Fall is here, the time of year people gather around and tell each other scary stories. Unfortunately, the workplace has its fair share of all-too-real horror stories too.
By bringing them to light, we hope they can become important lessons on what to do and not do.
Knowing that his Kentucky company celebrates staff birthdays, an employee asked the office manager to not throw him a party. However, the office manager did not pass along the request and, while he was away, co-workers planned a birthday celebration for the employee. The employee then suffered a panic attack, so he avoided the party and sat in his car during the lunch break.
The next day, two supervisors confronted him about his behavior, which prompted him to have another panic attack, turn red in the face and yelling at his supervisors to be quiet. The employee used a coping method which involved clenching his fists, causing the supervisors to feel threatened, so they sent him home and told security to not allow him back.
Even though the employee texted apologizing for his behavior and explained it was how he copes with panic attacks, the company fired the employee, citing fear of physical harm and that his panic attacks did not meet the ADA-level of disability.
The employee filed a claim for adverse employment action due to his disability. A jury agreed and awarded him $150,000 in lost wages and $300,000 for his suffering.
Moral of the story: Honor an employee’s request to not be involved in company traditions or public outings that are not directly related to their job duties.
There are numerous stories of potential and current employees ghosting their employers.
Applicants fail to respond to interview requests or candidates who have been interviewed or even offered a job disappear with no warning. Even current employees, regardless of length of service, have been known to work without issues and then poof… without warning they do not show up to work, do not call in, and do not respond to managers who reach out not only to find out if they are coming in but if they are OK.
Conversely, several companies have ghosted job candidates as well. Even though recommended practice, not every application gets acknowledged or sent a rejection letter early in the hiring process. However, companies have been known to interview candidates, promise follow-up, and even make a preliminary offer of employment but then never contact that candidate again.
Moral of the story: Establish clear communication expectations for every stage of the hiring process and employment lifecycle. Let candidates and employees know that they are valued and who and how to reach out to communicate any issues they have. And be sure to have a welcoming, open communication style so people do not feel disappearing is their only option.
A recruiter had an interview with a 19-year-old man for a summer internship. While it seemed to be a normal interview, the young man’s mother appeared a few minutes later apologizing for being late as she was parking the car. The mother then joined the interview, continually interrupting to extoll her son’s accomplishments and explain why the company should hire him.
In fact, there are numerous stories of parents involving themselves in the hiring process for their children, including submitting their child’s resume on their behalf, asking to represent them in the interview since their child was “busy,” or calling to negotiate a higher salary.
Moral of the story: Be prepared for outsiders intruding into the process. Calmly and respectfully explain to both the child and their parent that the hiring process is an interaction between the company and the applicant which is best one-on-one. Once hired, all personnel information is confidential and can only be discussed with the employee.
Not A Costume
Companies often have dress and appearance requirements, some due to safety purposes while others are to achieve the desired “look” the company wants its employees to present. The EEOC protects the employee’s rights to follow the attire and/or appearance requirements dictated by their religious beliefs.
However, companies often enforce their requirements for all employees without making reasonable allowances such as skirts for women who are not allowed to wear pants or not hiring a woman who wore a headscarf to an interview (whose case was actually affirmed by the Supreme Court).
Companies have had to pay large settlements due to not giving employees who wear beards and long hair the same employment and promotion opportunities. While some requirements do not need to be accommodated due to critical factors such as safety as long as enforced consistently for all employees (i.e., not allowing a firefighter to grow a religiously-required beard because it would cause his life-saving mask to no longer fit properly), many dress codes allow for some flexibility.
Moral of the story: Review your dress code to evaluate its requirements for “wants” versus “needs.” If an employee makes an accommodation request for any legitimate reason such as medical or religious requirements, consider if the appearance policy can be flexed to honor the employee’s rights while maintaining safety and keeping the general “look” desired.
HR does not have to be scary, and you do not need to face your fears alone. Reach out to Affinity HR Group to help you navigate the “horrors” you may face.
Published With Permission from PPAI
McAllister is a contributor for Affinity HR Group, PPAI’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as PPAI and their member companies. To learn more, visit www.affinityHRgroup.com.
On January 1, a new food packaging standard goes into effect in California that will have implications far beyond the state’s borders. In October 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsome signed Assembly Bill 1200 into law, which bans perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food packaging at the beginning of 2023.
Impact On Promo
Considering the size of California’s economy – approximately 15% that of the United States, making the state the world’s fifth largest economy – its PFAS requirements on food packaging will likely impact U.S. promotional products businesses regardless of where they are located.
Grimaldi Law Offices, a firm specializing in chemical and product law, noted in its analysis of the impending rule change that it “effectively creates a new national standard for food packaging and cookware disclosure requirements.”
Food packaging is defined in the regulations as being, in part, to mean a nondurable package, packaging component or food service ware that is comprised, in substantial part, of paper, paperboard or other materials originally derived from plant fibers.
PFAS was also a topic of discussion at this year’s PPAI Product Responsibility Summit, which included a session on the substances and how industry companies can respond to impending regulations.
Assembly Bill 1200 requires manufacturers use the least toxic alternative when replacing regulated PFAS in food packaging.
PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals used in several industrial and consumer products. They are sometimes referred to as “forever chemicals” as they do not readily break down in the environment. They can also accumulate and persist in the human body. Due to these factors and more, PFAS substances are coming under increased scrutiny at the federal level.
Published with Permission from PPAI
October 12, 2022 was a beautiful day at Brookside Golf Club in Pasadena as the Foundation for SAAC hosted 74 golfers for a fun day out on the course while raising money to fund scholarships for SAAC youth. Attendees were welcomed by lunch, Raising Cane’s refreshments and a hosted bar. The annual event featured new activities this year to keep the fun going all day long, starting with a putting contest hosted by Dan Madden of Nadel. Ed Maloney was the big winner of this first-time event, taking home $200 in cash and a Raising Cane’s gift basket worth over $150!
Bobbi Buescher, wife of the late Jim Buescher, kicked off the shotgun start with sentiments of how much SAAC meant to Jim and how wonderful it is to see his legacy continued with a fun golf outing. Out on the links, games hosted by SanMar, Geiger, and BANG! Energy encouraged everyone to have a great time and stay hydrated. Course refreshments were sponsored by ELIQS, Celsius Energy Drinks, and the Foundation for SAAC.
While the golfers were vying for first place, another new feature, a wine tasting event, took place on the Mediterranean pavilion. A dozen SAAC members sipped selections from DAOU and Buffalo Ridge wineries and noshed on charcuterie while enjoying the sunshine. Joe Gavern of Imagen Brands said he enjoyed having a non-golf option for the Foundation’s biggest event of the year. Special thanks to ALPI International, Koozie Group, and Dan Madden for sponsoring the first-ever wine tasting event.
As SAAC golfers filed in for dinner, the silent auction stole everyone’s attention with offerings of luxury items including trips to Florida, Dodgers, Kings, and Galaxy tickets, golf packages and more!
As the excitement continued to grow the winning team of the golf tournament was announced, with Todd Turquand’s foursome taking home some hardware! During dinner, the Foundation recognized 12 past presidents of SAAC among the dinner guests and thanked them for their years of support.
Overall, the day was a great success, and many voiced their pleasure with the event, citing the Foundation golf tournament as “the best networking we’ve done all year!”
The Foundation for SAAC is blessed to have a wonderful group of board members, volunteers, and sponsors who made this day possible. To learn more about the Foundation for SAAC, visit saac.net/foundation.
Relationships are the lifeblood of our industry. It’s a lesson I’ve learned, and now I’m reinvesting into my regional promotional products association, SAAC. By sharing my experience, I hope your company reevaluates its commitment to regional associations, whether you’re a distributor, supplier or industry player.
I’m a "geriatric Millennial,” a micro-generation born in the early 1980s. I’ve spent my 20s and 30s in the promotional products industry. I couldn’t wait for the prophesized collapse of the trade show circuit, allowing me to get back to the native way of doing everything as my peers do: online.
This idea was constantly challenged by my first promo boss and mentor, Bob Levitt. Bob is “old school promo,” which I believe is “Relationships First, Online Last.” This approach reeked of inefficiency to me for years.
As Bob and I drifted apart in our careers, with him heading to a Top 2 distributor, and me venturing with my own independent distributorship, I continued on the path I approached most things in life: Why call when text is faster? Why visit when I can send an email?
For the first couple years, it seemed to work well. I’d research products online, check inventory online, submit estimates and purchase orders online.
My solopreneur business stayed flat throughout the pandemic. At the beginning of 2020, the business was on an upswing, with the company growing 100% plus per year for the past three consecutive years, and now with now employees across the country.
With this growth, an entirely different level of management was required. This continues to be my greatest challenge. I’d love to be out prospecting all day, but now the company needs different things from me. Instead of selling all day, I’m supporting the team to sell all day. Guiding them through the process of fostering relationships with industry suppliers to enhance their knowledge and assist our clients.
As I look back as every single crisis, the solution has always been an interpersonal relationship with our suppliers and decorator partners. SAAC has always been the nearest and easiest avenue for little distributors like me to maintain and develop relationships.
As my team at Radar Promotions has grown, the SAAC Expo has presented a unique and valuable event for our company each August. After more than five years in the industry, the regional and even PPAI Expo shows have lost some allure to me: I show up, and I talk with a lot of suppliers and decorators, but you pretty much know who’s who and what they do. What was very illuminating to me was how valuable our team’s first trade show was to them. Watching my Radar team think about how certain products could be decorated and sold to their unique clients was eye-opening.
The other truly unique asset that Regional Associations bring to the distributor experience is organized factory tours. I’m registered for two this month at the Picnic Time Family of Brands and Vantage Apparel. I haven’t been to a team-based factory tour before, and I’m looking forward to it, especially because these suppliers aren’t primary suppliers for our company. With that said, every primary supplier in our list of preferred suppliers started off NOT being one, so I have no doubt that these SAAC-Organized Factory Tours will energize our creativity and selling brains on how we can sell more.
I’m calling out my Millennial self for this one, The PromoHunt toolbar by Tony Wavering is one of the best tools I have seen in our industry. If you don’t already have it installed, you need to install it today. This aggregates all buyer group pricing, if you’re a member, regional association specials/perks, and online stores and easy presentations. This no-charge toolbar, alone, has paid several times over for the minimal cost of being a SAAC member, and I cannot stress membership and participation for all distributor peers in SAAC’s area.
Maybe Bob was right all along. My age might have been the biggest liability in my success. I can definitely say that after eight years working on both the supplier and distributor side, the relationships are what matters. When competitors can foster mutually beneficial and symbiotic relationships, and distributors can truly partner with suppliers, we will all succeed as industry. Join a regional association today.
Looking for a Regional Assocaition in your area, Click Here.
Want to learn more about membership in SAAC, Click Here.
Published With Permission From Ryan Paules, Radar Promotions
Effective leadership drives any organization, be it a business, a team or, in the case of this week’s 2022 PPAI Leadership Development Workshop, a regional association. Takeaways from the three-day event will inform executive directors’ and board members’ decision-making in the year ahead.
LDW returned this week for its 21st in-person event and the first time the popular conference drew participants together face-to-face since 2019. It included attendees representing all of the promotional products industry’s 27 regional associations.
“It’s great to be back,” says Brian Deissroth, CAS, PPAI Regional Relations Committee chair. “It’s great to be in-person. It’s great to network and collaborate and share with each other. That’s where the rubber meets the road, being together in person. So, I am really excited that we were able to pull this off.”
The workshop ran October 10-12, beginning with an afternoon of education and networking specifically geared towards regionals’ executive directors. Its full agenda began in earnest Tuesday morning and ran through mid-day Wednesday.
Following a welcome by PPAI President and CEO Dale Denham, MAS+, and Deissroth, LDW’s full education agenda kicked off Tuesday morning with a keynote session led by Jason Jones, Ph.D.
Jones, a best-selling author, executive coach and organizational psychologist, shared his insights on the power of the human brain and how it can be leveraged to attract, retain and engage membership.
“Now more than ever, we have to lead from a place of unleashing the best in people,” says Jones.
The human brain is wired to connect socially. Effective leadership, Jones explained, fundamentally depends on building good connections with another person. He shared three words – care, character and communication – that are fundamental to a mindset to support successful collaboration. A positive, empowering approach to leadership can pay dividends.
He says, “You can believe in something so passionately that other people look at you and think that they want to feel that way too.”
Much of LDW’s education opportunities are presented through a series of breakout sessions tackling a wide range of relevant subjects. As they run concurrently, most regionals divvied up the sessions among their attendees.
“There have been several standouts for me at LDW,” says Deissroth. “PPAI’s strategic plan and how the RRC is going to ultimately back that up. The sustainability conversation and LEAD Local in 2023 are both really important to the RRC as well. And ultimately it’s been the collaboration and the sharing and the problem solving from the sessions. I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback today and look forward to hopefully doing this again next year.”
Breakouts scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday included the technology needs of regional associations, legislative outreach at the local level, effective interpersonal collaboration, legal ins-and-outs and more.
“For me personally, I find that the synergies are really interesting,” says Stacy Midkiff, Northwest Promotional Marketing Association board member and first-time LDW attendee. “Being able to talk to everybody, other regions, and find out what they’re doing and seeing how their building their membership; it’s really taking it to the next level.
“We’re finding new creative ideas and ways to go about things, changing our thought processes and coming up with something new. That’s what I love about this. It’s very cool.”
Promotional Products Work (PPW)
Tuesday’s education schedule wrapped with a review of PPAI’s Promotional Products Work program and PPW Expo. The review, which drew LDW attendees back into a single session, shared how attendees can include the program’s practices and ideas into their own planning.
Sparking a back-and-forth her audience, PPAI’s Promotional Products Work Manager Lindsey Davis, MAS, also shared how regional associations can use PPW to support their own goals and how they can work together.
LDW gave attendees several opportunities to network and mingle. And on Tuesday, after the day’s education programming wrapped up, attendees made the short hop next door to Austin Ranch, a rustic-themed event space, for the PPAI Regional Volunteer Recognition Dinner.
At the recognition event, LDW participants enjoyed a Texas-sized meal, took advantage of games like billiards and cornhole, and celebrated Thea Bruce, CAS, the 2022 recipient of the PPAI Regional Volunteer Award. Bruce was recognized for her long-time service the industry as a board member and former executive director of the Northwest Promotional Marketing Association.
Bruce has attended LDW several times before, but along with her award, this year’s workshop delivered something new.
“I first came to LDW as an executive director and meeting with the other executive directors was invaluable,” says Bruce. “We were able to establish the standards and learn from each other. Coming back as a board member, it’s a whole different world. I’ve seen people I’ve known for a long time and met the fresh blood who are contributing and bringing new perspectives to our community. I’m very excited to be here.”
Published With Permission From PPB
The labor agreement between railways and workers’ unions may be in jeopardy.
Members of the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, representing nearly 23,000 railway workers, voted to reject a tentative agreement the two sides reached in September.
There is no immediate threat of a strike. In a statement, the National Railway Labor Conference, which represents the railroads in the negotiations, said, “The parties have agreed to maintain the status quo as they discuss next steps. As such, the failed ratification does not present risk of an immediate service disruption.”
The unions involved in the labor dispute represent approximately 115,000 workers. So far, four labor organizations have ratified agreements to resolve the national bargaining round. Tentative agreements with seven other labor organizations remain subject to ratification, with votes scheduled before November 20.
The tentative agreement announced in September included raises and bonuses for workers, and revised railroads’ rigid attendance policies. The BMWED’s rejection of the deal was, reportedly, not based on refusal of the financial terms, but anger at management’s policies regarding work schedules and other issues.
“The majority of the BMWED membership rejected the tentative national agreement and we recognize and understand that result,” says Tony D. Cardwell, union president. “I trust that railroad management understands that sentiment as well.
“Railroaders are discouraged and upset with working conditions and compensation and hold their employer in low regard. Railroaders do not feel valued. They resent the fact that management holds no regard for their quality of life, illustrated by their stubborn reluctance to provide a higher quantity of paid time off, especially for sickness.”
Published with Permission from PPB
Questions, questions and more questions. Naturally, the more you ask, the more you can learn about your prospects. While there are many ways you can speed up the sales process, question-based selling (QBS) remains a favorite among many sales teams. Thomas Freese introduced the concept in his book, “Secrets of Question-Based Selling.” According to Freese, achieving success in sales doesn’t come down to making the right pitch, but asking the right questions.
Shawn Finder, founder and CEO of Autoklose, says that QBS is a sales approach that involves asking a series of open-ended questions to gain valuable insight into prospective buyers.
Some of the biggest benefits of QBS include:
Finder says that successful QBS means not only developing the right questions but tying them to different stages of the sales process. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we share his ideas on how to effectively structure your sales questions to get the best results.
Invite prospects to talk through their goals. It’s important to understand a prospect’s pain points, but Finder says the more you know about their goals, the better. When you can discern their ulterior motives, you can close sales more successfully. To get to the heart of the matter, Finder recommends asking questions like:
• What are your main long-term goals?
• How will solving this problem bring you closer to your overall business objectives?
• What happens when you achieve this goal?
• Are your employees and the entire leadership aware of the importance of this goal? Are all of you on the same page?
The more you can get your prospects to talk about their goals, the easier it becomes for you to make a more specific pitch. It then becomes easier for prospects to understand how your solution can help them achieve their goal.
Discuss potential roadblocks. There’s a good chance your prospects know what challenges they may face when trying to achieve their goals. When you get to the bottom of things and identify the bottleneck, Finder says you provide guidance that isn’t so generic.
The key to selling successfully is knowing your customer. Question-based selling can be a great way to dive deeper into your prospects’ worlds and engage in more meaningful and productive conversations. Remember to use open-ended questions and talk through not only pain points, but their bigger-picture goals and any obstacles that may stand in the way.
Compiled by Audrey Sellers
Source: Shawn Finder is founder and CEO of Autoklose. He’s also a keynote speaker and advisor.
Coaches and mentors both provide valuable services when you want to elevate your career. Coaches typically provide guidance in the moment or teach you how to overcome a specific challenge. They may give you assignments or projects to work on and then discuss with you later. Mentors, on the other hand, often create longer-term relationships with their mentees. These relationships may last years or even decades and tend to involve more informal interactions.
Wondering whether you may benefit more from a coach or a mentor? Writer Tamara Franklin has provided some guidance, which we share in this issue of Promotional Consultant Today.
When To Work With A Coach
When To Work With A Mentor
Sometimes, you can benefit from working with a coach and a mentor simultaneously. For example, you could work with a coach to help you set goals in your current career or teach you how to hone different skills for a new job. You may work with a mentor at the same time to define your brand voice or map out your career path. Working with a mentor can help you think of scenarios you haven’t considered in the past and help you avoid problems before they start, Franklin says.
Whether you decide to go with coaching or mentoring — or take advantage of both — you’ll benefit from having a helpful support system and personalized attention.
Source: Tamara Franklin is a writer who helps tech brands drive organic traffic and increase conversions through customer-driven content marketing.
Published wtih Permission from PPB
Demand for sustainable products remains high and cannot be ignored, even in the face of inflation and rumors of recession. Survey after survey shows that consumers want sustainable products and practices.
A 2021 global consumer survey conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value and the National Retail Federation found that 40% of consumers seek products and services aligned with their values. Further, 60% are willing to change their shopping habits to reduce environmental impact, and of the 80% who say sustainability is important for them, nearly 3 in 4 would pay a premium for sustainable and environmentally responsible brands.
From the employer/employee perspective, sustainability is also a great retention strategy, as younger workers are especially likely to expect their employers to be responsible corporate citizens. Although millennials are leading the way as both consumers and employees, the desire for sustainability tracks across all age groups.
Suppliers and distributors of promo products must pay attention or risk falling behind the curve. But there’s good news, particularly when it comes to sustainable branded apparel, as more and more eco-friendly fabrics and garments have become available in recent years.
So, “sustainability” is clearly important – but what does this big, buzzy umbrella term mean on a practical level? Key elements of a sustainable business model include:
Circularity: What Goes Around Comes Around
Ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns is No. 12 on the list of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, adopted in 2015, with specific targets including “substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.”
Irys Kornbluth, CEO of Everywhere Apparel, a supplier of recycled cotton garments (mostly made in Los Angeles), says the promo apparel market is uniquely suited to adopt a circular model of production, usage and recycling.
“Companies want to clothe their employees in their branded merchandise and spread the word about their brand, but to do so in a way that’s sustainable and circular,” she says. “This is really a great area to do that in, because there’s a lot of repeated production, a lot of the same goods that are being produced on an ongoing basis.”
Everywhere makes all its garments from recycled cotton yarn, and the company offers garment recycling as a service as well. This doesn’t only keep unwanted or discarded garments out of the landfill – by some estimates, the average American throws out 80 pounds of clothing a year – but gives those materials a new life.
“If we’re doing a custom run for a distributor or whatnot in the network and they end up having a few pallets leftover or merchandise that didn’t get sent out to the field, we can help them recycle that back into new products,” says Kornbluth. “So it’s minimizing the risk of overproduction and also helping to address those problems if they do come up.”
Cleaner Operations: Reduce Energy And Water Usage, Emissions
Cleaning up production operations in your supply chain also makes a big difference. The more garment suppliers and distributors expect their business partners to participate in sustainable initiatives, the easier, less expensive and more accessible these processes will become for everyone in the industry.
Doug Jackson, president of Minnesota-based supplier Storm Creek, tried dipping his toes into recycled fabrics about a decade ago. At first, it was slow going because he didn’t have enough volume to demand sustainable yarns and fabrics from Storm Creek’s suppliers. But he kept asking, and eventually more options became available.
“At that point we decided that we could, as a company, start putting a big force toward trying to do everything recycled,” Jackson says. “Once we realized that we could do that, we started looking at the whole supply chain and saying, OK, can we as a company start saying that we need certification from all of our fabric mills, from all of our dyeing mills, from all of our yarns, from every part of the channel?”
Although it was still “a big boys’ game,” he adds, awareness and demand were growing, and the kinds of recycled and eco-friendly materials he was looking for were getting easier to come by. It’s all about volume, he says – there has to be enough demand to make it worth the effort for everyone in the supply chain.
Storm Creek also started asking all of its suppliers to commit to earning Bluesign and OEKO-TEX certifications, both of which reduce harmful chemicals and wastewater pollution
“We want all of our mills to be OEKO-TEX certified or Bluesign certified, and really what that means is that they just use better chemicals for the environment,” Jackson says.
Certifications: What To Look For In Your Suppliers And Their Products
In fact, there are multiple certification programs and other measures of sustainability to look for. Here are four of the biggest:
Communicate: Make Sure Your Customers Know About Your Sustainable Efforts
The IBM study authors suggest that to do sustainability right, companies need to recognize consumer demand, incorporate sustainable initiatives like those described above throughout your operations and earn customers’ confidence through transparency and traceability.
Once you’ve taken these steps toward sustainability, be sure to promote your efforts and certifications with messaging and product/packaging labels to inform buyers and end users. For example, supplier Gildan reports its sustainability, circularity and environmental achievements online. Everywhere and Storm Creek also highlight their sustainability practices on their websites.
“Younger people are becoming more of an influence, and they just look at things in a different way that made more people want to think about it,” says Jackson. “We all can do more nowadays. The price is not as crazy as it used to be, and it’s more available.”
The 100% GRS Certified Recycled Cotton Unisex Crew Tee from Everywhere Apparel is a soft and sustainable T-shirt designed to be recycled at end of life and reincorporated into the company’s supply chain. Available in white or black, sizes XS-3X. Each shirt includes a QR code to help wearers recycle it and other clothes.
Everywhere Apparel / PPAI 795141, S1 / www.everywhereapparel.com
Like Everywhere’s tees, the company’s 100% Recycled Cotton Unisex Pullover Hoodie is made of recycled fibers and without dyes, bleach, fertilizers or pesticides. This classic hoodie sweatshirt features a kangaroo pocket and a lined hood without drawstring. Available in white, gray or black, sizes XS-3XL.
Everywhere Apparel / PPAI 795141, S1 / www.everywhereapparel.com
Don’t forget your tootsies! Go for a total custom product with the ability to knit complex logos and patterns on these Sustainable Custom Knitted Dress Socks. Recycled cotton yarn from old garments or leftover fabrics prevents additional textile waste and requires far fewer resources than conventional or organic cotton. Socks are woven from 80% recycled cotton, 18% nylon and 2% spandex.
SOCK101 / PPAI 625402, S6 / www.sock101.com
Storm Creek offers a variety of button-down dress shirts made from recycled yarns, including the Men’s Influencer Gingham Shirt. The four-way stretch lets you move with ease and keeps the fabric wrinkle-free. The quick-dry fabric also features UV protection. Available in blue or black (shown) and sizes S-5X, as well as L-2X tall.
Storm Creek / PPAI 438091, S6 / www.stormcreek.com
Each bestselling Men’s Front Runner Vest contains seven recycled bottles with 40% of the outer shell and 35% of the insulation from recycled materials. The water-resistant, windproof, quilted vest provides warmth without bulk and includes zippered chest/front pockets and an interior embroidery pocket. Available in six colors (shown in jet/black) and sizes S-5X, as well as L-3X tall.
Storm Creek / PPAI 438091, S6 / www.stormcreek.com
Adidas has pledged to use only recycled polyester in all its products by 2024. The Adidas Golf Basic Short Sleeve Sport Shirt features classic athleisure style in 100% recycled polyester with UPF 25 protection and a moisture wicking finish. Available in 16 colors (shown in Amazon) and sizes S-4X.
S&S Activewear / PPAI 256121, S12 / www.ssactivewear.com
With its C-FREE line, SanMar measures the carbon footprint of each style and purchases verified carbon offsets to remove an equivalent amount of emissions elsewhere in the environment. The Port Authority Ladies Recycled Performance Polo Shirt is made of certified recycled materials, from the 100% recycled poly pique fabric to the thread. These shirts also provide snag-resistance, moisture-wicking and UV protection in five colors (shown in rich red) and sizes XS-4X.
SanMar / PPAI 110788, S16 / www.sanmar.com
The lightweight, brushed fleece Cutter & Buck Adapt Eco Knit Stretch Recycled Womens Half Zip Pullover is made of certified eco-friendly 88% recycled polyester – with an average of 16 recycled plastic bottles in each garment – plus spandex for stretch. Sizes XS-3X, 12 colors (shown in red).
Cutter & Buck / PPAI 196156, S11 / www.cbcorporate.com
Rachel Zoch is an associate editor at PPAI.
The holidays are a great time to show appreciation for clients, customers and employees with thoughtful gifts. Items and messages that make your recipients feel valued help build relationships and cultivate loyalty, which is especially important for employees, both due to the sometimes isolating nature of remote work and the ongoing challenges of hiring and retaining talent.
Although a Wall Street Journal article suggested in August that some companies plan to cut back on gifting due to anxiety about inflation and potential recession, a report by Coresight Research, based on a survey of 300 corporate gift buyers in the U.S., suggests that corporate gifting is on the rise and that the upward trend will continue through 2024.
Perhaps most importantly, the report highlights improved relationships with customers and employees as the top advantage of corporate gifting.
“Employees today need to feel appreciated more than ever, particularly with remote work,” says Mike Brugger, president of Fully Promoted, a global promo products distributor with individually owned franchises nationwide. “Companies have got to step it up. People want things that they wouldn’t buy themselves.”
Choose Your Gifts With Care
Choosing the right gifts is a layered process that requires not only knowing your budget but also the needs and preferences of your intended recipients. Gifts should be useful, personal and memorable. You don’t want to simply send a thing with your logo on it.
Give some thought to who your recipients are and what they need and want. Choosing a gift that’s relevant shows that you understand who your employees and customers are. A gift that is useful, high-quality and relevant to the recipient means something they can and will use for a long time.
New options for customization can add an extra layer of personalization for even more impact, and as 3D printing becomes more affordable, consider creating a truly unique, customized gift that only your recipients will have.
Messaging matters, too – be sure to include a thoughtful thank-you note or a card expressing appreciation for the employee’s contribution or the customer’s business.
“Get into some creative decoration or personalization, really dive into that thank-you holiday message or create a fun theme,” around your branded gifts, says Katie Kahler, a marketing specialist with distributor American Solutions for Business. “It shouldn’t just be putting a logo on something and sending it to your team.”
Show Off Your Sustainability
If you’re going to give sustainable items, make sure to say so, advises Brugger. “You want to point that out so somebody doesn’t get a gift and think, ‘Oh, this is a waste,’ because that devalues their experience,” he says. Consumers want goods made from recycled and sustainable materials, so it’s important to make sure they know when they receive a green gift. It’s easy to do with a simple sticker that costs a few cents – a small investment with a big payoff when it comes to spreading goodwill for your brand.
Make It Memorable
You want your gift to be memorable, something that people will be excited to receive and use. Although gift cards are the most purchased gifting category, they don’t reflect the level of care and thought that can truly build lasting loyalty. Look for something with a wow factor, advises Brugger.
“The gifts that surprise people, I find, last longer,” he says. “When it gets delivered to your customer or your employee, they’re like, ‘Wow, this is cool!’ and they keep it and they like it.”
Kits are also a great way to up the wow factor and demonstrate that a lot of thought and care went into the gift. It’s also a way to provide a variety of items so you’re better able to appeal to a broader range of tastes.
“I would say kitting is more popular than ever. I would create a custom branded box with something like a Bluetooth speaker inside, as well as a food item and a card,” says Greg Miller, president at Brand-Tastik Promotional Marketing, an Illinois-based distributor. “Each box can be personalized. I believe the presentation and packaging is very important these days with gifting, and it gives the giver a huge canvas for custom branding.”
Choose Your Own Adventure
Letting employees pick their gift is a huge trend that makes the annual holiday gift more fun, says Kahler, who is helping some clients create pop-up web shops featuring a curated selection of branded gifts. “That allows us to copy and paste the concept across the company, but it still feels really personal to the person who’s receiving the gift,” she says.
Stay Ahead Of The Supply Chain
Also, make sure the gifts you choose will be available and delivered in time. With the ongoing supply chain issues worldwide, your first choice might not be ready when you want it.
“Holiday timelines must be extended by at least two weeks,” says Tim Duffy, president of New Jersey-based distributor Siegel’s Corporate Gifts and Promotions. “Labor shortages may be to blame for some of the poor service, but mergers have led to layoffs, and multiple customer service departments take 24-48 hours to respond to emails.”
If you haven’t already secured your orders, do it now, says Brugger, who predicts that the most popular items will be sold out by November.
“Orders need to be placed in October,” he says, “and the earlier in October the better.”
It’s not too late! Here are 22 desirable gifts in a handful of popular categories that clients should consider for 2022 holiday gifting programs, from big-ticket items to smaller pieces that make great kit components:
The Vivo Combination Speaker & Wireless Charger delivers beautiful sound and keeps your mobile devices charged. Bluetooth technology provides wireless connectivity, and the powerful battery supports more than 44 hours of playback time. Qi-enabled devices can be charged wirelessly on top of the speaker or via the USB-C port with the charging cable provided. The Vivo comes with a lifetime warranty, and a tree is planted for every order. Packaged in a white gift box with a customizable sleeve.
PowerStick.com / PPAI 383252, S8 / www,powerstick.com
Kahler says the WALLY Mini Wall Charger from Nimble is one of her favorite new tech items. In addition to the fast charging provided via dual USB-C and USB-A ports, this device checks a ton of sustainability boxes, from its certified recycled plastic housing to its plastic-free retail packaging. Plus, like all Nimble products, this charging pad is Climate Neutral Certified and supports environmental nonprofits through 1% for the Planet.
Hirsch Gift Inc. / PPAI 221823, S10 / www.hirschgift.com
Video meetings are here to stay, and you can help your employees and customers show themselves in the best light with the Online Meeting Adjustable Ring Light. Its 36 bright white LED lights and low, medium and high settings provide the perfect lighting for meetings, photos and videos. The compact light clips on to most devices and has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (micro-USB input, cord included). Available in black, red, blue or white.
Hit Promotional Products / PPAI 113910, S13 / www.hitpromo.net
Apparel & Accessories
Fun socks in colorful patterns continue to be popular, like the custom-knitted Dress Socks (shown) or Fuzzy Socks from SOCK101. Design something unique and Instagram-worthy that your recipients will be eager to show off. Add custom tags for an additional fee and added messaging, or include them in a themed kit for extra impact.
SOCK101 / PPAI 625402, S6 / www.sock101.com
Stick with name brands during the holiday season, advises Brugger, especially when it comes to apparel. This North Face Canyon Flats Fleece Hooded Jacket, made in part from recycled fabrics, provides name recognition along with warmth. The durable fleece zip hoodie includes multiple zippered pockets to securely stash your stuff. Available in black or “asphalt grey reign camo” print (shown), sizes S-3X.
SanMar / PPAI 110788, S16 / www.sanmar.com
Custom shoes are popular this year, says Kahler. Get cozy with these Kozi Sherpa Slippers, made of faux suede with faux sherpa fur lining and a rubber sole. Customize on top with your imprint or a woven patch. Available in tan or black, sizes S (women’s 6-7.5) to XXL (men’s 13-14).
The Kanata Group / PPAI 111063, S7 / www.thekanatagroup.com
Blankets are always big, says Kahler. She suggests opting for an all-over print for something a little different from the traditional embroidered blanket, like the Sublimated Grab-N-Go Travel Blanket from Terry Town, which gives you over 2,000 square inches of plush polyester to fill with your own creative design. It also comes with a 13.5” x 10” carry bag designed to fit retractable luggage handles.
Terry Town / PPAI 230911, S10 / www.terrytown.com
Spread a little (artificial) sunshine with the Happy Daylight Desk Lamp designed with three light colors – white, natural and warm – to provide a daily boost of sunshine and help keep recipients energetic and focused. A foldable bracket makes it easy to set up anywhere, and the built-in automatic timer makes it easy to choose a session in 15-minute increments up to an hour.
Gemline / PPAI 113948, S11 / www.gemline.com
Candles can work well in a kit, especially paired with fuzzy socks and snacks to create a cozy experience. Consider the Seventh Avenue Apothecary White Tea and Fig 11 oz. Glass Jar Candle, made with food-grade soy wax (phthalate- and lead-free) for a burn time of 65 hours. Through a partnership with 1% For The Planet, 1% of sales are donated to environmental nonprofits.
PCNA / PPAI 113079, S15 / www.pcna.com
The Ember Mug is hot – pun fully intended. Simply plug it into your USB port, and the new Ember Mug (Generation 2) does more than simply keep your coffee hot. This 10-oz. smart mug allows you to set and maintain an exact drinking temperature for 90 minutes, so your coffee is never too hot (or too cold). Available in black, white or gray.
Castle Merchandising Inc. / PPAI 269808, S5 / www.castlepremium.com
Tumblers are always popular, but with the Valhalla Copper Vacuum Tumbler Gift Set, you can give your recipient something they can share for a more memorable experience. This pair of 16-oz. tumblers features double-wall stainless steel construction with copper insulation to resist condensation and keep beverages cold for 24 hours or hot for eight hours. The skid-proof cork bottom helps prevent spills, and they come in an attractive gift box. Available in white, black or gray.
PCNA / PPAI 113079, S15 / www.pcna.com
Stuff a classic clear tumbler with a sweet treat and a thank-you message for a mini-kit. The Tervis Classic Tumbler - 16 oz. is conveniently microwave, dishwasher and freezer safe and is great for hot or cold drinks. The snap-on travel lid with slide closure is available in eight colors, and Tervis offers a limited lifetime guarantee.
Koozie Group / PPAI 114187, S13 / www.kooziegroup.com
Bags & Totes
Pouches are on trend, says Kahler, especially if you fill them with cool snacks or tech goodies. “If you gave me a tech item inside a tech pouch inside a cool box, that’s a really different gift than if you just gave me a tech item,” she adds. The LVL Gusset Pouches, available in three sizes from Pop! Promos, are made from vegan leather and can be printed with any full-color design, with the option to print a different design on the second side for added messaging.
Pop! Promos / PPAI 564497, S1 / www.poppromos.com
It’s hard to beat a duffel bag when it comes to functionality, especially one that can convert to a backpack when needed. The Urban Peak 70L Waterproof Backpack/Duffel Bag from Starline features adjustable straps that can be connected using the padded hook-and-look handle to carry as a duffel bag or slung over each shoulder for the backpack option. With a storage capacity of 4,285 cubic inches and multiple zippered pockets, there’s plenty of space for your gear.
Starline USA, Inc. / PPAI 112719, S10 / www.starline.com
Eco-conscious recipients will appreciate the Igloo Daytripper Dual Compartment Tote Cooler, a reusable insulated tote perfect for trips to the grocery store or a picnic at the beach. This PVC- and phthalate-free bag is leak resistant, and dual compartments provide both insulated and dry storage. Other features include a bottle opener, zip front pocket and adjustable straps to secure a blanket or towel.
Gemline / PPAI 113948, S11 / www.gemline.com
Food & Drink
Thank your employees for rising to the challenge and making your company shine with the Rise & Shine gift box from Batch & Bodega. The deluxe kit includes pancake mix, maple syrup, herbal tea, peanut butter, honey sticks and organic vegan, gluten-free granola – as well as a brandable oven mitt and spatula – all in a festive gift box ready to be branded in a 3-inch circle. Each box also comes with a note about the contents and the option to add your own custom message for a personal touch.
HPG / PPAI 110772, S11 / www.hpgbrands.com
Up your snack game with this Six-Piece Popcorn Gift Set filled with caramel, butter, cheddar cheese, cookies & cream, peanut butter cup and white & dark chocolate swirl popcorn. Customize both the tins and the ribbon (available in nine colors), as well as the body wrap and lid label.
Midnite Snax / PPAI 113793, S3 / www.midnitesnax.com
Wow your recipients with the Crate Full of Snacks, a reusable wooden crate packed with a variety of gourmet treats, including bite-sized cookies, caramel corn, chocolate dipped pretzels and more. Made in USA, the name-brand contents include four kinds of cookies, two kinds of caramel corn, two kinds of hot cocoa and a variety of other goodies.
Maple Ridge Farms / PPAI 114165, S8 / www.mapleridge.com
Fully custom sweet treats are a great way to get your brand literally in the hands (and mouths) of your employees and customers. Consider a Six-Pack Cookie Box of sugar or chocolate cookies topped with rich milk, dark or white chocolate stamped with your logo design. Includes full-color, custom imprinted gift bands and the option for a full-color, custom printed lid.
Chocolate Chocolate / PPAI 111668, S5 / www.chocolate2.com
“I sold hot chocolate bombs in every kit last year,” says Kahler. “There are so many cute things you can do, like place them inside a drinkware item.” Send a Set of Hot Chocolate Bombs in Full Color Gift Box for added impact. Filled with delicious marshmallows, all your recipient has to do is place the chocolate bomb into a mug and pour hot milk over it to “detonate” a tasty beverage.
NC Custom / PPAI 111662, S7 / www.chocolateinn.com
For the foodies on your list, consider a gourmet ingredients gift set like the Rustic Laser Engraved Wood Box with Custom Etched Balsamic Vinegar & Olive Oil, which includes a bottle of traditional balsamic vinegar and a bottle of extra virgin olive oil made in Italy. Share your message or company logo on both the etched and painted bottles and laser engraving on the slide-top wood box.
A+ Wine Designs / PPAI 173549, S4 / www.apluswinedesigns.com
Don’t forget the impact of a well-chosen greeting card like this Silver & Gold Foil Ornament card. “All of our cards and envelopes can be personalized with whatever print they would like on the inside of the card, including hand-traced signatures and the front or back of the envelope,” says Susan Rice, national accounts specialist for Wall Street Greetings.
Wall Street Greetings LLC / PPAI 469710, S3 / www.wallstreetgreetings.com
Rachel Zoch is an associate editor with PPAI.
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