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Vol 1113, April 17, 2014
Hot Sector: Manufacturing Output Increases
Overall U.S. factory production rose 0.5% last month, continuing a trend of growth after a slow and harsh winter, according to a report released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve. Manufacturers produced more furniture, clothing and other products in March.
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It’s the second straight month manufacturing has risen, with output jumping 1.4% in February. Production had dropped by .9% in January, thanks to weather-related slowdowns. Over the last 12 months, manufacturing has seen solid growth, with a 2.8% increase in output.

“The U.S. economy is now showing its true colors after the weakness triggered by the bleakest of winters,” Paul Dales, senior economist with Capital Economics, told the Associated Press. “There is scope for production to rise rapidly in the coming months too.”

The production of consumer goods rose 0.7% in March, bringing first-quarter gains to 4.5%. Clothing production jumped 3.3 percent; the output of furniture, appliances and carpeting gained 2%. After having registered gains of at least 1% in February, the indexes for the two major categories of nonindustrial supplies posted slower increases last month: Construction supplies were up just 0.2%, and business supplies rose 0.6%. For the first quarter, however, output of business supplies had jumped 5.3%.

The production of materials requiring further processing in the industrial sector was up 0.9% last month, increasing by 4.7% for the first quarter of the year. Every major component of materials recorded gains in March, according to the Federal Reserve report. Textile materials jumped 4.5% in March, the largest increase among nondurable materials.

Alibaba Posts 66% Rise In Q4 Sales
China-based tech firm Alibaba Group recorded fourth-quarter revenues of $3.06 billion, a year-over-year rise of 66%, according to a presentation this week from shareholder Yahoo.
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The sharp sales growth comes as Alibaba prepares for an initial public offering this year that will likely be the largest since Facebook’s 2012 market debut. Analysts believe Alibaba’s IPO will raise at least $15 billion.

Alibaba has unique ties to several industries and services, including banking, cloud computing, online music, microblogging and film production. The company is most well-known, though, for its multiple websites that allow merchants to sell items – including promotional products – directly to consumers worldwide. The company, founded in 1999 by Counselor Power 50 member Jack Ma, powers 80% of all Chinese online consumer shopping.

For months, the company strongly considered publicly listing in Hong Kong, before recently deciding an offering on a New York-based exchange would be more beneficial. Ma and Alibaba’s top executives have wanted to retain as much control as possible, specifically the right to nominate most board members, despite holding a minority stake. The Hong Kong Exchange would not allow that control, but exchanges in the U.S. are more accommodative, especially as they fight for technology company IPOs. Both the NYSE and NASDAQ also tend to offer higher valuations and better infrastructure for trading.

Analysts and traders are anxiously awaiting the Chinese company’s public filing, with CNBC’s Jim Cramer suggesting portfolio managers gear up to buy as many Alibaba shares as possible. “I want to own Alibaba,” Cramer said. “If I was a growth manager, I would sell every single stock and buy Alibaba. I cannot believe that acceleration. Who accelerates? And this is China we're talking about.”

While no firm IPO date has been announced, Alibaba is expected to file preliminary paperwork next week. According to reports out of China, Alibaba has hired Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse Group AG as chief underwriters.

BIC Chairman Visits Promo Division
Top 40 supplier BIC Graphic (asi/40480) announced that Bruno Bich, chairman of the board of BIC Group, recently visited the supplier’s headquarters office in Clearwater, FL.
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Bich, who served as chairman and chief executive of the worldwide BIC organization from 1993 to 2006 and has been chairman of the board since 2006, spent two days with BIC Graphic management reviewing long-term strategies and touring the company’s writing instrument operation.

On his visit to the BIC Graphic headquarters, Bich also addressed all employees, discussing BIC’s overall philosophy and his positive outlook for the BIC Graphic division. Tim Andrews, president and CEO of ASI, and Paul Bellantone, president and CEO of PPAI, also met with Bich during his visit to discuss the ad specialty industry’s outlook.

“I appreciate the time Tim and Paul took from their busy schedules to visit us,” Bich said. “We’ve spent a great deal of time analyzing the challenges and the potential of the promotional products market. After long discussions about the evolution of the industry over the past five years, and what is needed to progress, we are optimistic and confident that BIC has an opportunity to grow market share.”

According to Counselor’s 2013 State of the Industry report, BIC Graphic is the fourth-largest supplier in the market. The company reported to Counselor that it recorded $313 million in North American ad specialty sales in 2013, a decrease of 3% from 2012.

The Joe Show: Spring & Summer Promos
In this episode of The Joe Show, Managing Editor Joe Haley shows off a variety of products perfect for an assortment of upcoming promotions. Looking for an item that will jazz up any outdoor party? How about a sports promo that’s sure to garner attention? Watch The Joe Show for new product and promotional ideas.
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Click here to watch this new-products episode of The Joe Show.

Want more videos? Subscribe now to our YouTube videos.

Advertisement: Prime Resource
Gemline Signs Deal To Carry Mizrahi Bags
Top 40 supplier Gemline (asi/56070) announced this week that it has signed a deal to bring products created by noted fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi to the ad specialty market. Thanks to an exclusive licensing agreement with Xcel Brands Inc., the company that’s in charge of the marketing of Isaac Mizrahi trademarks, Gemline will now carry a selection of Mizrahi bags.

“Isaac Mizrahi is a great addition to Gemline’s product portfolio,” said Jonathan Isaacson, president of Gemline. “As a leader in the retail and fashion industries, the addition of this sought-after brand enables us to offer our customers more branding solutions than ever before. We are excited about this new partnership and believe that our customers will share our enthusiasm about the addition of this premium fashion brand at an affordable price.”

A leader in the fashion industry for nearly 30 years, Mizrahi has become more well-known recently for his roles on “Project Runway All Stars” for Lifetime, “The Fashion Show” for Bravo and his own series for both Oxygen and the Style Network. Gemline ranks as the 18th-largest supplier in the industry, and the company recorded $92 million in North American ad specialty revenue in 2013. In addition to Mizrahi, it carries products from brands such as Brookstone, Igloo, and Moleskin.

Sweda Partners With BrandCharger
Top 40 supplier Sweda Company LLC (asi/90305) announced this week that it has signed an exclusive partnership with fellow supplier BrandCharger (asi/88751). The deal will result in Sweda carrying BrandCharger’s full line of power banks and USB car charger products.
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Kellie Claudio, vice president of sales at Sweda, told Counselor that the official partnership came about after a successful trial run over the last few years. “We had chosen a couple of their car chargers to sell in the market for the past three years very successfully,” she said. “We confidently expect to increase the BrandCharger footprint in the U.S.”

For BrandCharger, the deal means getting its full line of products into a Top 40 supplier’s lineup of offerings. “The new partnership between BrandCharger and Sweda is sure to be a wildly successful one,” said Pierce Fabian, BrandCharger’s director of North and South American sales. “And I speak for everyone at BrandCharger when I say that we will work very hard to ensure that the Sweda team is provided the best products to present to their customers.”

For Sweda, the 20th-largest supplier on Counselor’s Top 40 list, this latest partnership adds to its exclusive industry deals with brands such as Oakley bags and Leatherman multi-function tools. The company reported North American ad specialty revenues of $81.5 million in 2013, a 4% increase over 2012.
Advertisement: Maglite Promo Direct

Vote Now For The Industry's Best-Designed Products
The results are in: Counselor magazine has selected the finalists for its 2014 Product Design Awards. Here's where you come in. Please click here to vote for the products that YOU think are the best designed, considering both aesthetic appeal and functionality. You can select up to three products in each of the 14 featured categories. It only takes a few minutes, and your input is very important to us.

The winners will appear online ( and in the August issue of Counselor. Thanks very much for your help. Click here now to vote. The ballot will be open through Friday, April 25.

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Podcast: How To Hire Top Talent
On this week’s Tuesday Morning Show, the hosts gave callers advice on how they can recruit the best new employees to their companies. Where should you look to identify the best workers for your company? What are the traits of top employees today? What are the best hiring tactics in the industry right now?

Click here to listen to the call-in segment. If you missed any part of the radio show, a recording is now available at And, remember to join us on Tuesday, April 22, for our next broadcast. Log on at 10:30 a.m. ET to listen to the show and hear your voice on the air.

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Last Call: 2014 Best Places To Work Nominations
For the seventh year in a row, Counselor is setting out to identify the industry companies that employees simply love to work for. These are the distributors and suppliers that have a loyal work force and that provide a work environment which employees want to go to every morning.

Counselor will be unveiling its annual Best Places To Work list later this year at the second annual Best Places to Work Conference in July – it will undoubtedly include an elite list of industry companies. Do you want your company to be considered? Getting involved is easy – and it’s completely free to participate. The only necessary qualification is that a company has at least 10 employees.

To nominate your company, or any others in the market that you think deserve to be recognized, simply click here. Also, there’s no risk to participating. Only the honorees – those companies with the best scores from the survey – will be published in Counselor.

So, don’t delay. Click here to register your company to be considered for one of the most exclusive lists in the ad specialty market: Counselor’s Best Places To Work.

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Take The State Of The Industry Survey
Counselor is currently polling professionals in the industry – both distributors and suppliers – to find out how the market did in 2013 and to get impressions on where the industry is headed in 2014. We need your input. Please take some time to click the appropriate link below and complete the annual State of the Industry survey. Your responses will remain anonymous, and you’ll be helping to create Counselor’s annual State of the Industry report.

Distributors click here to take the distributor State of the Industry survey.

Suppliers click here to take the supplier State of the Industry survey.

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In The News
Bullet (asi/42424) announced that it has released 32 new items across several categories including technology, pens, lighting and drinkware. Visit for more information.

Hub Pen Company (asi61966) is among the first to achieve Product Safety Aware status in the Promotional Products Association International Product Safety Awareness Program.

Leed’s (asi/66887) announced that it has launched a Pinterest page led by the supplier’s in-house product design team. It highlights fashion and retail trends popular with end-users. Go to to see the company’s pins. Additionally, Leed’s has released a new series of brand eCatalogs, including Cross, Cutter & Buck, High Sierra, Wenger,Zoom and Elleven. Visit to view all available eCatalogs.

Pro Towels (asi/79750) announced that it has added Frigitowel, a 100% cotton cooling towel, to its product line. Visit to learn more.

Sweda Company LLC (asi/90305) announced that it has released its newest catalog called LifeStyle that features 35 new products, including new items for outdoor events such as stand-up coolers, double-wall mason jars, sport packs and a sports armband phone holder. Visit for more information.

US Flash & Technologies LLC (asi/93131) has introduced the CloudDrive, a USB drive that combines cloud and USB storage for more data capacity at a lower cost than traditional flash drives. Customers have the option to include an imprinted logo and a website URL that appears on the device screen when the drive is inserted into a USB port. For more information, visit


People On The Move
Sharing Promo Stock Company announced that it has hired Richard Golden as sales manager. 


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MSNBC Showcases Industry
“Your Business” program visits ASI’s NYC show and features several exhibitors on program devoted to entrepreneurs.
Find out more
ASI® Named Top Workplace
Employees vote ASI a great place to work for 5th year in a row, and company also named “Best Employer for New Graduates.”
Find out more.


Excitement is building for this year’s ASI Chicago, Tuesday, July 15, through Thursday, July 17, with both supplier and distributor participation tracking ahead of 2013.

Mark your calendar and register today for ASI Chicago.

  • Discover the hottest revenue-generating products debuting for the fourth quarter
  • Find items for back to school, Halloween and the winter holidays
  • Connect with an impressive group of suppliers – the Top 40 and more (70+ new this year)
  • Find new technologies and product offerings in the Incentive and  Signage + Decoration Pavilions (become more valuable to your clients)
  • Learn how to achieve unthinkable sales during a FREE half-day workshop by Stephen M. R. Covey (sales boot camp!)
  • Unlock your creativity to become more profitable during an astonishing Keynote by Erik Wahl

ASI distributor and decorator members can attend ASI Chicago – the industry’s biggest show of the summer – for FREE. Plus, receive a FREE hotel room on the evening of July 16. Click here for the full three-day schedule. Visit to register.

Follow The ASI Show on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook today!

The following are the dates and locations for The ASI Show in 2014 and 2015:
Chicago, July 15-17, 2014
Orlando, January 4-6, 2015
Dallas, February 3-5, 2015
Long Beach, March 24-26, 2015
New York, May 6-7, 2015

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

Gemline Signs Deal To Carry Mizrahi Bags | Sweda Partners With BrandCharger | Vote Now For The Industry's Best-Designed Products | Podcast: How To Hire Top Talent | Last Call: 2014 Best Places To Work Nominations | Take The State Of The Industry Survey | In The News | People On The Move
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