Counselor Commentary: Beware Of Low Prices

Sometimes, It Really Is Too Good To Be True

Andy CohenSometimes, it really is too good to be true. Such is the case with promotional products and the never-ending search for lower cost items – both on the part of distributors and their clients. The market was delivered a warning sign of sorts last week when a mobile power charger sold in retail stores was recalled by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) because it can overheat and pose a fire hazard.

The product in question, which was branded as the Vibe USB Mobile Power Bar, was sold in Five Below stores between January and March of this year and was imported from China by Edison, NJ-based DGL Group Ltd, a company that’s not listed as a supplier or distributor with ASI. The CPSC recalled nearly 100,000 of the items, and said consumers should immediately stop using the power bars, unplug them from electrical outlets, and return them to DGL or Five Below for a refund.

That refund would be for $5, the amount consumers paid for the item – a paltry charge for a product that should be at least double or even triple that price. “I am not surprised at all by the recall,” Reggie Gonzalez, vice president of product sales for industry supplier iClick (asi/62124), told Counselor. “Since we launched our mobile accessories, we have seen some inexpensive product being purchased by our customers and are relaying information to us that there is some defective merchandise out there in the marketplace, including product within our industry.”

And, that’s the concern: Clients are often so focused on price that distributors could be purchasing products that are at best inferior and at worst defective or unsafe. Safety matters today – not just for suppliers. It’s something distributors need to be aware of, as well, for the good of their clients and the good of the market as a whole. The key is to ask questions and get educated about the make-up of these mobile power chargers – some have batteries that can best be described as powerless.

These chargers all look alike – much like many items in the ad specialty market – but the insides can be very different. It’s incumbent upon distributors to recognize the differences between a $2 charger and a $12 one, so that they can fully explain those different characteristics to clients. Yes, they’re looking to pay less for items, but if they knew the cheaper charger could get them in hot water with the CPSC, would they rush to spend so much less? Probably not. “If the consumer is concerned about the safety of the product,” said Harris Cohen, president and CEO of All-In-One (asi/34256), “it is likely that higher-priced power banks will incorporate better components and safety features.”

And, that’s something that’s good for everybody in the promotional product supply chain: suppliers, distributors, and clients.