January 31, 2014
The U.S. economy is on track to enjoy its best performance since the dark days of the 2008 recession and, I’m happy to report, the promotional products industry is doing even better. ASI just released its latest distributor sales report showing 2013 is going down in the books as the biggest sales year ever, surpassing $20 billion for the first time.
Coming off 16 straight quarters of growth, this news is cause for celebration. It also presents a prime opportunity. Take advantage of the latest technology to save time and boost efficiency. Hire more sales reps (especially those who reflect our increasingly diverse country). Attend conferences to learn the latest sales strategies.
And, if you’re moving into new global markets, learn the lingo – or hire someone who does – and check out PromoAlliance, an international alliance between ASI, Sourcing City and PSI that identifies and introduce best practices and market development concepts benefiting the U.S., U.K. and European markets. Click here for more info.
The best entrepreneurs are like sharks – they need to keep moving ever forward, or their businesses will shrivel and die.
The U.S. GDP expanded 3.1% in 2013’s fourth quarter. ASI’s data shows distributors grew sales by nearly twice that rate, or 5.7%. Meanwhile, the Counselor Confidence Index – a tool that measures distributor health and optimism – improved to 113.2 in the fourth quarter, reaching its highest point since being introduced a year ago.
Other highlights from ASI’s latest sales report include:
Economists are betting the momentum from the second half of 2013 will continue through 2014. According to a recent Counselor Promogram report, distributors also have high expectations. ASI data shows 74% of distributors anticipate an increase in sales this year, while only 4.5% of distributor firms are expecting a drop in revenues.
“Our overall experience is that we saw growth greater than the industry average,” Jo-an Lantz, executive vice president of Top 40 distributor Geiger (asi/202900), told Counselor. “We anticipate another great sales year in 2014. The industry will have another growth year, and we are expecting the same.”
January 8, 2014
Despite near-record cold and the lingering effects of a horrific snowstorm that caused numerous flight delays, nearly everyone arrived at ASI Orlando in fine spirits, energized and raring to hit the show floor. Along with the stars of the ABC hit reality TV show competition Shark Tank, the first show of the 2014 show season attracted over 5,600 distributors from 27 countries and nearly every state in the union.
The suppliers, distributors and decorators I spoke to are very bullish on 2014 and heartened by preliminary ASI research showing record industry sales of over $20 billion for 2013.
The crowd included 805 suppliers (with 130 brand new to Orlando!) and numerous Counselor® Top 40, along with 20 distributor sales meetings. Lee Feinstein, from Bodek & Rhodes (asi/40788), described his booth as a “mob scene,” which is the ultimate compliment.
The event, which took place Sunday through Tuesday at the Orange County Convention Center, showcased thousands of the hottest products in the industry and featured a full slate of networking events, all-day education and a jam-packed show floor.
The highlight for me was Tuesday’s live Shark Tank-style “pitch slam” between four innovative entrepreneurs vying for a $5,000 cash prize for the industry’s top new promotional product, with our own vice-chairman Matthew Cohn as co-host. I was impressed by the professionalism of self-made tycoons Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O’Leary, who judged the competition.
Supplier Card Ninja (asi/95026) took home the big check after dazzling the judges with an innovative card-holder that sticks to the back of cell phones. “You have a phenomenal product,” Corcoran said. “I’ll offer you $10,000 right now for 30% of your company.” The winners, pictured at right with Barbara, are company co-founder Sunder Jambunathan (at far right), Rupa Mohan (center) and Christopher Page.
Later, the judges – who bicker onstage like an old married couple – told me they were thrilled to appear before a cheering crowd of genuine entrepreneurs instead of the boring executives they normally speak to during similar corporate events. Best yet, they loved our industry.
“It definitely works,” Kevin told a reporter from the Orlando Business Journal who interviewed him after the event. “This industry has grown every year. And as a business model, it works.”
The greatest advice he could offer entrepreneurs is to watch cash flow. “The lifeblood of a business is cash,” Kevin said. “People run out of it too quickly and that’s the reason most small businesses fail.”
Judging by the line that started outside the keynote at 7:30 a.m. and the standing-room-only audience of nearly 1,200, the hyper-interactive event was a huge hit for everyone involved. And I’d like to especially thank our other competitors: SSAM Sports, who showed off their “Putterwheel” golf product; BamBams, with “WeLuvABanner”; and Semco/Americraft, with the “Gap Stick.”
I knew this crowd was party hardy when I saw the attendance numbers for our gala celebration at Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 1,900 people braved near-record cold to enjoy thrill rides, a DJ dance party and tons of meeting and greeting. In the pic at right, ASI Show’s new VP and general manager, Rita Ugianskis-Fishman, wards off the chill at a heat lamp with exhibitor and screen printer Jeff Nieball, of N Designs in Fayetteville, TN. Rita really hit the ground running – she started her ASI career this week in Orlando and I’m sure you’ll see her at our upcoming shows so please say hello.
The celebrations continued during the annual Counselor Distributor Choice Awards, which applauded winners in 60 different product categories. Seattle-based iClick (asi/62124) was named 2014 Supplier of the Year. As I said in my congratulatory speech, “I think the real reason iClick is tonight’s winner has a lot to do with founder Lon McGowan’s mantra: ‘Do whatever makes the distributor look good.’”
January 6, 2014
We’re kicking off the New Year with a great big three-day show in Orlando, the first of the 2014 show season. In addition to thousands of the hottest products in the industry, we’re showcasing creativity, entrepreneurship and good old-fashioned competitiveness during a very special keynote presentation on Tuesday by the stars of the ABC hit reality TV show, Shark Tank.
The show, taking place at the massive Orange County Convention Center, got off to a great start Sunday, with a full day of classes offering something for everyone – whether you’re already a million-dollar superstar or an industry newbie. And classes continue both Monday and Tuesday, so it’s not too late to attend one.
This show features a ton of “firsts.” Monday morning, ASI’s products expert Joe Haley hosted a live Joe Show on stage with suppliers showing of their coolest items. Monday night, we celebrate suppliers during the annual Counselor Distributor Choice Awards. I love these awards because distributors across North America choose which companies we’ll honor by voting for their most-valued ad specialty suppliers. Winners are selected based on real votes and data from ASI’s Supplier Performance Ratings.
Another first – the ASI CTO Summit, hosted by our Chief Technology Officer Armughan Rafat. We decided to bring together tech leaders from some of the largest distributors and suppliers in the industry to discuss ways a technology culture can influence an organization’s bottom line. I’m sure we’ll enjoy heady discussions of a front-burner topic of keen interest to us all.
In another first, we’re hosting a pitch slam called “Swimming with the Sharks” on Tuesday – with four top suppliers competing for $5,000 to help them launch a cool, new product. The judges are none other than self-made tycoons Barbara Corcoran and Kevin O’Leary, who know just what it takes to run with a million-dollar idea. This presentation should be a lot of fun – and it’s free, so be sure to come and cheer on your favorite supplier.
Before the presentation ASI Chairman of the Board Norman Cohn and Matthew Cohn, the founder of The ASI Show, join me on stage to “pin” the latest recipients of certifications from ASI’s education program. I’m proud to say ASI recently hit a major milestone – awarding over 1,000 industry certifications through our free Online Learning Center since November 2010 alone.
This year’s gala celebration takes place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, complete with rides, a DJ, dance party and plenty of food and drink. It’s the perfect opportunity to meet new people, have fun with old friends and relax a little in the midst of a very busy show.
I’m also happy ASI Orlando has attracted 20 distributor sales meetings, including American Solutions for Business, which brought 300 of their top sales reps. It’s always a pleasure to attend their events and to say hello to their CEO, Larry Zavadil, who’s celebrating both a birthday and the arrival of a new grand-daughter. Congrats, Larry!
If you see me at the show (I’m the one walking the fastest, though it’s hard to beat the guys on those segways zipping around), please say hello. As always, I’m interested in what you think of the show, so feel free to post a comment or e-mail me here. I’m also on Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
And be sure to check out our website for complete coverage of the show, including blogs and videos, at www.asicentral.com. And if you haven’t already, register for our upcoming shows in Dallas, Long Beach, New York City and Chicago.