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Giving up is not an option

Julia Bernert

Published on 04.06.2020

The promotional products industry in the USA remains strong

Over 100,000 Covid-19 deaths and more than 1.7 million registered corona infections, plus more than 40 million people who have lost their jobs since March. The dramatic figures from the USA are historic. It is clear that the pandemic in the world’s worst affected country is also affecting its promotional products industry. A look at shadow and: light.

2020 has become the new Ground Zero of the USA. Or, as the New York Times puts it, the “Year of National Trauma”. The USA is in survival mode in the face of the worst recession since the Second World War and an unprecedented economic downturn. Branding and brand management are secondary for most companies. This is dramatic for the US promotional products industry, which has long since ceased to struggle with product supply difficulties in China and is now faced with a considerable demand problem – both nationally and globally.

A development to which the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) is reacting promptly with structural changes and a free offer of assistance. “In these uncertain times, our members are more than ever in search of decisive and strong leadership,” observes Paul Bellantone, President and CEO of PPAI. “This is our opportunity! Independently, we are committed to providing our members with vital tools and services. We provide professional development, certification, industry news and business updates for as long as our members need them. In addition, the association is politically committed to the interests of the industry and raises awareness of the value of promotional items through valuable public relations work. Because the end of the promotional products industry is not an option. “Our industry is well over a century old and has been reborn again and again through two world wars, the Great Depression, natural disasters and other harsh economic climates. So we will also come out of this crisis stronger than before,” says Bellantone.

An activity-driven optimism that seems to be anchored in the DNA of the industry. Many US suppliers are currently demonstrating a high degree of flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit in order to compensate for missing and cancelled orders. “A significant advantage of our industry is the various small production sites, where people are used to quickly design new products and manufacture them in many small batches,” says US industry insider Rod Brown. “Whether its face masks, gowns or safety goggles, the rapid supply chains of promotional product suppliers have responded to this at almost the speed of light. In terms of products, personal protective equipment is on the rise due to Corona, because in the near future everyone will be wearing masks. Since the demand is currently so great, there are not only opportunities for fashion and branding, but also for innovation and improvement in the field.

How valuable the dynamic adaptability and creative entrepreneurial thinking of the promotional product companies is not only in the USA, a look at the event industry – an important pillar of the promotional product industry – makes clear. After all, whether its incentive trips, political rallies or concerts, trade shows and congresses or spectacular developer conferences: “It is assumed that it will take at least 18 to 24 months before major events in the USA make a major comeback,” says Brown. “As soon as an event with tens of thousands of attendees is cancelled, a theme park is closed, a cruise is cancelled or a sports team is banned from playing, this also affects the business with merchandising, promotional or souvenir items. The goods will be cancelled by the organisers, as the business with promotional items is usually no longer necessary when the ‘event’ is cancelled”. Even more reason to rethink the product range, but especially the sales and delivery channels in times of technology-based communication. Paul Bellantone also sees the starting signal for an innovation-driven transformation and at the same time a great opportunity for creativity on the part of dealers and suppliers. Looking ahead to the future after the US lockdown, he is confident: “Buyers will realize how important advertising products and advertising campaigns are for reopening their stores and rebuilding their brands,” he explains and encourages. “Our industry will be different and probably smaller for a few years, but the success and power of promotional products will become even more apparent.”