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  • Tuesday, January 15, 2019 8:02 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Today at SAGE Conference, held in Las Vegas in conjunction with The PPAI Expo, SAGE announced several new product releases and updates to their products and services. Eric Natinsky, SAGE CEO, revealed SAGE Online 15, the latest version of the company’s flagship research and business management solution, and SAGE Web 3.5, the latest version of SAGE’s web-based platform. Other releases included new features and capabilities for SAGE Websites, an advanced, end-buyer ecommerce website, SAGE Company Store Premium, and SAGE Chat, an all-new chat platform for the industry.

    “We’re proud to be releasing so many new features and enhancements to multiple platforms at one time, many of which were suggested by our customers,” Eric Natinsky, SAGE CEO, commented. “We are pleased to continue to upgrade our products, all while keeping our offerings affordable and user-friendly.”

    SAGE Total Access will include over 200 new features and enhancements, including a new drill-down option for product search results in both SAGE Online 15 and SAGE Web 3.5. This drill-down option will allow users to further filter their search results by relevant categories. The new “color sense” search enhancement feature will automatically display products of a certain color when that color is used as a search criterion. Additionally, similar products will be showcased at the bottom of each product detail page within a search to further assist with the selection process.

    Other enhancements to product searches in SAGE Online 15 include a new “Add to Site” feature which will allow distributors to add a product to their SAGE Website or SAGE Company Store directly from any given product search.

    SAGE also announced a refreshed product search results and detail pages. The new modern layout allows for ease-of-use and a more efficient searching experience.

    Upgrades to SAGE Online’s Order Management include a refreshed order dashboard, the ability to highlight and flag orders, an option to quickly “peek” into an order without opening it, the option to add thumbnail images of products to order forms, and easy-to-use filter tabs to quickly reference what you’re looking for. SAGE Online 15 is scheduled for a rolling release this February.

    Also, scheduled to release this month is SAGE Web 3.5, bringing major new features and enhancements. One of the biggest additions in SAGE Web 3.5 is the ability to use the SAGE Print Studio to create custom catalogs in both virtual and print formats.

    In addition, SAGE Web users will soon be able to send email campaigns, which will create even more opportunities to connect customers with featured promotional products. The email campaign feature in SAGE Web 3.5 will also allow distributors to track their success rates with real-time reporting.

    Also, arriving in March are brand new interactive features for SAGE Websites. Those with SAGE Website Professional and SAGE Website Professional Plus will now be able to upgrade their customer service and respond faster to potential customers with the new Live Chat feature using SAGE Chat for a streamlined line of communication. The Live Chat feature will include a full feature-set, including the ability to set business hours, configure automatic replies, and multi-task among several sessions at the same time.

    SAGE also announced new homepage customization and styling options, including the addition of SAGE Signature Collections, which will showcase popular products from across the industry.

    SAGE Signature Collections will come with the option for a lifestyle vs. carousel design theme, and products will change monthly to keep distributor websites fresh and continuously updated.

    Another new feature for SAGE Website Professional and SAGE Website Professional Plus owners is “Welcome Alerts”, which are pop-up message boxes that will appear once a visitor arrives to the website. These welcome alerts can be used to announce sales on items, offer discounts, or provide a place for a customer to provide their contact information. Plus, SAGE Websites will now include SAGE’s new “color sense” search enhancement feature, a drill-down option to allow users to further filter their search results by relevant categories, and similar products that they may be interested in.

    SAGE also announced SAGE Company Store Premium, which will allow promotional product distributors to sell products online through completely customizable professional stores, create an unlimited number of custom pages, manage inventory levels with real-time alerts, create packing slips and shipping labels, and see advanced statistics and reports for each store. In addition, end-buyer customers will be able to rate products and leave product reviews in SAGE Company Store Premium, allowing for enhanced SEO.

    Additionally, SAGE has announced new features for SAGE Company Store Standard, including full-site SSL, responsive design, and the ability to print packing slips and shipping labels.

    SAGE is also pleased to announce SAGE Chat, the replacement for the previous SAGEim platform. SAGE Chat will feature an all-new look, new features, and can be used to easily facilitate conversations internally within individual companies, between distributors and suppliers regarding product questions, and with other industry distributors. SAGE Chat will also integrate with Live Chat on SAGE Websites to provide a line of communication between end-buyers and distributors. SAGE Chat is scheduled to release in March of this year.

    Eric Natinsky added, “We always listen to our customers and try to implement as many of their ideas as we can to help them become more efficient, more creative, more productive, and all around more successful. I am proud of the work we’ve done to take customer feedback and turn it into all of these new products and features I know our customers are really going to enjoy using.”

    SAGE encourages distributors who are not already SAGE subscribers to take advantage of its complimentary 30-day Total Access subscription. Visit their website to get started with SAGE Total Access, which includes SAGE Online, SAGE Web, and SAGE Mobile.

  • Monday, January 14, 2019 6:46 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index ended 2018 on a positive as it recovered in December from a minor decline the month before. The index rose to 111.61 from 110.23 in November. December’s increase represents a 5.4 percent increase over the past year. It also comes as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the country’s economy added 312,000 jobs in the last month of the year.

    “The Employment Trends Index rose sharply in December, reversing the declines in recent months, suggesting that employment will continue to expand in the coming months,” says Gad Levanon, chief economist, North America, at The Conference Board. “With gloom and doom views dominating the news in recent weeks, it is somewhat reassuring that leading indicators of employment are growing. While employment growth could slow down in 2019, it is still likely to expand fast enough to further tighten the labor market.”

    There were no signs of a slowdown in job growth in the December jobs report from the U.S. government, Levanon notes, and wages continue to accelerate, with average hourly earnings growing at an annual rate of 3.2 percent in the past 12 months and 3.7 percent in the past six months. He says, “All the main measures of wages are now rapidly accelerating, suggesting that more people from the sidelines will return to the labor force in 2019. The improving labor force participation rate in December led to an increase in the unemployment rate to 3.9 percent. The expansion in labor supply is allowing employers to more easily expand their workforce and meet demand for their goods and services.”

    Levanon adds, “While we do expect some slowdown in the U.S. economy and labor market, this jobs report should boost confidence in the U.S. economy. Together with strong wage growth, it suggests that markets are probably underestimating the number of times the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates in 2019. We expect two rate hikes during 2019.”

    In determining its Employment Trends Index, the Conference Board aggregates eight labor market indicators that it has found are accurate within their own areas. It notes that aggregated individual indicators are placed into a composite index to filter out “noise” and show underlying trends more clearly. The increase in December was fueled by positive contributions from seven of the eight components. From the largest positive contributor to the smallest, these were: the Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now, Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get”, the Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers, Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance, Industrial Production, Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry, and Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales.

    An indicator tracked by The Conference Board but not providing a positive contribution in December’s aggregate figure was the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings data.

  • Sunday, January 13, 2019 6:43 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    IMAGEN Brands, parent company of suppliers Crown Products (PPAI 113430) and Vitronic (PPAI 114197), is celebrating in a unique way the memory of 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 May 2018—with a teddy bear. Ford was known for his memorable greeting, “Hey buddy!” In remembrance of Ford’s impact on the industry, the Hey Buddy Bear was born, and with every bear sold, IMAGEN Brands will donate to the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF).

    The Hey Buddy Bear was designed with hearts on its paws and “Hey Buddy” imprinted t-shirt, and comes with a hang tag with an image of Ford and a special message. The Hey Buddy Bear will make its grand debut at shows this month.

    “Hey Buddy Bear was inspired by a very special friend, Fran Ford,” says Paul Lage, MAS, president of IMAGEN Brands. “He is someone that has touched so many of us. He gave you that ‘teddy bear’ feeling of being your best friend, someone you could always talk to, and gave you that warm comfort as you traveled through life. We all seem to get more than we ever gave. That’s why we are donating some of the proceeds back to the Promotional Products Education Foundations to help others in need. We hope Hey Buddy Bear touches others who may have a Fran Ford person in their lives.”

  • Saturday, January 12, 2019 10:18 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The partial government shutdown continues into its third week after weekend negotiations took place between the Vice President and staffers for congressional leaders. As the disagreement over the federal budget continues between the White House and congressional leaders, stories about the impacts of lacking government services are beginning to surface. Initial reports stated that tax refunds from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would be on hold because the IRS' fiscal year 2019 appropriations have yet to be approved. However, the White House Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney announced that a policy shift would allow the IRS to issue tax refunds during the shutdown to prevent delay. Also, the National Park Service announced that it will use entrance fee funds to subsidize operations during the shutdown. This decision comes after numerous reports of degradation in the parks' facilities. Another example of the impact of the shutdown relates to trade issues. 

    The International Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Commerce are closed. Processing of filings for exclusion requests related to the steel and aluminum tariffs is currently on hold due to the shutdown.
  • Friday, January 11, 2019 9:13 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Supplier Maple Ridge Farms (PPAI 114165) in Mosinee, Wisconsin, has promoted Jodie Schillinger, CAS, to executive vice president. She will report directly to President Tom Riordan. Schillinger is a 20-year company veteran who has held positions as assistant to the president, director of customer care and customer service manager.

    "Jodie's ability to lead is founded in her passion for serving our customers' needs, total concern for our team of employees and dedication to the continued growth of Maple Ridge Farms," says Riordan. "I have watched Jodie grow both professionally and personally during the past 20 years and have complete confidence in the leadership abilities she brings to her new role."

     Schillinger says, "I am humbled and honored to take this next step forward with our visionary leadership team. I believe that the roots of Maple Ridge Farms run deep within this industry, and that our brand carries a strong, trusted, delicious and customer-centric identity. I look forward to earning the continued trust and support of our customer partners, while working passionately with our internal teams, bringing to the industry the next level of what Maple Ridge has to offer."

  • Thursday, January 10, 2019 9:11 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    ASB is excited to announce a new partnership with the technology company, PromoHunt, which provides a browser extension that enhances the promotional product search experience. This will allow users within American Solutions for Business to easily access ASB-specific supplier contact information, coupons, specials, product ratings and product reviews, in addition to creating user-based collections, favorites and notes. 

    “I’m confident that PromoHunt will help bridge the gap between suppliers and our sales associates,” explains Dana Zezzo, ASB’s VP of Marketing & Vendor Relations. “It’s our goal to constantly provide our team with proactive, easy-to-use tools that help save time, increase productivity and grow sales. Integrating with PromoHunt will help accomplish this.”

    Tony Wavering, PromoHunt’s President, explained, “ASB distributors receive preferred pricing and other special benefits with thousands of vendors. While this is an enviable benefit, in the past it was logistically challenging for sales associates to fully utilize these benefits, since they had to shuffle between supplier websites, vendor portals, search engines, and order management tools. Our PromoHunt extension and toolbar will automatically display valuable vendor benefit and contact information to sales associates at the bottom of their screens. Starting today, sales associates will never miss a deal or need to search for information that is just a glance away.”
  • Wednesday, January 09, 2019 8:44 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    MTC Promo, Inc. (PPAI 740364), based in Carollton, Texas, has named Howard Weiss account manager for the Southwest region.

  • Tuesday, January 08, 2019 10:18 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The R.S. Owens’ design team worked closely with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s (HFPA) design firm, R/GA, to design this new version of the Golden Globe Award; created to give a new and powerful look to one of Hollywood’s most famous icons.

    The final design weighs 7.8 pounds and is made of zinc, brass and bronze with a 24k brushed gold finish. In addition, there was a special design created for the Cecil B DeMille and Carol Burnett Lifetime Achievement that utilized a graceful black marble base.

    The base for all the Golden Globes has been given a remarkable remake with a graceful cylindrical design while keeping any changes to the trademark “Golden Globe” topper to a minimum.

    For the first time each trophy will be marked with a “proof of authenticity” at the show to guarantee that each award is officially sanctioned by the HFPA and not a copy.

    Among the winners taking home the new trophy on January 6 was Glenn Close, Christian Bale, Mahershala Ali, Jeff Bridges and Michael Douglas.

    R.S. Owens has been making awards for over eighty years and can produce a symbol for your brand in any material you can imagine. Let our custom design department design your next award and start a tradition to honor your brand identity today.

    In 2019, R.S. Owens celebrates its 81st year of inspiring achievement.

    R.S. Owens has grown into the largest manufacturer of premier awards in the world with a firm commitment to creativity, quality and craftsmanship. The Oscar®, Emmy®, The American Idol, The Russian Golden Gramophone Music Award, Motor Trend, London International Advertising Award, GMA Dove Award, Athena Leadership Award, Kennedy Center Award, Cotton Bowl, NASCAR Pepsi Max 400, Phil Simms All-Iron Award and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Awards highlight the expansive list of honors produced by R.S. Owens.

  • Monday, January 07, 2019 8:25 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has closed resulting from a lack of funding for the fiscal year 2019. It’s included in about a quarter of federal government offices that have been shut down for the past 13 days.

    The CPSC has published its procedures in the event of a lapse in appropriations on the CPSC.gov website. The procedures outline what activities certain CPSC staff are legally allowed to engage in during a government shutdown and identify which employees are excepted from the furlough. Employees who are not excepted from the furlough remain on call in the event of an emergency that requires them to report to duty as an excepted employee, which is a determination made by the executive director.

    During a government shutdown, the regulatory agency retains limited functional capability for responding to imminent threats to human safety and protecting government property. The CPSC has posted a hotline number for consumers to call in the event of an issue arises that needs immediate attention from their offices: 800-638-2772.

    At press time, there was no end in sight as the shut down enters its second week. The longest shut down in history was the stalemate between President Bill Clinton and the GOP Congress that lasted 21 days from December 16, 1995 to January 5, 1996.

  • Sunday, January 06, 2019 8:21 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Brooklyn Center, Minnesota-based Showdown Displays (PPAI 254687) has acquired Xarisma, a custom soft signage supplier in Huntsville, Alabama.

    “Xarisma’s creative branding solutions and innovative display development is an ideal complement to the current offerings of Showdown Displays,” says Kevin Walsh, president of Showdown Displays. “We’re equally excited to bring the added production capacity, expanded facility space and Xarisma’s expertise and talent in custom fabrications to the Showdown family.”

    In a news release, Showdown Displays describes the two companies as like-minded and culturally compatible, and once integrated under the Showdown Displays brand, will offer a more comprehensive suite of both stock and custom portable lightweight display solutions.

    “Showdown Displays is the undisputed industry leader in portable, lightweight displays,” says Jon Houser, a Xarisma owner and vice president of sales and marketing. “The entire Xarisma team is excited about the synergies this acquisition represents as well as the opportunity to leverage each company’s strengths to accelerate our overall growth.”

    The corporate headquarters for Showdown Displays will remain in Brooklyn Center. The current Xarisma offices and 85,000 square foot production facility in Huntsville and its 90 team members, will complement the Showdown Displays facilities and talent force.

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

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