Stitches

Industry Reacts to BEL USA, Branders Deal

The announcement of BEL USA’s merger with promotional products distributor Branders.com (asi/145021) has generated a wide range of opinions among advertising specialty industry executives, as companies consider what the deal means for the market. In the transaction, BEL USA, parent company to supplier BelPromo (asi/39552) and distributor DiscountMugs.com, added Branders.com to its group of companies.

While BEL will operate the companies as separate businesses, they’ll be under one corporate umbrella, leading to questions about future market consolidation and the blurring of the traditional industry sales model.

“I have a huge problem with a supplier and distributor being owned by the same parent company,” said Greg Muzzillo, founder of Proforma (asi/300094). “In my mind, the essential element that makes the distributor/supplier relationship work is trust. I think most distributors would struggle to maintain trust in a supplier that also was a distributor.”

Others in the industry have a bit of a different take on the deal, like Steve Paradiso, president of ePromos Promotional Products (asi/188515). “The people that were freaked out by Bel before are going to be freaked out now,” he said. “I think this is a pretty exciting opportunity and there are some smart people involved in this. Remember, most big distributors have figured out how to do things direct for a while now, so in some ways this is just an extension of business as usual.”