Change was afoot at PPAI’s Expo East show this past weekend. Besides a new date (March 12-15) and timeframe (running a span of three days over a weekend), the show shared its location at the Atlantic City Convention Center with ISS, which serves the apparel decoration industry. PPAI President Paul Bellantone said it was a big change, but also a necessary one. "No matter how much money we put at it, no matter what type of resources we put through it, we had a declining attendance," he told attendees at the show's keynote speech.
The early results of the new format encouraged Bellantone, though – 40% of pre-registrants had not been to a PPAI show in over three years, and ISS attendance was up 40%. "The opportunity I think is limitless," Bellantone added. "You have a bigger toolbox because you are here today."
The theme segued nicely into the keynote speech by longtime sales coach and best-selling author Jeffrey Gitomer, who exhorted his audience to get with the changes because "the last decade of sales strategies doesn't matter anymore." The industry's reliance on catalogs, he said, is old fashioned and ineffective. "You're in the creative idea business. If you're not, don't show up," said Gitomer, who has employed creative promotions like branded mint tins and golf balls over the years. “I don't want your catalogs. I want your ideas.”
On the show floor, there were plenty of notable product trends. Here were the highlights:
- Expanded Apparel Offerings: Suppliers such as Jetline (asi/63344), Dard (asi/48500) and Hit Promotional Products (asi/61125) have all started to offer decorated apparel this year. "It was get on the boat or watch it sail by," said Jay Ago, international sales manager for Dard. "Everyone is getting into apparel." Dard is offering athletic wear with screen printing and dye-sub capabilities, while Hit and Jetline offer T-shirts that already take advantage of the companies' in-house decorating. In all cases, the suppliers are looking to capture more of a distributor's business and streamline their purchasing. "The key selling point for us is that it's one transaction for distributors," says Brett Shaffer, senior vice president of operations for Jetline.
- Bright Colors: Neons and vibrant hues infected promotional apparel in the last three years, and now they have migrated over into hard goods. Numo (asi/74710) has unveiled a new line of brightly-colored desk items, including staplers, tape dispensers and pen cups. They can be decorated with a one-color, one-location imprint. "The plain colors aren't what's popular," says Kim Gasparini, sales manager for Numo. "These are the colors that are getting interest."
- Surefire Selfies: No surprise that tech products continue to gain momentum, and the category has now expanded into the increasingly popular selfie sticks. Pingline (asi/78137) showed three different types at the trade show, including one that works through Bluetooth. The supplier can place an imprint on the rod or holder and is exploring options to brand the selfie stick's handle. Sales Executive Amy Anthes says any market would have interest; the supplier's customers have sold them to places like Coca Cola and movie premieres.