• Monday, December 17, 2018 10:55 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Lorraine Hempen, CAS, retired executive vice president of the Joseph Lipic Pen Company, former PPAI board member and inductee into the Association's Hall of Fame, passed away on December 15. She was 87.

    When Hempen entered the industry, she was one of only four women in the country to sell promotional products. Spending her entire career with one company, she started at the Joseph Lipic Pen Company as a clerk and retired 55 years later in 2002.

    Hempen served on the PPAI board in 1977-1981. She was awarded the Association's Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004 and inducted into its Hall of Fame in 2008. She served on the Association's government and legal affairs committees, and as vice chair of its education committee. In a note to PPAI, Hempen's niece, Laura Bozzay, shared, "Lorraine was proud of her years with PPAI and often spoke highly of its members."

    Hempen also served on several PPAI committees and was an active member of the St. Louis Advertising Specialty Association—now the Promotional Products Association of the Midwest (PPAM)—holding the treasurer, secretary, vice president and president positions at the regional association.

    Visitation will be at St Stephen Protomartyr Catholic Church 3929 Wilmington Ave, St. Louis, Missouri 63116, 9 – 10 am on Friday, December 21. Mass will be offered at 10 am. Following the mass, there will be a short gravesite ceremony at Resurrection Cemetery 6901 MacKenzie Rd, Saint Louis, Missouri 63123.

  • Sunday, December 16, 2018 8:39 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The industry’s most popular mobile app now includes the new decorator search module along with new product search fields, the ability to add logos to CRM, and significant upgrades to the tradeshow planner just in time for The PPAI Expo.

    SAGE, the leading provider of information, marketing and business management solutions to the promotional products industry, announces the release of a new version of SAGE Mobile™. The app, available for iOS and Android devices, allows industry distributors easy access to all their critical research and business management operations while on the go. In addition, as the official show planner for The PPAI Expo, to be held in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 13-17, 2019, distributors have complimentary access to the app’s expanded set of tradeshow planning features to plan and manage their experience at the show.

    Some of the new features in the SAGE Mobile 8.0 release include:

    • Perform advanced searches using the 54 newly-added product search criteria, which now makes SAGE Mobile’s product research as robust as SAGE’s desktop services, SAGE Online and SAGE Web

    • Search for decorators using the new decorator search area, allowing users to search for embroiderers, screen printers, engravers, and other special decorators

    • Add clients’ logos to their contact profile in the CRM module, allowing for quick and easy cross-functionality in the Virtual Design Studio, Order Management module, and more

    • Easily access tradeshow registration barcodes in the app for expedited badge pick-up at The PPAI Expo and any industry show where SAGE Event Services is available

    • Quickly access nearby exhibitors while walking the trade show floor at PPAI Expo through enhanced location technology

    • Take advantage of suggested trade show walk lists based on search history, preferred suppliers, and other preferences Share walk lists with other users with editing privileges enabled or disabled

    “We’ve all become accustomed to having access to anything that we need right on our phones. That’s why we continue to invest in our mobile app. We want to make sure that our customers can do everything that they need to right from their phone, seamlessly integrating with their desktop experiences,” said SAGE President, David Natinsky, MAS. “Whether you need to perform an advanced product search while on the go, or manage your journey at the PPAI Expo, SAGE Mobile will get it done for you.”

    SAGE Mobile 8.0 is available now. Current SAGE Total Access subscribers can download SAGE Mobile for free from the Apple App Store, Google Play, or the Amazon App Store. For users who have automatic app updates turned on, the update will download automatically.

    Distributors who are not current SAGE Total Access subscribers but are attending The PPAI Expo can access the tradeshow planning area of SAGE Mobile for free by visiting To receive full access to SAGE Mobile, tap the “Start a Free Trial” button on the homepage of SAGE Mobile.

    For distributors not attending The PPAI Expo, contact SAGE today for a complimentary 30-day subscription of SAGE Total Access, which includes the full version of SAGE Mobile.

    For more information on SAGE Mobile, visit

  • Saturday, December 15, 2018 8:37 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Trade show and event services provider The Freeman Company has acquired mdg, a full-service event marketing and public relations agency. The acquisition expands the Freeman spectrum of services from pre-event marketing and onsite user experience to post-show communications based on data-informed insights. PPAI's relationship with Freeman spans more than 50 years, and it began working with mdg in the production of its trade shows earlier this year.

    “The events business is undergoing a significant transformation—one that requires a sophisticated degree of integration around the convergence of brand strategy, data and content,” says Bob Priest-Heck, president and CEO of Freeman. “Our ability to translate strategy and data into meaningful onsite experiences coupled with mdg’s expertise in translating insights into audience-building marketing campaigns, will enable us to offer organizers a seamless solution that was never before possible.”

    mdg has served as a strategic partner for some of the most successful trade shows and events, helping customers market new events and reposition and rebrand more mature shows. The company has a 41-year track record of creating powerful marketing strategies for its customers. It brings together researchers and strategists, digital and interactive media experts, event and association management specialists, data analysts and a creative team to craft comprehensive campaigns aimed at increasing event and association attendance and exhibit participation.

    “What we’ve seen and heard from our clients is that they are looking for fully integrated event solutions. Our acquisition of mdg continues our initiative to create the seamless experience they crave,” adds Priest-Heck. “With mdg’s ability to infuse attendee acquisition and marketing insights directly into the onsite experience, we can now leverage data from both digital marketing and live experiences to deliver more robust and integrated offerings for our clients.”

    Kimberly Hardcastle-Geddes, president of mdg, says, “Over its 41-year history, mdg has continuously evolved to stay relevant in a dynamic marketing landscape, blending strategy, creativity and technology solutions to help clients achieve their organizational objectives. Joining Freeman is another giant step in that evolution and helps ensure the continued success of both the agency and, more importantly, the clients it serves. Together we will create more engaging, personalized customer journeys through an omnichannel approach to event and association marketing.”

  • Friday, December 14, 2018 8:36 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The Conference Board Employment Trends Index (ETI) declined in November, following an increase in October. Last month, the index stood at 110.41, down from 110.73 in October. However, compared to one year ago, the ETI is up 4.4 percent. The ETI increase comes as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 155,000 nonfarm jobs were added in November, and the unemployment rate remains unchanged at 3.7 percent.

    “The Employment Trends Index declined slightly this month and shows some moderation after reaching its highest point so far in August,” says Gad Levanon, Chief Economist, North America, at The Conference Board.

    Levanon notes that the job report and other recent economic data point to a slowing, although still-strong U.S. economy, which he attributes to three factors: : First, there is a disconnect between the gloom and doom environment in financial markets and real economic conditions. This disconnect is partly a result of the fact that compared to real economic activity in the U.S., stock prices are more negatively impacted by the expected rise in interest rates, the increase in labor costs and the slowdown occurring worldwide. Second, while the U.S. economy is not close to entering a recession in 2019, it is expected to gradually slow down. Slower economic activity, tighter labor markets and higher labor costs will lead to weaker job growth, which the latest job numbers suggest may already be happening. Third, even with the expected slowdown, job growth will be more than enough to continue tightening the labor market, leading to faster wage growth and increased inflation pressure in 2019.

    Levanon adds, “Jobs should continue to grow, causing faster wage growth which may, in turn, increase inflation pressure and ultimately result in a moderation in employment growth by the end of 2019. As a result, we expect the Federal Reserve to raise rates this month and possibly three more times in 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 using aggregated individual indicators in a composite index filters out “noise” to show underlying trends more clearly. November’s decrease was driven by negative contributions from three of the eight components. From the largest negative contributor to the smallest, these were the Ratio of Involuntarily Part-time to All Part-time Workers, Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance and the Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now.

    The other indicators include the Percentage of Respondents Who Say They Find “Jobs Hard to Get” from The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Survey, the Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary-Help Industry and Job Openings from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Reserve Board’s Industrial Production data and Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

  • Thursday, December 13, 2018 8:30 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Industry supplier Dard Products is under new ownership. The Evanston, Illinois, company has been acquired by athletic apparel manufacturer Official Issue, which will do business in the promotional products market under the Dard Products name.

    Dard was founded by Jack Shevin in 1947. The legacy was carried on by his son, Cary Shevin, who chaired the company’s board until his passing in January of this year. Cary’s daughter, Bonni Shevin-Sandy, has served as CEO and president of Dard Products for several years.

    Speaking to PPB Newslink, Shevin-Sandy said the company had been approached by several potential suitors since her father’s passing, although they had not been seeking a buyer. She says, “Scott [Palmberg, owner of Official Issue] has been a friend for 10 years and we’ve worked together before. We decided to sell to Scott because of what he brings to the table. That includes a product line that doesn’t overlap with what Dard offers.”

    Shevin-Sandy will consult with Palmberg and Official Issue, although she has taken a position with National Pen as global design director. She brought several of her patents with her to the San Diego, California, supplier and will work with the company on its designs and intellectual property.

    Official Issue will manufacture Dard Products’ goods at a new facility in Missouri and at its Tyler, Texas, location. Along with Shevin-Sandy, several key Dard staff members and salespeople will also continue with Official Issue.

    Shevin-Sandy says, “Distributors can expect to see a vast array of new items available through Dard Products. Official Issue produces more than a thousand different products and is bringing them to the promotional market. Scott’s expertise in sporting goods and private label work—he makes products for Dick’s Sporting Goods, Target and others—will also be of value to the distributor community.”

  • Wednesday, December 12, 2018 12:49 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE, recently joined the Promotional Products Association Southwest (PPAS) volunteer luncheon to deliver a town hall-style presentation on the state of the industry and the key issues and opportunities in play, the Association and its member companies.

    “Even though most of our members deal commonly with local businesses it’s a gift to hear from the CEO of PPAI about a larger picture,” says Steven Meyer, MAS, PPAS board president. “The trends across the industry, what end buyers are telling PPAI and how PPAI plans to equip members with this information is of great interest to our members and will help them both plan and execute a more successful 2019 business plan."

    Bellantone’s presentation explored the challenges facing the promotional products industry and member business growth, and the importance of creating value and differentiation in a crowded and commoditized marketplace. He also introduced PPAI’s end-buyer-focused research projects and Industry Branding Initiative, and shared research and trends regarding the size and scope of the promotional products industry and the power of promotional products relative to other advertising media.

    PPAS members also raised funds for the Homeless Veterans Service of Dallas at the luncheon. The regional association raised $200 through the sale of Antiqua jackets provided by Larry Krause, MAS and custom embroidered by Rodney and Georgina Bogart of All About Bikers.

    Meyer adds, “A large part of the luncheon’s focus was understandably on veterans. Both PPAS tradition and the times make it a very important to our membership to recognize and thank those who have served our country.”

  • Monday, December 10, 2018 1:34 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The U.S. has announced an agreement with China concerning the ongoing conflict over trade between the two nations. The agreement entails both countries committing to a delay of any new tariffs for a 90-day period beginning December 1, 2018. The U.S. has imposed three lists of tariffs on Chinese imports under the Section 301 investigation conducted by the United States Trade Representative (USTR) this year, amounting to a total of $250 billion in Chinese imports being subject to increased tariffs. The latest list published by the USTR affects several products that are popular in the promotional products industry including hats, bags and a variety of other categories. PPAI has enlisted the help of an experienced trade counsel to explain the Section 301 tariffs. The finished product provides a plain language guide about the items on the tariff list that are prevalent in the industry. The trade attorney who prepared the list also delivered a webinar for PPAI members that outlines the history of the Section 301 investigation, provides updates on the ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and China and offers mitigation options for managing the impact of the tariffs.

  • Friday, December 07, 2018 1:25 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Pantone announced today that PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral is the Pantone Color of the Year for 2019. The company describes Living Coral as an animating and life-affirming shade of orange with a golden undertone.

    “Color enhances and influences the way we experience life,” says Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute. “As a shade that affirms life through a dual role of energizing and nourishing, PANTONE 16-1546 Living Coral reinforces how colors can embody our collective experience and reflect what is taking place in our global culture at a moment in time.”

    Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, adds, “Color is an equalizing lens through which we experience our natural and digital realities, and this particularly true for Living Coral. With consumers craving human interaction and social connection, the humanizing and heartening qualities displayed by the convivial PANTONE Living Coral hit a responsive crowd.”

    Pantone has announced a Color Of The Year for the past 20 years. The selection goes on to influence product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home furnishings, industrial design and promotional products, as well as product, packaging and graphic design.

    To arrive at the Color of the Year selection each year, Pantone’s color experts at the Pantone Color Institute comb the world looking for new color influences. This can include the entertainment industry and films in production, traveling art collections and new artists, fashion, all areas of design, popular travel destinations, as well as new lifestyles, playstyles and socio-economic conditions. Influences may also stem from new technologies, materials, textures and effects that impact color, relevant social media platforms and even upcoming sporting events that capture worldwide attention.

    PPAI members receive discounts on dozens of Pantone products online, including formula guides and chip books, at Shop PPAI.

  • Thursday, December 06, 2018 2:37 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Multi-line reps provide many of the most critical connections within the promotional products industry, bridging the gap between suppliers and distributors, and serving up promotional solutions, samples, ideas and expertise to clients on a regular basis. It's not an easy job, but those who do it well are highly valued by those who depend on them.
    If your multi-line rep is a true partner in your business, nominate that person for consideration as one of PPB's Best Multi-Line Reps for 2019. Nominations are open through 5 pm on December 12. Nominees must be affiliated with a PPAI-member company and previous honorees are ineligible. Click here to access the nomination form.

  • Wednesday, December 05, 2018 2:34 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Earlier this week, the White House announced that it would postpone its planned January 1 tariff escalation for 90 days following a bilateral meeting at the G-20 Summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Tariffs on approximately $250 billion in Chinese imports had been set to rise from 10 percent to 25 percent at the start of the new year.

    The U.S. and China will work to come to an agreement over the two countries’ trade disputes. If no agreement is reached, the U.S.’ proposed 25-percent tariffs will go into effect on March 1, 2019. PPB Newslink reached out to several industry companies on how this news is affecting their handling of the tariff issue.

    “Our position has always been that the tariff announcements and process is part of a larger negotiating approach, and it’s one more component in our pricing structure,” says Bill Mahre, CAS, president of Hugo, Minnesota, supplier ADG Promotional Products. “We’re not doing anything different with our pricing because of the G-20 announcement, as it doesn’t have an impact on our business at this time. We have a good understanding of the tariffs and their effects on our products, so we’re letting this play out and will deal with it if we get to it.”

    In preparing for the originally expected January 1 jump to 25 percent, industry companies are well positioned as the increase date is pushed back.

    “At Prime we were working very hard with our supply chain and vendors to bring our goods in early in anticipation of the increased tariffs. In fact, we have a significant amount more inventory than we did this time last year,” says Jeff Lederer, president of Prime Line, part of the alphabroder family. “We just want distributors to have the peace of mind knowing they could count on Prime for inventory and stable prices. We were preparing for the 25 percent, should that have been or will be instituted. Distributors working with Prime can expect stability with pricing going into the first quarter of 2019. Our goal is to be clear and transparent with how pricing might affect the market if things change with the USA and China tariff situation.”

    He adds, “Prime has recently adopted a more variable pricing and product intro model where any changes would be communicated on our website and along all other industry platforms like the ESP, SAGE and Promostandards feeds. Since the existing tariffs were in place in September, any prices we had to adjust (higher or lower) have been in effect. It’s our goal to work closely with distributors in a transparent way and leverage our extensive supply chain, even in the face of cost pressures all around, in a way that will have the least impact to customers.”

    Melissa Ralston, chief marketing officer at BIC Graphic, says, “While we are hopeful, we won’t know the full implications on the promo industry until negotiations are complete. Luckily, BIC Graphic has a broad assortment of USA-made items—nearly 50 percent of BIC Graphic’s order volume is produced in our U.S. facilities—and product sourced from other areas such as South Korea, Vietnam and India to provide additional options that will not be impacted by potential tariff increases. We expect suppliers, distributors and end users will be mindful of cost increases in all areas of their business as a result of tariff increases. Having these items available provides options for budget-conscious end users who may be dealing with other increases in costs.”

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

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