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Counselor PromoGram
Vol 1159, September 25, 2014
Holiday Retail Sales Seen Rising By 4%
Analysts are optimistic about the upcoming holiday shopping season with many predicting a modest, but positive boost in retail sales compared to last year. That fourth-quarter optimism is echoed by ad specialty distributors, with many bullish on logoed corporate gift-giving programs and end-of-year
sales in general.
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This week, Deloitte forecast a 4% to 4.5% increase in November through January holiday sales, an improvement over 2013’s 2.8% gain. The financial consultancy expects retail sales, excluding motor vehicles and gasoline, to climb as high as $986 billion this year. Online and mail order sales are also expected to be strong, with Deloitte predicting a roughly 14% jump in non-store sales.

“Income, wage and job growth are positive indicators heading into the holiday season,” said Daniel Bachman, senior U.S. economist for Deloitte. “Debt levels remain at historic lows, and stock market gains coupled with increasing home prices have a wealth effect on consumers, which may encourage increased spending compared to prior years.”

The so-called wealth effect is evident in the corporate world, as well, according to distributors. “Budgets are growing again, and companies are seeing the value in holiday appreciation gifts,” said Andrew Janosick, vice president and partner of Proforma Executive Business Services (asi/300094). Though holiday gift orders don’t typically start in earnest until October, the Proforma distributor began receiving end-of-year inquiries as early as August this year. Revenues at the company have increased more than 115% over the last three years, and Janosick expects the fourth quarter to further that upward trend.

Sterling Wilson, president of Pop! Promos (asi/45657), is optimistic that year-over-year fourth-quarter sales at his company will double, especially after the recent addition of popular wearable items, like Pantone-matched touchscreen gloves, to its offerings.

Top 40 distributor The Vernon Company (asi/351700) also predicts a strong performance this holiday season, to cap off an already strong year. In the last six months alone, the company has seen revenue gains of close to 20%, according to Dave Regan, vice president of sales and marketing. He attributes the ongoing success, in part, to a new initiative where Vernon account executives spend quality time with key corporate buyers to learn more about their business and needs. “We are super excited about what the future holds,” Regan said.

Bruce Fox Acquires DYR/Design Your Recognition
New Albany, IN-based supplier Bruce Fox Inc. (asi/42330) announced that it has acquired fellow awards supplier DYR/Design Your Recognition (asi/48051), based in Boca Raton, FL. Financial terms of the deal were not released, but the transaction became effective as of September 19 and Bruce Fox told Counselor that it will continue to use the DYR brand name and ASI number in the marketplace.
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“We are thrilled to make DYR part of the Bruce Fox family,” said David Morrison, president of Bruce Fox. “The DYR product line complements our current line of custom awards and products with awards that broaden our price and delivery capabilities. It also is a fit with our commitment to U.S.-made manufacturing excellence.”

As part of the deal, manufacturing of DYR products will be moved to the Bruce Fox facility in New Albany, IN. Also, DYR’s Aaron Itzkowitz will be joining the Bruce Fox team. “We are very excited to be a part of the Bruce Fox family,” said Itzkowitz. “Bruce Fox represents over 75 years of the highest quality manufacturing, design and fulfillment services. The DYR customer will tremendously benefit from the 85,000-square-foot full-service facilities located near Louisville, KY, and its proximity to the UPS national distribution center."

For the two companies, the deal represents a coming together of industry awards suppliers. “The acquisition of DYR is an alliance of unique resources, creating an unmatched supermarket of products and capabilities,” said Dave Miller, vice president of sales and marketing at Bruce Fox. “Together, we will serve distributors and their clients more comprehensively and efficiently under one roof. Having Aaron on our team will ensure the continuity of the sales and service excellence to which DYR’s distributor customers are accustomed, and will enhance the experience and possibilities with our own customers.”

Bruce Fox Inc., which has 150 employees, was founded in 1938 and specializes in manufacturing custom award products. The supplier firm also offers point-of-sale displays, commemorative items, and signage products. DYR, founded in 2010, manufactures full-color awards and recognition items. The company was named to Counselor’s Fastest-Growing Suppliers list this year, ranking number seven in the industry after reporting sales growth of 68% between 2011 and 2013.

Study: 43% Of Companies Had Data Breach
A new study shows that 43% of companies experienced a data breach in the last year, fueling concern about information protection and privacy.
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Released yesterday by Experian Data Breach Resolution and the Ponemon Institute, the study found that the number of breach incidents is growing quickly – 60% of respondents said their company experienced more than one data breach in the past two years, compared to 52% the previous year.

In a positive note, businesses recognize the growing threat and are attempting to be more prepared. The study found that nearly three-quarters of businesses (73%) currently have data breach response plans and teams in place, a 12% increase from last year. However, 68% still said they felt unprepared to respond to a data breach, and 78% admitted they don’t regularly update their data breach response plans to deal with changing threats.

“While more organizations have data breach preparedness on their radar and have developed a response plan, a majority of companies are not putting the support and resources behind having it truly be effective,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of Experian Data Breach Resolution. “A checklist response plan alone doesn’t mean you’re prepared. There should be an incident response team in place that practices the plan and ongoing investment from the C-suite to ensure technologies are up-to-date, external breach experts are secured, and selection of an identity protection product for affected customers is determined prior to an incident to ensure a quick and smooth response.”

Research from the Ponemon Institute indicates mistakes made by employees are a frequent cause of data breaches. More than half of businesses (54% compared to 44% last year) are conducting privacy and data protection awareness training for employees and others with access to sensitive personal information. However, only a third of companies (34%) have provided training to customer service personnel on how to answer customer concerns in the wake of a data breach.

The study stressed the importance of having a formal incident response plan in place. According to the institute, the average cost for each lost or stolen record is $201. With a plan, the average cost is reduced by $17 per record, and reduced by another $10 with a chief information security officer (CISO) in place. The average cost of a data breach to a U.S. company is $3.5 million. The survey, which was administered this year, contained responses from 567 executives in the U.S.

The Joe Show: Fun And Practical Ideas
In this episode of The Joe Show, Managing Editor Joe Haley shows off several items that’ll help you personalize upcoming promotions. Looking for a new-age phone accessory? How about a provocative giveaway? Have any automotive clients?
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Proforma Global Sourcing Acquires The Embroidery House
Tampa, FL-based Proforma Global Sourcing (asi/300094) announced this morning that it has acquired The Embroidery House (asi/187619), a distributor firm that specializes in safety programs for clients. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

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Michele Adams, owner of Proforma Global Sourcing, said she expects the transaction to have a significant impact on her company’s revenues moving forward. “We have worked closely with Proforma’s Mergers & Acquisitions Team to identify and pursue new opportunities for growth,” Adams said. “The acquisition of The Embroidery House will enable us to penetrate the safety program market and increase our sales by more than 60% this year.”

The Embroidery House has been providing OSHA compliant safety programs to clients for nearly 30 years and said it will look to Proforma Global Sourcing to expand its safety incentive program capabilities to include multimedia services, e-commerce websites, commercial printing and mobile marketing. “Proforma Global Sourcing’s vast resources and industry experience has made them the ideal company to take on The Embroidery House’s mission of providing innovative safety programs,” said Kathy Morgan, president of The Embroidery House. “We have been dedicated to helping our clients create, implement and promote effective safety programs and I’m confident Proforma Global Sourcing will only improve and expand on what we have built, taking our clients’ programs to the next level.”

Proforma Global Sourcing’s Adams is a member of Proforma’s Million Dollar Club and has been creating comprehensive marketing, safety and e-commerce programs for more than 30 years.

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Counselor Commentary: A New Kind Of Diversity 
There is a powerful case to be made for diversity in the workplace – but hiring can’t be haphazard. Bringing on an employee simply to fill a racial, age or gender quota is insulting to job candidates and to your current staff. You should actively be recruiting the best people from all backgrounds, giving you a culturally diverse staff that can appeal to clients and give you strong advice. Hopefully, this is already your approach and your employees don’t all look alike. If you think you need to do better, then you probably do.

As you hire and train your staffers, though, you may want to consider another less-thought-of type of diversity. It’s called cognitive diversity and it was a topic in multiple sessions of this month’s ASI Power Summit in Scottsdale. Two presenters – Forbes’ publisher Rich Karlgaard and futurist John Smart – suggested attendees avoid hiring people that are mini-versions of themselves. In other words, leaders often believe their way of thinking is best so they employ people with similar personalities and behaviors. This is a bad idea. It leads to sameness and eventually mediocrity.

Instead, companies that want to excel should deliberately hire people who improve the range of thought within the workplace. Put another way, stagnant companies are too insular in their thinking, while growing firms boast a balance of creative ideas and actions. You need to have structured problem-solvers to go along with big-picture, out-of-the-box theorists. You need to have people who are great working on a team, as well as employees who are comfortable taking on a project all by themselves. You need adapters, innovators, energizers, stabilizers, book-smart and street-smart people. You likely know who fits into what category among your staffers. The next step for you is to hire people who fill in those cognitive gaps.

The trickier part, frankly, is to use your personnel in the right ways. It’s sort of like the football coach who says he has to put his players in the best position to win. He would be wise to use his lumbering tight end on a play-action pass near the goaline, not on a middle screen or a quick out at midfield. Similarly in the workplace, you have to be mindful of what situations you put people in. Here, cross-training is so helpful, too, because you might discover some individual employee skills you never knew existed. 

Admittedly, there’s a lot to digest, so where should you start? In his Power Summit session, Smart recommended having staffers take an assessment test like Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0. It costs $14 per person, much less expensive than other personality questionnaires. Once you know what you have, you can add what you don’t. This will bring you more true diversity – and likely an improved roster of employees.

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Fire Temporarily Closes Major Ports
The Port of Los Angeles and part of the Port of Long Beach were forced to shut down for a time this week because of a fire on the underside of an 800-foot-long wooden wharf. Unhealthy smoke triggered the temporary closings Monday evening through Wednesday morning, sending a few thousand longshore workers home. Eight Los Angeles and three Long Beach container terminals were affected by the blaze, which was contained in about three hours by firefighters.

Officials said the fire was ignited by a welding accident on Monday night, immediately impacting a warehouse that runs the length of the wharf. Firefighters used boats with water sprayers and foam to help put out the blaze which smoldered well into Tuesday night. The warehouse itself did not catch fire and no injuries were reported. 

The economic cost of the four-alarm fire is still not fully known, but will be closely watched. The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach handle 40% of America’s import trade. Los Angeles alone deals with $780 million of cargo each day. In the past, temporary shutdowns have caused only minor issues within the supply chain, however, affecting mostly truckers and exporters. 

Following the fire, police advised nearby residents to remain indoors and keep their windows closed because of concerns over air quality. A local private school closed and students at a close-by public elementary school were bused to another location.


Counselor How-To: Protect Your Firm’s Reputation
It could happen to you – maybe it already has. A disgruntled employee, an angry customer, or an underhanded competitor could try to burn you by spreading rumors, lies, or misinformation about your business. “Bad news travels faster than good news,” says Mike Emoff, CEO of Shumsky (asi/326300). “I kind of wish I could market good news like bad news, but you can’t.”

How you handle a wave or, possibly worse yet, a slow trickle of bad PR will determine the future success of your company. Responding well can limit the damage, but protecting your reputation should start long before a crisis is upon you. Nowadays, protecting your reputation means staying ahead of the news, experts insist. MSNBC’s Mike Michalowicz, author of Profit First, believes Google Alerts gives you a good watchdog to do just that.

“It will notify you when certain keywords are said in any kind of media outlet or Web link. You put your company’s name and your key personnel in there, and if anything is said about them, you immediately get notified via email,” he says.

Emoff, also a Google Alerts proponent, has used the tool to keep ahead of potential drama. Why? The last thing Emoff wants is for one bit of bad press to be picked up later by a wire service or an industry blog, giving legs to something that might not even be true. “Something bad can happen now and be posted in three hours,” he says. “I want to know about it before then so we can send PR out to our industry magazines to circumvent – or at least preempt – any major issue. If it’s set up right, Google Alerts works for our industry and our size because it’s free.”

Click here to read Counselor’s latest Management column and glean more tips on protecting your company’s image.


Counselor Unveils 2014 Power 50
At a ceremony held last week during the ASI Power Summit in Scottsdale, AZ, Counselor magazine announced its 2014 Power 50. The rankings of the most influential executives in the ad specialty industry are headed up this year by the father-son duo of Marty and Jeremy Lott from SanMar (asi/84863). Following them in the top five of the 2014 Power 50 are: Kevin Lyons-Tarr from 4imprint (asi/197045) at number two, Polyconcept’s Michael Bernstein and David Nicholson at number three, Halo Branded Solutions’ (asi/356000) Marc Simon at number four, and Proforma’s (asi/300094) Greg and Vera Muzzillo at number five.

“Everyone on this list has one thing in common: they’re a member of a very exclusive club, comprised of the most influential executives in today’s ad specialty market,” said Tim Andrews, president and CEO of ASI, at the celebratory dinner. “They not only inspire their own employees, but they make others in the market – competitors, clients and vendors alike – change the way they do business. If anyone is setting a course for this industry’s future, it’s the men and women on this list.”

To see the complete ranking of the 2014 Power 50, click here.


ASI Radio: Elevate Your Customer Service
On this week’s Tuesday Morning Show, the hosts gave callers advice on ways they can upgrade their customer service and stand out from competitors. Should you always offer gifts or discounts following an order mishap? How can you empower reps to provide better service even if you have limited resources? What’s a good strategy for dealing with especially difficult clients?

Click here to listen to the complete call-in segment. If you missed any other part of the show, a recording is now available at And, don’t forget to join us for our next broadcast on Tuesday, September 30. Log on at 10:30 a.m. ET to listen to the show – and give us a call at (215) 953-4979 to hear your voice on the air.


In The News
ePromos Promotional Products, Inc. (asi/188515) released its 11th annual “Top 10 Corporate Gift Picks” list, as selected by merchandising experts. The list includes the Selfie Stick with Bluetooth, the Block Bluetooth Speaker and the Textured Knit Half Zip Pullover. To view the entire list, click here.

R.S. Owens (asi/75530) has created the official award for the Fifth Star Awards honoring Chicago-area artists and arts institutions.

Showdown Displays (asi/87188) is proud to announce that parent company Sign-Zone received the Manufacturer of the Year Award at the 2014 Manufacturing Awards hosted by Minnesota Business magazine. Additionally, John Bruellman, president and CEO of Sign-Zone, was awarded the Executive of the Year Award.

Superex (asi/90231) now offers Kidde Safety Products in its Home Safety product category. Visit for more information.

TSC Apparel (asi/90518) now offers garments by Comfort Colors by Chouinard, including garment-dyed T-shirts, tank tops and fleece in over 90 colors. Comfort Colors also custom dyes fabric to match more than 15,000 PMS colors. For more information, visit


People On The Move
Penn Emblem Co. (asi/77120) has hired Eric Garced as a graphic designer.

SanMar (asi/84863) welcomes Yen Gao as director of sourcing.


Product Spotlight: Proforma

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Global Ad Study Released
Groundbreaking global research proves promo products deliver commanding advertiser recall among 85% of consumers surveyed.
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Newest Ad Study Video Posted
ASI’s latest YouTube video illustrates results from the 2014 global ad specialties impressions study.
Find out more.


In such a competitive market, you need the skills to out-think, outperform and out service the competition. Come to The ASI Show Orlando and take advantage of one of the most important benefits of ASI membership, FREE access to LIVE education – take a look at the complete schedule. As the first ASI Show of the year, join the thousands of distributors who choose the ASI Show to kick off their sales year by discovering the latest trends and techniques in sales, marketing, social media and more.

  • Benefit from eight unique education tracks created for every level of industry experience – Get Started, Get Selling, Get Noticed, Get Your Company on the Fast Track, Get Designing, Get Decorating, Become a Star Supplier and Get Schooled in ESP
  • Choose from 50 NEW workshops such as Planning a Powerful Social Media Marketing Calendar, Succeed at Generational Marketing and The Power of Body Language
  • Gain knowledge and exposure to new trends, techniques, products and resources
  • Learn about what’s hot, what’s fading and what your company needs right now
  • Position yourself in the industry as an ad specialty expert with your ASI certification

Plus, ASI distributor and decorator members, register today using promotional code PROMOGRAM and receive FREE admission to education and exhibits, a FREE hotel room on the evening of January 5, FREE networking events, FREE catalog shipping and more – overall, more than a $500 value! Visit for the full three-day schedule.
Follow The ASI Show on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook today!

Join us at The ASI Show in 2015:
Orlando • Education: January 4 • Exhibits: January 5-6
Dallas • Education: February 3 • Exhibits: February 4-5
Long Beach • Education: March 24 • Exhibits: March 25-26
New York • Education & Exhibits: May 5-6
Chicago • Education: July 14 • Exhibits: July 15-16

Plus, don’t miss the ASI Advantages Roadshow, the industry’s #1 traveling show. for the complete schedule and go to for information 
on all ASI Shows.

Proforma Global Sourcing Acquires The Embroidery House | Counselor Commentary: A New Kind Of Diversity | Fire Temporarily Closes Major Ports | Counselor How-To: Protect Your Firm’s Reputation | Counselor Unveils 2014 Power 50 | ASI Radio: Elevate Your Customer Service | In The News | People On The Move
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