Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Supplier Inventory Challenge

I've noticed a little problem with supplier inventories recently. I actually blogged about this situation back in September. And it's been occurring a little too frequently as of late.

Yesterday I placed an order for some dress shirts only to find out that some tall sizes are out of stock for the next 3 months. Got a pen order this week -- no stock in any colors till late May. Jacket order last week -- no stock in my client's desired color till end of JUNE. Notice a trend here...?

My take is we're slowly but steadily emerging from the economic meltdown of the Fall of 2008. Clients have ramped up their marketing considerably vs. a year ago and suppliers are busy once again. That's the good news.

Unfortunately, the slowdown of 08/09 coupled with the subsequent tight credit market forced suppliers to make some tough decisions -- like limiting inventories. They tried to project -- as they've always done -- which products would sell the best and they ordered from Asia accordingly. But business has picked up and some suppliers have been caught short -- and maybe weren't in the best financial condition to begin with thanks to the recession.

So what we're dealing with now is an environment where many promotional items -- a lot more than usual -- aren't available. And we as distributors have to make a lot more phone calls checking stock because (and trust me when I say this) people in my business absolutely HATE having to call clients back after an order is placed and be forced to say 'you know those _ _ _ _ _ you ordered yesterday? No stock till _ _ _ _ _.' Ugh.

We will however, get through this. And it's my job to either find alternative sources for out of stock products or show you ideas - to begin with - utilizing items that ARE available right now. That's where my experience and the great support we get through Geiger come into play. We WILL make it happen for you.

However on the supplier side of our industry I think we're in a shake out phase -- one that to me and many others -- was an inevitable byproduct of the 08 economic collapse and resulting recession. There's a reset going on in our industry that's going to cause some weaker vendors to reevaluate their long term strategies and some stronger ones to gain market share. We've seen it with the recent Bic/Norwood merger and the Corvest collapse and sale.

And I think there's more to come..... But be assured that given our collective experience and Geiger's position of leadership in our industry, we'll make sure your business rests in the proper stable hands.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ad Spending Improving

A little bit of encouraging news on ad spending - according to data released by Kantar Media, the advertising recession began to ease in the final two months of 2009 and preliminary figures from the first quarter of 2010, indicate many sectors are experiencing growth when compared against the same period of a year ago.

According to Knantar, total advertising expenditures fell 12.3% in 2009 to $125.3 billion as compared to 2008. Fourth quarter 2009 ad spending was off 6.0% against the same period a year ago, with nearly all media improving upon their January-September performance.

Given the restraint in consumer spending, it appears marketers have more confidence right now than their customers. As we get deeper into 2010, the pace of consumer activity will be a key determinant of the strength and durability of the advertising recovery.

Internet display advertising expenditures increased 7.3% in 2009, aided by sharply higher spending from the telecom, factory auto and travel categories. Free Standing Inserts achieved growth as well, up 3.0% as marketers targeted value-conscious shoppers with couponing programs.

National TV media continued to outperform the overall ad market. Cable TV expenditures dropped just 1.4%, helped by an expanding amount of commercial time. Network TV (-7.6%) and Spanish Language TV (-8.9%) each saw year-end improvement in key categories that lifted their results.

Print media were hit by large reductions across a broad range of advertisers. Measured ad spending in the Newspaper sector plunged by 19.7% in 2009. Sunday Magazine expenditures declined 11.0% and Consumer Magazines were down 16.6%.

Promotional product sales figures are not compiled on a quarterly basis -- just yearly -- and total sales for 09 were down about 25% industry wide. However, what I am hearing from suppliers - and my fellow sales reps - is that things appear to be on the upswing based on number of orders placed, requests for quotes etc.

So far, so good, but I'm curious about the impact of the health care issue, should Congress pass a reform bill this weekend.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Marketing Trend - Freebies are In

It's been awhile since my last post and I apologize for that. Business has really picked up for me over the past 4 weeks, plus I've had some personal commitments that have prevented me from posting to this blog. I hesitate to say that this is part of a trend, but the business end of things is definitely a welcome sign following a year that could charitably be described as 'challenging'.

Here's article on MSNBC's website about a current marketing trend that ties right in to the power of promotional products. And the trend itself is probably a direct result of last year's downturn:

Weak Economy Means it's a Freebie Nation

Using a valued promotional product as a gift with purchase is certainly a great use of the medium to boost sales. In fact offering a promo item that isn't directly related to the retail product(s) being sold is probably a better approach vs giving away 'free goods'. I agree with the sentiment expressed in the article that giving product away in the hopes of boosting sales of that same product can backfire - especially if the product in question is an established one.

On the other hand, giving away a gift that's indirectly related -- says a gym that offers a free gym bag with a new membership -- can be a very effective technique. The key to making it work however is the product being good enough that someone would actually want it. That person who's been thinking of joining a gym may finally commit if they can get a nice gym bag as part of the deal.

One of the core values of promotional products is their ability to motivate someone to take action. A gift with purchase is a great way to make that happen - and it has an added value -- you can easily calculate Return On Investment (ROI) by simply looking at the number of bags given out and comparing current and past sales numbers.