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  • October 22, 2021 11:22 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    On Wednesday, the industry turned out for Promotional Products Work! Day (PPW! Day). October 20 was an opportunity to celebrate and publicize the value of promotional products to companies, customers and communities.

    PPW! Day has, in the past, filled a week with celebrations, but this year it returned for a single day to concentrate the industry’s efforts and reinforce its impact. The annual event serves as a cornerstone for recognizing the importance of working with promotional products professionals, while creating awareness for promotional products as a powerful and effective marketing and communications tool.

    Throughout the day, industry companies and professionals took to social media under the hashtag #PPWDay to share their work with clients and their community, highlight facts and statistics about promotional products’ use and effectiveness as an advertising medium, and share some of their favorite products and ideas.

    Reflecting the community spirit of PPW! Day, members of Promotional Professionals Association of Chicago (PPAChicago) took two carloads of donations to DuPage Pads in Wheaton, Illinois, and Hesed House in Aurora, both charities that provide support and services to end homelessness.

    PPW! Day was also the Promotional Product Professionals of Canada’s (PPPC) return to in-person events with its Holiday Showcase Toronto, a trade show held at the International Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. The day-long event brought 215 distributors to visit with the 39 exhibitors on site.

    PPPC also hosted a visit from Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Toronto City Councilor Michael Ford, Ontario Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction Nina Tangri, and a member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario representing Mississauga-Malton, Deepak Anand. The guests, invited by PPPC, spent 90 minutes touring the show and stopping to meet with many of the distributors and suppliers in attendance.

    “We were thrilled to bring the industry together, in person, for the first time in too long,” says Jonathan N. Strauss, president and CEO of PPPC. “It is truly our mission to be the group that brings the Canadian industry together. The feedback from all participants was very strong.”

    Used with permission from PPAI Media

  • October 22, 2021 11:22 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Fourth in a series
    In this series, distributor owner and sales coach Josh Frey answers frequently asked questions on a wide range of sales topics. 

    Let me start off by saying I am a sales guy, not a tech guy nor a social media guy. That said, I assumed both could help me build my promo business, but had no clue how to go about implementing them or, for that matter, even figuring out which technologies and social media outlets were the best to use.

    And I had one other huge problem—I was deathly afraid to have to learn something new and possibly add to my already overloaded plate of things to do.

    So, I figured I would find someone who could do the work for me. I remember meeting with an entrepreneur friend of mine who has a successful tech startup and asked him, “Mike, do you know anyone I can hire to help me implement some ways to get my clients to buy online and generate internet leads for my business?”

    You see, while I was afraid of technology and social media, I was even more afraid of being left behind. In the Washington, D.C. area, where I am based, I have watched all these businesses around me growing much faster online, and I was stuck doing business offline, in an “old school” way. I knew if I wanted to position my swag biz for the 21st century, I needed to incorporate technology into my strategy.

    So back to my friend Mike. Here’s what he said, “Josh, I know a ton of people who can help but I wouldn’t hire anyone until you learn the technology yourself. How can you hire and manage someone else when you don’t know how to use it yourself?”

    Wow! Did that get me thinking! You see, my approach is all about finding best-in-class people to help me grow my business and then outsourcing to them. Ultimately, I don’t want to do anything I don’t want to do. But to get to that stage I, like a true entrepreneur and small-business owner, need to know how to do everything.

    So, I dug my heels in deep—real deep—and started learning the very basics of social media sites like LinkedIn, as well as incorporating technologies into my own business like HubSpot, MailChimp and a CRM system. Albeit timely, and sometimes painful, I began to build an online presence that I could use to drive my own buyers and prospects back to my own distributor website and generate leads for me and my sales team.

    I am sure you already use technology and social media to make your job easier and promote your business to your clients and on the web, right? But the question is: how do you utilize it to make your client’s job that much easier and get them to buy from you again and again? Here are five simple best practices for doing just that.

    1. My clients and prospects can easily order through our ecommerce website with an Amazon.com–like experience. These orders automatically integrate with our order processing systems.

    2. We leverage company store technology to help my clients who have lots of employees (and locations) centralize the purchasing of their marketing supplies (which leads to numerous repeat orders).

    3. We set up custom landing pages for industry niches to educate those buyers on how others in their industry use promo vendors as partners to make their lives easier.

    4. We offer free samples (as a lead capture) on our website.

    5. We have an automated “thank you” and “referral request” email campaign that launches after each order delivers. It asks our clients for referrals in return for free gifts, discounts, etc.

    There are quite a few promo industry technologies and platforms that you, too, can utilize for your promo business to generate leads and scale your promo sales. If you want to discuss a few, please reach out to me.   

    Used with permission from PPAI Media

  • October 22, 2021 11:20 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    A sales manager at a mid-sized distributor let out a long sigh as she ended her phone call. She had just finished a lengthy discussion with her customer service rep at a supplier company she uses regularly. It was a conversation she was having all too often with her suppliers: the company lacked inventory for the products she wanted, or they were experiencing significant delays in being able to fill her order on time. What was going on? Weren’t companies ramped up and ready to get back to business this year after a lackluster 2020? 

    The above scenario is fictional, but unfortunately, the problem is all too real. Distributors agree it’s frustrating and all too common, but this is a problem that is equally maddening for suppliers. How did the industry get to this point? Simply put, the shortages and delays experienced on both sides are the residual business effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    The situation started with a shortage of factory workers in China and in factories around the world that produce raw materials, components and finished products, coupled with an increase in shipping costs for imported materials and products. The transportation issue was exacerbated due to the scarcity and cost of shipping containers, available space on ships and a shortage of dock workers to unload the ships once they got to the U.S. ports. The unavailability of raw materials along with higher prices that had to be passed on to suppliers, rising labor costs and the weakening of the U.S. dollar against the Chinese yuan, combined with an increased demand for products as businesses restarted and venues reopened, created the perfect storm. The trickle-down effect of these scenarios has rocked most industries—including the promo industry— for months.

    “The pandemic disruption caused a ripple effect from materials, components and labor to production shortages that are now felt all over the globe,” says Nadira Bakar, East Coast region manager for Houston, Texas-based KTI Promo, a supplier that manufacturers and imports tech-related promo products. “This has especially impacted promo with longer production times, fragmented ocean shipment imports/exports and longer transit times over air freight. In addition, since air freight is overwhelmed, there is an added layer of delay for items to leave China.” 

    Dan Strickland, owner of Panama City, Florida-based supplier Garment Gear, a screenprint and direct-to-garment print company, explains the issue from a slightly different perspective. “With t-shirts, so many mills shifted production to masks and then, like so many other industries, they were forced to close or only run at partial capacity for weeks on end. Since everything has become “just-in-time” production, these ripples in the supply chain have become full-blown tsunamis of problems stacked upon each other.”

    Mark Jenkins, MAS+, managing director of promotional markets at supplier Pioneer Balloon Company, says shipping delays via ocean have always been complicated and slow to respond and correct. “The epic interruption in the chain of supply (decreased demand and supply) exacerbated the inherent problems in shipping by sea. It will take time to stabilize this very slow system,” he says. But how long?

    Most suppliers interviewed say it will take at least a year and likely up to three years for the system to unwind and reset. “I’d like to believe that when COVID cases decrease and the world at large is back to some sense of normalcy, these issues will resolve themselves,” says Amie Hoff, CEO of supplier FitKit Wellness in Grasonville, Maryland. “It’s hard to tell, but I hope by the end of 2022 we will see things subside.” KTI’s Bakar says because the ripple effect is bigger than anticipated and because of the global scale, the timing is hard to gauge, but her educated guess is that it will take 18-26 months to be resolved. “This guess is contingent upon vaccinations, more people entering the workforce globally and freight channels opening up,” she adds.

    The labor shortage, specifically, has been a huge contributing factor to this situation. Without skilled workers, the entire system breaks down. “The decrease in labor has minimized the capability of the supply chain—it starts from manufacturing and trickles all the way down to distributors,” says Bakar. “Without workers, capacity has to be capped and decreased; the volume as we knew it ceases to exist.” 

    Garment Gear’s Strickland says he’s heard most wholesalers are only about 75-percent staffed as of early summer, a figure that mirrors his own facility, and with a lean team even when 100-percent staffed, his company is forced to run at a slower pace. As a result, he says apparel warehouses are only holding about a third of their normal inventory now, as well.

    Tom Clouser, MAS, national account manager for Bel Promo in Medley, Florida, says rather than having a person who unpacks, a printer and a packer on each machine, suppliers are facing having only one person do all three tasks, which is causing production delays. “Not having enough people to run multiple shifts is also delaying orders,” he adds.

    However, not all supplier companies are dealing with the effects of a labor shortage. Isaac Presburger, CAS, sales director at Houston, Texas-based supplier Preslow, which manufactures apparel in Mexico, says labor is not an issue and because he has a lot of fabric in inventory, his lead times are not being affected.

    For another company at the beginning of the supply chain, Redwood Classics Apparel in Toronto, inventory wasn’t an issue until just recently. President Kathy Cheng says the company began to see a slow-down in inventory in August. “We bring in yarn by the container and 70 percent of raw material at the factory level is knitted within a 100-mile radius of us,” she says, adding that the company has always maintained a deep inventory of raw materials and stocks certain styles—t-shirts, for example—made up and ready to be pulled for garment dying. 

    The fallout from this spiraling situation has also caused price increases, particularly for raw materials. Cheng says her raw materials costs have gone up about 70 percent to date and every few weeks she gets notifications of price increases. Then there’s the cost of shipping a container of goods (which skyrocketed from $5,000 in March 2021 to $18,500 in August 2021, according to The Freightos Baltic Index), but wages are also on the rise, so suppliers are forced to increase their prices to distributors. “We use a fairly large yarn supplier—they have five plants in the U.S. and, on average, they are 100 people short on labor per plant,” says Cheng. “That’s just one component per supplier in one product category.”

    “Many suppliers are already running on pretty tight margins and labor is almost always the largest component of costs,” says Strickland. “So, with domestic labor increasing to produce stateside, along with the raw cost of goods increasing, plus the tremendous shipping cost increases, how can suppliers [prices] not go up?”

    “Now Hiring” signs have become a familiar site on small businesses from restaurants to retail, factories and warehouses as companies struggle to find enough workers to resume full shifts, regular hours and daily output. In August, CNBC reported more than 10 million open jobs in the U.S. and over a million more jobs than unemployed people; almost a third of small-business owners have positions that have been open for at least three months. 

    The short-term solution to relieve the promo industry’s woes is to get people back to work—which is easier said than done. Government paycheck assistance combined with COVID-19 infection concerns and changing quality of life priorities have made many people rethink the jobs they held prior to the pandemic. In addition, 2.5 million people retired during the pandemic compared to just about half that number in 2019. In China, factories are having difficulty filling jobs because migrant workers are staying home amid COVID-19 fears, and many young workers are rejecting factory jobs in favor of higher pay in the service industry, The Wall Street Journal reported in August. In general, these trends are indicative of a shrinking labor pool, and the trickle-down effect means fewer people to get products on warehouse shelves. 

    Suppliers are also warehousing stock in larger quantities as much as possible to accommodate the demand and learning to plan ahead. “Stock up on inventory to hold you over for a couple of months and give yourself plenty of time,” advises Jason Scaduto, executive vice president of Paterson, New Jersey-based LBU, Inc., a manufacturer of custom cut-and-sew products.

    Many industry practitioners see the current situation changing the industry in numerous and significant ways, particularly extending lead times industry-wide and requiring suppliers to stock more inventory and opening up opportunities for decorating facilities domestically. “I anticipate an increase in domestic decorators or increased traffic with existing decorators,” says KTI’s Bakar. The company has stocked items domestically, such as USBs, power banks and Bluetooth® ear buds at its Houston warehouse since the Dangerous Goods Act was implemented a few years ago. Recently though, the company has begun stocking popular products at its overseas facilities so that orders can be decorated there and shipped to Houston. “This removes the additional time of gathering material, assembly and quality control,” Bakar says. “So far, this has been successful for mid-level orders and quantities.” 

    Diversification of sources is another potential outcome of this crisis. “Distributors will have to look for alternative sourcing and not just rely on goods imported from Asia. Local and nearshore manufacturing will be looked at more closely,” says Preslow’s Presburger. Bakar says this ripple effect will force suppliers to pare down their selection of products, change their logistics to what they can warehouse locally and will likely mean growth for domestic decorators. 

    Garment Gear’s Strickland believes companies will seek out ways to become more efficient when it becomes absolutely prudent for them to do so. He says, “It does take some time for companies to navigate through these new waters, but the good ones will come out better—both for the company and their clients.”

    Like in many other industries, the long-term effect of the supply chain issue will mean higher prices, and suppliers predict marketers will be forced to increase their promo budgets or reduce the number of items they purchase. It’s also an opportunity for distributors to be creative and resourceful. “The promotional products industry is not immune to the same inventory and pricing issues they are experiencing in their everyday lives as consumers at the retail level,” says Pioneer Balloon’s Jenkins. “The good news, of course, is that distributor buyers are closer to the situation and origins of supply. They can help find and manage solutions for their customers and business and prove their immense value to their clients.”

    And there’s more good news. On August 27, the White House announced it would appoint John Porcari as port envoy to the Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, which was created in June. He will be working with the Department of Transportation and the National Economic Council to address congestion at U.S. ports, a problem the White House admits has existed for years. 

    Honesty, transparency and timely communications are key strategies successful suppliers are using to manage distributors’ expectations and avoid frustration and disappointment. “I can only manufacture what we have on hand. We let our customers know—we are very transparent,” says Cheng at Redwood Classics. “We are also being proactive in providing solutions and recommendations. For example, ‘If you’d like solution A, your delivery might be longer, if you want solution B, your delivery might be shorter, but the cost may be higher.’” 

    At KTI, salespeople are staying in constant touch with clients on delays, but also promoting items that are in stock for quicker delivery in their Houston warehouse, to give them options.

    LBU’s Scaduto says his team is letting customers know upfront that they are dealing with delays and increased costs, so there are no surprises. “Our domestic production is filling up quickly and production times keep getting pushed out, so we are advising them to plan ahead and place orders early with plenty of time for delivery,” he says.

    If there’s one message distributors should take away, it’s “order early”—especially for holiday and year-end gift-giving. “We are trying to manage expectations as best we can,” says Hoff of FitKit Wellness. “The last thing we want to do is promise something we know we cannot meet. We are all about transparency and would rather not take an order than not meet an in-hands date. We check with each team from start to finish in our production process to ensure we meet the needs of our clients before committing to anything.”    


    Hear more about what suppliers are saying on this issue in the latest episode of PPAI PromoTalks. In this podcast, PPB presents The Supply Chain Crisis featuring Howard Cubberly, general manager of Goldstar Global, and David Berger, a partner with Global Promo. 

    During the 32-minute conversation, Cubberly and Berger share their insights and guidance on the issue. This podcast is free and sponsored by Kaeser & Blair. Find it and the full library of podcasts at pubs.ppai.org and click on PromoTalks; also available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. 

    Used with permission from PPAI Media

  • September 09, 2021 6:55 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    It’s been well over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. While things are slowly returning to normal, much like the flu pandemic of 1918, we’re going to be feeling the effects for a very long time, not only in our personal lives but in the lives of our businesses as well. The pandemic has impacted every industry, including our own – and it’s continuing to impact our world at levels we haven’t even seen. While we’re picking back up the pieces in our own industry – trade shows are starting to get scheduled again, people are ordering things other than just PPE, we have another hurdle to jump through: port delays.

    Admittedly, I first became aware of the port delays because of my hobby. If you haven’t guessed already, I am a massive Star Wars fan. I collect high-end action figures of my favorite Star Wars characters from a company called Hot Toys. Hot Toys happens to be based in Hong Kong, and all of their products are produced there. One of their releases – a life-sized fully articulated replica of The Mandalorian’s The Child happened to be one of the first of many of their products to be delayed. He was initially scheduled to arrive in either February – March of this year. I didn’t end up receiving him until June. He was so delayed, the US distributor that I purchased him from ended up shipping him straight from the port in Los Angeles. 

    Unfortunately, my life-sized replica of The Child isn’t the only thing getting delayed. 

    According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (say that five times fast), the US imported a total of 451.7 billion dollars worth of goods from China in 2019. Everything from clothes, furniture, electronics, and toys to those little googly eyes for your kid’s crafts are manufactured in China and shipped to the United States. So that means a whole lot of product is sitting out in ports or sitting on docks waiting to be delivered. 

    Image of several container ships filled with containers next to cranes ready for unloading

    At the beginning of the year, a shipping container shortage saw shipping prices jump 300% as companies scrambled to find containers, and prices have continued to rise. Then we had the Suez Canal incident, truly a Little Engine That Could story of modern times, which saw month-long delays after that. Ports were just catching up from that when there was a COVID-19 outbreak in the Guangdong province and resulted in the shut down of several parts of the province. Guangdong is home to Yantian, which is one of the world’s busiest ports. Now, it’s just clearing the backlog of ships. At one point in June, Yantian saw at least 70 ships waiting to dock. And it’s not just China that’s seeing this backlog of ships; ports in California saw at least 40 ships waiting to dock and unload their containers as well. 

    There’s a mad rush to get products from China to the US before the holidays, especially as peak season starts. There’s an estimated 90-day delay in ports, and as people return to their everyday lives, demand is continuing to rise. Experts are expecting this holiday shopping season to be even bigger than the last. 

    So, what can we do? Especially with the holiday season fast approaching, a traditionally very busy time for us, right around the corner? We can’t control the ports or try and get the ships containing our products through the delays faster.

    Our advice? Order early. 

    Your best bet to make sure that your clients get their products on time for the holiday season is to get their orders as early as possible. There are six months until Christmas and with the estimated 90-day port delay, that gives you about three months from now. While this can be fairly stressful, try and have fun with it! One way you can get your customers ahead of schedule – take a page from QVC, Hallmark, and Disney – and celebrate Christmas in July! Don’t underestimate how much people love the holiday season and that warm fuzzy feeling that memories of holidays past bring.

    Start by calling on the clients that you know always order for the holidays, and get your process started early. Get it into their minds that this year will be hectic, and the sooner they order, the better. You can even use the SAGE Print Studio to create your own catalog showcasing great gift ideas to send to your customers.

    With any luck, the port delays will ease up soon – especially with the push to get the backlog cleared by August, and our industry will be plowing forward just as we’ve always done. But if we’ve learned anything this past year, we know the best plan of all is to be prepared for any outcome!

    Does inspiring your clients to order their holiday gifts early with a catalog sound good to you? Click here to learn more about SAGE Print Studio, and reach out to your account executive today to get started.  

    Used with permission from SAGE

  • September 09, 2021 6:53 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    It might sound crazy, but the fall/winter holiday season is right around the corner!

    Like a lot of people, I’m a bit of a last-minute holiday shopper. Last year, I was still shopping for gifts for friends and family all the way up to the day before Christmas! However, when it comes to holiday orders for your business, that strategy is a setup for failure.

    With supply chain delays and sourcing issues affecting industries across the board, it’s more important than ever to get your holiday orders taken care of early this year. But to truly grasp why it’s so essential to order your holiday items early this year, you must first understand why employee and customer appreciation matters.

    To some more cynical bosses, company gifts might seem inconsequential. However, research shows that employee appreciation gifts are a worthwhile investment that help with job satisfaction, employee retention, and more. The right gift can make employees feel more connected to your company and more likely to stick around for years to come.

    Similarly, gifting to your customers is a great way to show your gratitude for their continued business and to build and reward loyalty. Gifting lets your clients know that you value their business and want to continue your shared business relationship, and helps them to feel an emotional connection to your brand. This means more repeat business and a stronger brand perception for you – all for the cost of a simple holiday gift!

    Now that you know how beneficial corporate gifting can be, whether it’s to your customers or your own teams, here are a few of our favorite holiday gifts for 2021:

    Stainless Steel Stemless Wine Glasses Gift Box Set

    SAGE #50018

    This set features two stainless steel stemless wine glasses with your logo or message beautifully laser engraved or screen printed, wrapped up in a protective gift box with matching branding. This gift is perfect for wine lovers, couples, or anyone who likes a temperature controlled beverage.

    Wireless Earbuds

    SAGE #60462

    If you’re looking for a corporate gift or giveaway that will get used over and over again, then look no further than wireless earbuds. These little headphones are useful for phone calls, video conferences, music listening, and so much more, ensuring that your gift will be well appreciated.

    Air Plant

    SAGE #50219

    Plants make a great gift for any time of year! Brighten your customer’s day with this cute air plant that will breathe a little life into their home or office.

    Igloo Hard Side Cooler

    SAGE #51093

    These hard-sided coolers are uber-trendy and super durable, making them a fantastic high-end gift for the holiday season. Perfect for customers or employees who enjoy the outdoors, these rugged coolers are sure to make an impression.

    Soy Wax Candle

    SAGE #69207

    Truly, you can never go wrong with candles. This classic gift makes an excellent giveaway for customer and employee appreciation alike, and with several scent choices (and even custom scents!), there’s a perfect candle for everybody.

    Don’t be caught empty-handed this holiday season. Get ahead of the supply chain delays and place your holiday orders now to make a positive impact on your employees, clients, and more. To learn more about supply chain delays, check out our blog on Port Delays and the Holidays.

    Used with permission from SAGE

  • September 09, 2021 6:52 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Masks are back! After a two-month hiatus, Masks are back in the top 10 searched product categories and take up 6 of the top 25 most viewed products. Nationally, coronavirus case numbers are the highest they’ve been since the start of 2021. With the CDC recommending fully vaccinated people to mask up in public, indoor places, and increased mask mandates at schools and businesses, there has been a renewed need for branded masks. Here are the top 10 product categories searched for in August for 2019-2021.

    Used with permission from SAGE

  • September 09, 2021 6:52 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Customer churn, sometimes known as customer attrition, is when an existing customer chooses to stop buying from you. They may leave your company because they found a better offer somewhere else. Or, maybe they had a bad customer service experience, or they don’t really see the value in sticking with your business.

    Customers may leave for any number of reasons, and it’s never good for your company’s bottom line. Gaining a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing one. So, what can you do to help prevent customer churn? According to Swetha Amaresan, a writer for the HubSpot Service Blog, you can take five steps to lower your churn rate and maximize customer retention.

    In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share Amaresan’s thoughts on five ways to prevent customer churn.

    1. Wow them with customer service and support. When clients choose to do business with you, they are counting on you. Not only do they need the specific products or services they purchased, but they need to be able to reach you if they have a question or need support. Amaresan says one of the best ways to prevent customer churn is to give your clients an outstanding experience. Be proactive in reaching out to your clients, even if it’s just to check in and see if they have any questions.

    2. Keep adding value. You can become a resource for your clients by providing more than what they purchased. For example, if your company hosts a blog or sends a newsletter, share relevant posts with your customers. You can also encourage your customers to sign up. This will help you clients get accustomed to seeing your company’s name in their inbox, says Amaresan.

    3. Create personalized customer experiences. You may have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of other clients, but each one wants to feel like they are uniquely important in your world. To help reduce customer churn, look for ways to make your customers feel special. This could mean sending them a thoughtful promotional gift or writing a handwritten thank-you note. Those little extra steps could be the deciding factor for them to stay with your company, notes Amaresan.

    4. Survey the customers who left. Sometimes, customers still decide to leave. When they go, find out why they left. This information can help shed light on issues you may not know about. For example, you might learn that customers are leaving because they have to wait too long to get a response. Use what you learn to adjust and improve.

    5. Focus on your loyal customers. While all of your clients are important and should be treated like VIPs, it’s important to invest the most energy in your strongest customer relationships. Amaresan points out that loyal customers who don’t feel like they are cared for anymore can sometimes be an unexpected cause of customer churn. Rather than rolling out the red carpet for every new client you get, make sure you first support your customers who have been with you for the long haul.

    Reducing customer churn is an ongoing undertaking. Your clients have dynamic businesses and will need different things from you at different times. You can help keep them happy and retain them by implementing the guidance above.

    Compiled by Audrey Sellers

    Source: Swetha Amaresan is a writer for the HubSpot Service Blog.

    Used with permission from PPAI Media

  • September 09, 2021 6:51 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    Over the past year and a half, words like “agile” and “flexible” have become commonplace at work. Teams have needed to show these characteristics to succeed during the pandemic. As businesses continue to navigate toward the next normal, you may wonder what that looks like at your company.

    While this new phase will look different for every workplace, it can help to reflect on what you have learned and where you want to go next. For Allegra Keith, a VP at Daily Harvest, moving into the next normal means applying four core lessons. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss Keith’s lessons and offer her suggestions on how to thrive in a pandemic-era workplace.

    1. Lead with your values. Your team may be starting a hybrid schedule or continuing with remote work. Or, your team may be returning to the office full time. However you approach the next normal, Keith says it’s important that your team members know what you stand for. This means that instead of offering perks that don’t really matter, look for ways to create a truly fulfilling culture. For example, instead of providing a fully stocked fridge, consider offering a more flexible schedule.

    2. Co-create with your team. As you move into the next normal, make sure everyone at your company is involved and provides feedback. Give choice and flexibility when you can, advises Keith. You can co-create with your employees in several ways, including one-on-one conversations, pulse surveys, focus groups and all-hands meetings. When things feel uncertain, it can help to give employees a sense of control over their jobs and how they work.

    3. Be intentional about what you put on the calendar. Remember scheduling Zoom happy hours in the early days of the pandemic? Or scheduling back-to-back meetings to replicate the quick one-on-ones from the office? They may have made sense then, but they probably don’t work so well now. In the next normal, Keith encourages managers to reassess how their teams work. Maybe instead of an annual company retreat, you take a full week off of Zoom and Slack and allow people time to make progress on deep work. Make it known when you are testing a new way of doing things, advises Keith, and let others know how long you want to try it. Then, ask for feedback. If something works, stick with it. If not, let it go.

    4. Normalize PTO. When your team members are on PTO, do they feel compelled to check email or Slack? In the next normal, Keith says it’s important for leaders to encourage their employees to step away and recharge during their PTO. Make sure everyone is accountable by creating a clear out-of-office plan. You could also cross-train some of your employees so your team can function when people go on vacation.

    Your workplace many never look the same again—and this can be a good thing. Use this time of adjustment to reinforce your company’s values. Talk with your team members and give flexibility when possible. When people are out on PTO, remind them to take the time to truly recharge. Your team and your company will reap the benefits of these “next normal” changes.
    Compiled by Audrey Sellers

    Source: Allegra Keith is the VP, head of strategic planning, talent and culture at Daily Harvest.

    Used with permission from PPAI Media

  • September 09, 2021 6:51 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)

    It can take weeks for a newly hired employee to learn the ropes. In fact, research shows it can take eight months for a new hire to reach full productivity. Whether you’re hiring someone new to the promotional products industry or an experienced industry professional, it helps to get them up to speed as quickly as possible.

    Michelle Kankousky, a learning and development consultant at Insperity, says managers can set their new hires up for success well before they begin. For example, you might consider sending a personality assessment to discover how your new employee learns and communicates best.

    Once the new hire officially begins, Kankousky says there are some simple ways to shorten their learning curve. We share her thoughts in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.

    Pair up. Assigning a buddy is one of the best ways to get a new hire up to speed. This colleague can answer questions and help the new employee navigate company culture. If you’re unavailable, the new employee can check in with their buddy for help. This match-up is beneficial whether your team works remotely or in the office.

    Create a custom training plan. If your new employee is coming from within the promotional products world, they likely have a solid understanding of how the industry operates and the current issues facing industry professionals. However, if they’re new to the field, they’ll need more extensive training.

    Establish communication checkpoints. Kankousky recommends creating set points where you and your new hire (and possibly the buddy) touch base. This is a time to talk about how the new employee is acclimating to the company and understanding procedures. These checkpoints help you see where the new hire may need more or different training.

    Follow up and follow through. To get your newly hired employee up to speed, make sure you check in regularly and provide what you say you will provide.

    Let the employee know how they’re doing. As your new hire adapts to their new role, take time to provide feedback. Remember that people want and need to know when they’re doing things correctly, says Kankousky. They also want to know how they’re fitting in. Make your feedback as specific as possible so the new employee knows what behaviors or actions to repeat.

    Encourage two-way communication. When you bring someone on to your team, it’s important to invite open communication that flows in all directions. This means that managers must be receptive to receiving communication—whether it’s positive or negative. Foster an environment where your new hire can let you know when you need to be clearer, says Kankousky.

    Getting new employees up to speed doesn’t have to drag on weeks or months. In many cases, you can even start onboarding new hires before they begin. Get to know their personality and working preferences and send them a copy of your company’s mission statement or core values. You can also pair them up with a workplace buddy who can show them the ropes. Develop a personalized training plan and follow up frequently to make sure the new employee is catching on. If you fit the training to the person and follow through, you’ll succeed at shortening the learning curve.

    Compiled by Audrey Sellers

    Source: Michelle Kankousky is a corporate learning and development consultant at Insperity. She has more than 16 years of HR experience.

    Used with permission from PPAI Media

  • September 09, 2021 6:50 AM | Dara Cormany (Administrator)


    The pandemic threw a wrench into the construction market, but companies are digging out of the disruption. This year, the global construction market is projected to reach $12.5 trillion, up nine percent from 2020, according to Research and Markets. By 2025, the market could top $16.6 trillion.

    North America is a major contributor to the construction industry, accounting for 26 percent of construction worldwide. This region is second only to Asia Pacific, which comprised 42 percent of the market in 2020. Dodge Data and Analytics forecasts total construction starts in the United States to climb to $877 billion in 2022, exceeding the 10-year high of $856 billion in 2019.

    So how exactly do these billions of construction dollars get used? It depends on the sector. For example, building construction includes residential and commercial projects, such as offices and restaurants. Industrial construction involves factories, power plants and other large-scale production facilities. Another major sector is infrastructure construction, which involves public works projects such as roads, railways and pipelines.

    To complete all these projects, the U.S. construction industry employs nearly 7.5 million general contractors, engineers, welders and other construction experts, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the population grows, more workers are needed to construct buildings, roads and other structures. This year alone, Associated Builders and Contractors projects the need for an additional 430,000 construction professionals. 

    By working with professional organizations, vocational training schools and chambers of commerce, construction companies can use promotional products to attract the qualified workers they need. Construction firms can also use logoed items to spread awareness about specific programs, show employee appreciation and hammer home their message.

    Read on for key trends and ideas on how to break ground for new business in the construction market. 

    Construction is literally a brick-and-mortar industry, requiring on-site interactions and activities. However, the pandemic has revealed that many construction jobs can successfully start online. Just as telehealth allowed patients to see doctors from the comfort and safety of home, telebuilding works in much the same way. By using digital tools and technology like drones, planners, inspectors and project managers can view job sites and collaborate remotely. This reduces in-person visits, helping to boost productivity and increase worker safety in a post-COVID-19 world.  

    Telebuilding also allows construction firms to manage workers’ concerns about masks and vaccines. More than half (57 percent) of adults believe all employees—those vaccinated and unvaccinated—should be required to wear a mask when working on-site, according to a June survey from the American Staffing Association. And while most workers (60 percent) don’t want to reveal their own vaccination status, 66 percent say they have a right to know if their colleagues have been vaccinated.

    Whether workers conduct their jobs on-site or remotely, construction companies can use promotional products to give employees a better experience. Logoed items such as backpacks and travel mugs allow construction managers to transition from their home office to job sites. And branded products such as tape measures and labels are always useful on construction sites.   


    The residential construction market is hot almost everywhere, but especially in the cities at right. Here, spending has spiked for residential building permits. See the percentage change in value from 2020 to 2021. 

    Sources: Construction Coverage and Home Advisor


    President Biden’s roughly $1 trillion infrastructure plan, the American Jobs Plan, will reportedly create millions of jobs—many in the construction sector. The president’s plan calls for more than 20,000 miles of roads to be modernized and 10,000 bridges to be repaired. Promotional products distributors can work with construction companies to recruit and retain workers who will be needed as projects begin to roll out.


    Construction workers are in short supply. Construction companies report the greatest need for these positions specifically, which opens huge opportunities for distributors to help companies promote themselves to job seekers:

    Laborers 43%
    Carpenters: 35%
    Heavy equipment workers: 29%
    Truck drivers: 25%
    Concrete workers: 23%
    Cement masons: 12%
    Mechanics: 12%
    Iron workers: 10%
    Electricians: 9%
    Pipelayers: 9%

    Sources: Associated General Contractors and Autodesk


    Want to open the door in the residential construction market? Here are the nation’s top 10 homebuilders and their total closings for 2020:

    1.  D.R. Horton .....................................71,292
    2. Lennar Corp......................................53,376
    3. PulteGroup........................................24,624
    4. NVR...................................................19,766
    5. Taylor Morrison..................................12,524
    6. Meritage Homes Corp.......................11,834
    7. KB Home...........................................10,672
    8. Clayton Properties Group....................9,475
    9. Century Communities..........................9,453 
    10. LGI Homes...........................................9,339

    Source: BuilderOnline.com


    The key to greater brand awareness could be right in homeowners’ toolboxes. More than half (61 percent) of U.S. homeowners have taken on a home-improvement project in the past year—and they have money to spend thanks to savings and stimulus checks. Over the next two years, homeowners expect to spend an average of $6,250 on renovations, and one in five say they plan to spend $10,000 or more. Here’s what tops homeowners’ remodeling wish lists:

    70% want more space for cooking
    31% want more space for exercising
    40% want more space for entertaining
    27% want more space for outdoor living
    50% want more space for working from home
    27% want more space for homeschooling
    27% want more space for childcare 

    Sources: NerdWallet and Home Advisor


    Construction cranes are common sights in big cities. While some may view them as eyesores, cranes are often indicators of a healthy and growing economy. At press time, these cities had the most cranes towering in the sky:

    Washington, D.C................................45
    Los Angeles, California......................43
    Seattle, Washington...........................43
    Portland, Oregon................................23
    Denver, Colorado...............................22
    Boston, Massachusetts.....................13
    Chicago, Illinois.................................12
    San Francisco, California..................11
    Honolulu, Hawaii...............................10
    New York, New York..........................10

    Source: Rider Levitt Bucknall


    Some of the country’s largest cities have the most open and ongoing construction jobs. See the top 10 busiest cities for construction according to the number of projects underway:

    1. Houston, Texas.............................5,663
    2. Chicago, Illinois............................5,215
    3. New York, New York.....................5,173
    4. Jacksonville, Florida.....................4,924
    5. Seattle, Washington.....................4,486
    6. Los Angeles, California................4,241
    7. Dallas, Texas................................4,034
    8. Austin, Texas................................3,608
    9. Portland, Oregon..........................3,320
    10. San Antonio, Texas.......................3,256

    Source: Next Insurance


    Women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but in 2020, they comprised only 11 percent of construction workers. Professional organizations, vocational training programs and construction businesses can use promotional campaigns to actively recruit women and highlight opportunities in the field. 

    Source: Statista


    According to OSHA, one in five deaths among U.S. employees occurs in the construction industry. Promotional products and incentive programs can help educate workers about workplace safety and foster a culture of occupational wellness.


    Waterproof, breathable and exceptionally well designed, the ANSI 107‐2015 Type R Class 3-compliant XtremeDry® Breathable Rain Jacket is both lightweight and comfortable and chock full of features. Made with an exclusive Pongee Twill, a strong and supple fabric, it has full mesh lining, taped seams throughout and features 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material Segmented Comfort Trim for extreme visibility. In yellow only in sizes S-4X with a matching XtremeDry® Breathable Rain Pant also available. 

    Vantage Apparel  /  PPAI 113235, S10  /  www.vantageapparel.com


    Featuring push-button retraction, a wrist strap and a built-in belt clip, the Foot-Locking Tape Measure makes a helpful promotional tool for construction firms, builders, material suppliers and renovators. 

    Beacon Promotions, Inc.  /  PPAI 113702, S10  /  www.beaconpromotions.com


    Construction businesses can use labels, stickers and decals to identify workers’ tools, display safety messages or highlight warnings. These durable labels are designed to withstand the elements in all kinds of construction zones. 

    Label Works  /  PPAI 111141, S3  /  www.labelworks.com


    The Project Planner Multi-Sheet Calendar helps construction managers stay on top of appointments, deadlines and bids. Customize it with a one-color or full-color imprint. 

    Tru Art Advertising Calendars  /  PPAI 113720, S6  /  www.truart.com


    The Cheyenne Work Jacket is constructed of 12-ounce washed and peached 100-percent Boulder Cloth™ canvas with three-ounce polyfill insulation and a diamond-quilted, brushed, tricot-lined body and hood for durability and comfort. Details include rib-knit cuffs and waistband with six rows of spandex for superior memory retention. This jacket will withstand the toughest working conditions, provide warmth and keep the wearer moving and working hard on every jobsite. 

    Dri Duck Traders  /  PPAI 318801, S5  /  www.driduck.com


    With the HidrateSpark Steel Water Bottle, workers can track their water intake and ensure they stay hydrated. An LED smart sensor puck glows when workers need to pause for a sip. The water bottle syncs with a free Hidrate app to calculate users’ daily water needs.  

    The Allen Company  /  PPAI 113879, S5  /  www.allenmugs.com 


    Renovation companies can send a sweet client thank-you with the Chocolate Tools Gift Box. This four-piece set includes a hammer, saw, wrench and screwdriver crafted in milk or dark chocolate. It’s gift-ready in a gold or silver box with an optional foil stamp. 

    NC Custom  /  PPAI 111662, S7  /  www.nccustom.com


    Kick off an employee wellness program with the Construction Hat Stress Reliever. The squeezable foam helps workers release tension after using their hands all day. 

    Bullet  /  PPAI 113079, S12  /  www.pcna.com


    When inspectors travel from site to site, the Kobuk Camping Mug keeps their beverage the perfect temperature. This mug features a stainless-steel outer wall, a slider closure to keep drinks from sloshing and a base pad to prevent slipping.

    Logomark  /  PPAI 110898, S12  /  www.logomark.com


    When a lumber yard wanted to thank customers after completing an addition or remodeling project, the company turned to a custom level from Beacon Promotions. The lumber yard knew the home or business owner would need to do some decorating, and the level would help them with the task. With a full-color, domed decal imprint, recipients would always remember where they received the helpful tool. And since this promotional item also includes a tape measure, it gets used often.  

    Source: Beacon Promotions


    Audrey Sellers is a Dallas-Fort Worth-based writer and a former associate editor of PPB.

    Used with permission from PPAI Media

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