports the strategic direction of the organization and represents their interests. This change will also encourage more PPAI members with various qualities, skills and expertise to apply through a respectful and strategic nomination process that eliminates engaging in a publicly-observed contest that PPAI has been told can feel more like a competition.

    The new process will allow PPAI members to continue to engage in a democratic process to select directors to serve on the board by nominating themselves and other members, through involvement of the member-represented LAC and EDNC, and by voting to approve the final supplier and distributor candidate presented for consideration.

    The next board election is scheduled for Fall 2019.

  • Friday, January 18, 2019 6:19 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Supplier Showdown Displays (PPAI 254687), headquartered in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, has announced that its 2019 Product Guide catalog contains only California Proposition 65 approved products. Proposition 65 requires manufacturers and sellers to provide warnings to California-based consumers about any potential exposure to chemicals that have been identified by the state to cause cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. Products that have not passed testing for these chemicals must include a prominent warning. Showdown has ensured that not a single item in their 2019 catalog will require a warning label.

    "After extensive testing, preparation and implementation, we're proud to announce that our 2019 Product Guide contains only Proposition 65-approved products," says Kevin Walsh, president of Showdown Displays. "Our commitment to our distributor partners is second to none, and we've removed every concern over whether or not a product can be sold in the state of California without a warning label. Using the Showdown Displays 2019 Product Guide means you don't have to worry about Proposition 65. It's that easy."

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

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