Power 50: No. 9 Jeff Lederer, Prime Line

Welcome to the 2017 Power 50 list, which ranks the most influential people in the industry.

#9: Jeff Lederer, Prime Line (asi/79530)

2016 Rank: 10
Title: President/CEO
Industry Experience: 23 years
Birthplace: New York City

Proving prescient, Lederer recently expanded Prime Line’s offerings to include a host of apparel brands, marking a major addition to the company’s traditional hard-good products. Since the decision, apparel’s industry market share has grown and now represents 39% of all promo sales. In this Q&A, Lederer tells us how customers are responding to Prime’s apparel launch, and provides his outlook on the future of the industry.

Q: Do you think the promo products industry has matured, or is there room for growth?
A: I think the way we measure the volume in this industry is a bit flawed because there are various definitions of what type of business is considered in our industry. I believe there is expansion going on in our industry when you factor in the new types of business promoting their brands on the types of products we happen to sell.

Q: Where will growth in the promo market come from?
A: It will come from the on-demand, low-quantity models from companies like Vistaprint. Also, the growth will come from end-users’ better understanding of the effectiveness of our advertising medium versus some of the more traditional ones. Promotional products are the only form of advertising where the end-user recipient will actually say ‘thank you’ for being targeted with that ad message. That’s why this advertising medium will prevail and grow – and new companies will enter our market and create even more awareness.

Q: What will change in the industry in the next five years?
A: Larger distributors manufacturing and printing their own products domestically will have an impact on our industry. Private equity or startups that have no industry allegiances and are simply trying to grow market share with no concern for our existing paradigm will inevitably disrupt our market sooner than later. It’s important to be open and prepared for this to happen by making the right investments today.

Q: Is the industry reacting fast enough to changes in technology and customer demands?
A: I think the companies in our industry are responding to whatever is in front of them and it’s not for an industry to react. That said, there are changes everywhere, right in front of us, that are difficult to see for sure. Was the taxi industry able to see or change fast enough with Uber? Most say they saw it but did not respond. The music industry with Napster? Some responded and some did not. There are companies that respond and react and there are those that watch it happen.

Q: Is Prime Line reacting fast enough?
A: At Prime, we’re focused on staying ahead of the changes but embrace those dynamics because there are market forces that are difficult to stop or to predict. I’m betting on us to be able to respond and be agile enough to succeed for the long term.

Q: How is Prime Line’s and Jetline’s big move into apparel going?
A: Really well. There’s clearly a demand for the single-invoice solution with in-stock apparel. Distributors love our ability to imprint and ship both large- and small-quantity apparel orders in 24 hours or less. I’m thrilled with the progress, and as we expand our offerings to more brands, distributors are really reacting to this. The one-stop shop is resonating with our customers.

Q: What’s the greatest challenge you’re facing?
A: Right now we’re focusing on expanding our operations and keeping up with the space requirements for the growth we’re experiencing.

Q: Is the promo industry too dependent on China?
A: There are concerns about cost increases in China due to various factors from environmental awareness and regulation, as well as the currency. This will impact the U.S. economy if companies are forced to increase their costs, so from that standpoint, many industries are in a more co-dependent situation with China.

Q: How will the market react if the U.S. places tariffs on Chinese goods?
A: This will have a dramatic impact on any market that’s dependent on Chinese goods. Costs will increase for many businesses and consumers. Companies could begin to falter (because they did not increase their costs) and can’t survive with lower margins. That said, it will affect most of the USA, so it might just be part of what people will have to get used to. I’m sure it would change buying habits and create new dynamics with purchasing, but the markets would settle and create a new normal.

Q: What’s your top goal over the next 12 months?
A: My personal goal is to focus on being positive and helping my team succeed. At Prime, we have over 900 employees, and I care deeply about them. My goal is to make sure I make the right strategic decisions on behalf of my entire company. I want those decisions to have a lasting positive impact on them and their lives.