Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Child Product Safety Regs Impact the Promotional Products Industry

It didn’t receive much fanfare, but earlier this month, President Obama signed into law legislation that further tightens the restrictions placed on lead in toys and other items (like promotional products) primarily aimed at children. The amended law also clarifies several ambiguities that have existed since the original Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) was passed in 2008.

What got tightened (even further) is the amount of lead allowable in children's products. It dropped from 300 parts per million (ppm) to 100 ppm on August 14. Products produced before this date are grandfathered –so only products that are manufactured AFTER August 14 will have to adhere to the stricter limits.

The Background

It’s interesting. Back in 2007, Nissan bought 100,000 ceramic coffee mugs directly from a factory in China and distributed them in Japan to anyone who took a test drive in one of their cars. The mugs contained excessive lead to the tune of 100 times the legal limit (Japan’s) and a lot of people got sick.*

Later that year, The California State School Board forced a recall on 50,000 lunch bags after testing found excessive lead in the lining of the bags. Then came the Mattel toy recalls that made headlines worldwide. And by the end of that year a total of 448 product recalls had taken place – 52% of which involved children’s products – and 100 of which involved excessive lead in paint on the products. The vast majority of these products were manufactured in China.

The Bush administration, Food and Drug Administration and the Congress reacted to all this by quickly passing the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) which placed sharp limits on the amount of lead allowable in products aimed primarily at children ('children' being defined as anyone age 12 or younger).

About Lead

It’s cheap, it’s everywhere and in industry, it has many uses. At the time of the events I’ve just detailed, China was dealing with some major economic challenges – among them rising salaries, skyrocketing gas prices, high material costs and the margin pressures associated with doing business with some of the big American retailers. Frankly, some manufacturers cut corners and no one noticed till it was too late.

What it Means

The potential for liability, negative publicity and brand erosion. Where the antennae need to be raised is when a promotion is intended PRIMARILY for children ages 12 or under.

Bottom line is products intended for kids in this age group cannot contain lead.

And as for what defines whether a product is "primarily intended for children ages 12 and under" - that unfortunately is a bit of a gray area. There are numerous factors, like functionality of the item, what the imprint looks like (i.e. does it have a cartoon-like caricature), how it’s being distributed etc. In total, there are about 30 different factors, so the best suggestion, we've been told by experts on this, is to simply use common sense.

Our Concern

In an industry with 3500 to 4000 suppliers, we’re concerned that the number of suppliers that will to pay attention to the tougher CPSIA may be a lot lower than one would expect. And given the pricing pressures that exist right now, we expect that many will totally ignore them – which exposes buyers (and sellers) of these products to the negatives that I’ve noted above.


While the events of 2007/2008 caught the entire industry by surprise, there are some who realize the seriousness of this issue and are now trying galvanize the rest of the industry to embrace this issue.

Here's a link to an interview with Geiger CEO, Gene Geiger and and Rick Brenner, the CEO of industry supplier, Prime Line highlighting a recent summit that the two of them chaired to raise awareness about these recent developments.

Where this is headed is anyone's guess, but my biggest fear is that latest round of regs will sour some people to promotional products and the benefits that they provide. At a time when new jobs are not exactly plentiful, making it more difficult for companies to brand themselves to users of their product or service isn't good for anyone.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Four Factors of Successful Promotions

Promotional products, when utilized effectively are an extremely powerful and cost effective tool for building or enhancing any brand. While just about any use of a branded giveaway will generate a degree of value for an advertiser, there are some factors that should be considered to maximize the chances of any campaign involving promotional products succeeding.

1. Audience Appropriate Product- The most compelling marketing message in the world will be missed by the recipient if the item that bears that message is not appropriate for the person receiving it.

2. Effective Marketing Message- Too often it seems, promotional products convey only company names or logos without any strong benefit statement, positioning statement or call to action. A simple tag line beneath the logo usually doesn’t cost anything extra but it can have a dramatic effect on an entire campaign. Consider using one.

3. Targeted, Qualified Product Recipients- One of the big advantages of promotional products vs. other advertising mediums is that the marketer controls the distribution. By capitalizing on this, organizations can limit waste and make sure that every recipient of their message is a qualified prospect or customer. Therefore each promotion should be geared toward the individuals most likely to generate positive results.

4. The Right Time- They say timing is everything in life. That’s certainly true with marketing. Deliver the right message to a receptive audience when they’re ready to make a buying decision and you will be successful. Deliver the message too soon or too late and you won’t be nearly as effective.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Let's Talk Polo Shirts

Scott Boyages Promotions

Mid May marks the start of polo shirt season – or at least it seems that way. We have sold a lot of polo shirts over the years, and clients buy them year round. However I really notice a spike in client requests around the time that things warm up to the point that you can wear polo's outside – in other words, right about now.

With that in mind, here are some brand new polo styles that seem poised to be big hits this year.

Ash City EDry Silk Luster Jersey Polo-

This is a cotton/poly blended polo that combines EDry Moisture wicking technology with amazing comfort & feel. Available in men’s and women’s cuts – men’s sizes run to 5XL.

A favorite for travelers, this luxurious Silk Luster sport shirt keeps you cool and comfortable with moisture-wicking PimaCool technology. It's perfect for warmer climates and summer wear because it's easy to care for and feels great against your skin.

Great pricing too: $24 each in quantities of 12+

Red House Honeycomb Performance Pique Polo

I’m a big fan of Red House, a high quality line of shirts that's inspired by California’s wine region. In particular, this Honeycomb Performance polo is very impressive.

It's an awesome mix of technology and comfort because this 70/30 cotton/poly honeycomb pique combines easy-care cotton with moisture-wicking performance to keep you cool in any situation.

Flat knit collar, open hem sleeves, Red House engraved buttons and right sleeve Red House branded embroidery.

Cost: $30.00 each for quantities of 12+ - embroidered.

Greg Norman Play Dry Performance Pique Stripe Polo

The Greg Norman line is one of the better – albeit under-publicized polo name brands. The Norman name has always garnered great respect in golf circles and his line of apparel stacks up very well to the Ashworth’s, Nike’s and Cutter & Bucks.

The Norman line’s strength is its Play Dry moisture management technology which keeps moisture off the skin—and also keeps wind out. This striped polo is a terrific shirt. It's 97% polyester & 3 % spandex and is a terrific combination of style and comfort. It also carries the famous Norman ‘Shark’ branding on the back neck - subtly placed so as not to detract from your own logo.

Cost: $45.00 each for quantities of 12+

Men's Tipped Collar Dry-Mesh Hi-Performance Polo

Here’s a great lower priced Performance Polo…the 1575 from Edwards Garment is a lightweight, 100% polyester shirt with a mesh weave that wicks moisture.

It got an AP-360™+ Antimicrobial Fabric Shield that blocks bacteria, Prevents odors and ensures freshness. It’s also fade, shrink and wrinkle resistant. Comes in Men's and Women’s styles.

These start at $21.00 for a dozen (embroidered) and go down from there.

Or a Proven Winner....

The new stuff is always interesting…..but how about something – new or otherwise – that’s simply one of the top selling polo shirts in our industry?

I'm referring to the K500 Port Authority® - Silk Touch™ Sport Shirt. This one has it all:

Comfort? Yes

Wrinkle/Shrink Resistance? Yes

Huge Size Range? Yes

Tons of Color Choices? Yes

Men's, Women's & Long Sleeve versions? Absolutely!

This is a great 'uniforming' shirt for any type of business. One of the top sellers in the industry – it comes at a great price - $16.14 each - and delivers great value at the same time.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Ongoing Challenge to Teach the Value of Promotional Products

The following article first appeared on the blog site Technorati under the title: California Bans State Agencies From Buying Promotional Products.

I wrote it because stories like this one seem to be coming down the pipeline far too often these days. There is a sentiment out there among some that promotional products are about 'trinkets and trash' or 'swag'. With all due respect, my response to that is that those who feel that way really don't have much of a concept of what marketing is really all about. it is.....

You know the expression 'penny-wise and pound foolish'? That's California Governor Jerry Brown. Governor Brown this week banned state agencies from purchasing promotional products — a move that figures to save the state in the neighborhood of 7 to 8 million dollars over the next 3 years.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a promotional product is a useful everyday item that carries an ad message — be it an imprinted pen, a t-shirt or something a bit more elaborate like a computer flash drive with a logo printed on the casing.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Promotional Product Trends - Feb., 2011

In the most recent edition of my newsletter I focused on current trends in the promotional product industry. January & February mark the onset of the trade show season, the time when our suppliers introduce most of their new products for the coming year. It’s also a good time to assess where the industry is headed in terms of product trends and also to gauge the general feeling of the kind of year that lies ahead.

You can access the full article here:


Sunday, January 30, 2011

No One Wants to Talk Any More

One of my 'extra curricular' activities is occasionally contributing to the online blog site, Technorati.

Lately it's become more and more obvious that some of the companies that I've routinely dealt with for years have no interest in talking (vs. emailing, IM etc) with you anymore when you have a question to ask.

I'm also seeing this trend develop within the promotional products industry given the rise of online distributorships. For many - and I'm really seeing this with buyers just out of college - it seems like its just easier to deal with a website as it doesn't take long to complete a transaction and we're all so pressed for time.

Believe me, I can relate....and it's a great model -- until something goes wrong have a question - even a simple one. Seems pretty basic right...have a question, call someone who can give you a quick answer. Used to be common it's become a business opportunity.

Anyway, here's an excerpt....and a link to the full article. Enjoy....

Every day I’m more and more convinced that Corporate America thinks it’s a great idea to put up walls between themselves and their customers. Internet commerce provides a great excuse to either outsource customer service, turn much of it over to some very advanced customer relationship software or pretty much drop it altogether.

Watching the onset of this – and the way it seems to be spreading like an epidemic among our largest corporations — the only conclusion I can reach is that many of these companies simply have no interest in talking to their customers.

Article first published as Customer Service Is So....Old School
on Technorati.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Benefits of 'Name' Branded Apparel


Wearables comprise a large chunk of our overall business - approximately 40% - and it’s a business that has changed quite a bit over the past two decades. Probably the biggest change has been the influx of popular ‘name’ brands into our industry over the past few years. Back in the 90’s this wasn’t the case. But along came Corporate Casual and with it, a customer driven demand for name brands that shows no signs of slowing down.

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Of our clothing vendors, the Sanmar company seemed to recognize this before anyone else when they brought Nike into our industry. Nike Golf's products, in turn, not only helped vault Sanmar to the number one position among wearable wholesalers, they also opened the flood gates to an onslaught of retail and work wear brands as these companies realized the advantages of selling their products in the corporate marketplace.

The ones that have succeeded, to date, are the brands that understand the unique needs and challenges that the promotional products industry presents. Specifically having enough inventory on hand to meet client demands and the ability to get the product shipped out quickly given the constant deadline pressures that exist in the corporate marketplace.


The list of name brands available for purchase through Geiger is both large and growing. In addition to Nike, it includes Carhartt, The North Face, Reebok, Champion, Columbia Sportswear, Cutter & Buck, Ashworth, Tommy Bahama, Independent Trading Co, Weatherproof and many more.

With brands like these you’re going to pay a little more, but you’ll also realize the benefits that the so called promise of these brands entails. You get the quality of the garment itself plus the value of tying your own brand into the prestige associated with a Carhartt, Reebok etc. If you give someone a Reebok shirt or Carhartt jacket that's co-branded with your own logo, you’ll be making a powerful statement about what your own company stands for.


There is One Exception

The North Face is an interesting exception. They will NOT allow their garments to carry any logo but their own. In fact, if your company purchases their products, they’ll make us (you and Geiger) sign waivers promising not to decorate them.

Their feeling is that any embellishment of their garments weakens The North Face brand. They have chosen, to this point anyway, to pretty much ignore the corporate marketplace. However you can still, under the right circumstances, make a statement by giving these out and you'll find our prices for The North Face Products extremely competitive.

I would just recommend that if you go with these it be a situation where the recipients will always remember who gave them the jacket -- though granted that's not easy without a co-branded logo on the garment. However you could add a zipper tag, packaging or another item that includes your logo.

Geiger's Advantage

We have one in that we have direct distribution relationships with many of these brands. For example, Carhartt distributes through other industry suppliers, meaning you’ll pay more from our competitors who are forced to go through those vendors. Geiger on the other hand buys directly from Carhartt, so you’ll pay less for their products through us and we’ll also have the most up to date information about their constantly changing inventory situation.

Thanks to our buying power, we have similar direct relationships with several other retail brands.

Some Points to Keep in Mind

Stock is often an issue- It’s the nature of the beast with popular brands, so you should be prepared for the possibility that certain sizes or colors may have to be back ordered. It happens much more often with name brands than private label or other industry oriented brands.

Frequent Changeover- Styles get added and dropped much more frequently than with industry specific brands. This is due, I think, to the retail mindset of always having to stay fresh. Some lines – Ashworth immediately comes to mind – seem to always be changing their styles up.


You Can Get Similar Quality for Less- There’s a company called Zorrel which actually supplies Nike Golf with a lot of its shirts. We carry Zorrel’s full catalog and on average their products cost 30% less than Nike’s. So you get Nike quality, but not at Nike prices. Tommy Bahama products are offered to the industry via supplier Eagle Dry Goods. Eagle has a tight relationship with Tommy Bahama and in fact, also offers some private label ‘Tommy Bahama-like’ shirts, which are made by the same folks. Same quality, different label – and a lower price.

There are actually quite a few so called 'Industry Brands' which are made just as well as their counterparts with the famous labels - some are even made in the same facilities. If you would like more information about branded wearable items, please contact me.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Time for Some Optimism....

Say what you want about CNBC's Jim Cramer...and there's been plenty said about him. Personally I like him...but his style can give you a headache if you watch him too often....anyway, the other night he predicted the Dow to rise 15% this year to the 13,300 level...reason being that companies are starting to make money again...are as lean as they can get...and will start hiring again - in a big way.

Full story (complete with typical Cramer routine) is here if you're interested.

What I like about Cramer is he's not afraid to walk out on a limb...and he'll own up to his mistakes. That, plus the fact that he's been right often enough to have a long running show and legion of devotees to me make him someone worth paying attention to.

If his prediction is on target, now is the time for companies to make their voices (i.e. their brands) heard loud and clear amid the projected roar of another growing economy....kind of like Cramer does......