Companies Plan To Spend More On Holiday Gifts A new survey released today by ASI shows that corporate end-buyers plan to spend more per recipient on gifts this holiday season than they did each of the previous three years. Read Article
Survey results for 2013 reveal that corporations are planning to spend $44.98 per employee and $33.92 for each prospect or client. Data shows buyers are not expecting to give out as many items, but are spending more on the items they do give.
"They'll give fewer but nicer things to their better customers," said Cris Nigro, owner of Proforma Creative Precision (asi/300094). "There are no general gifts like there used to be. I think the top 20% of customers are now getting really more of a gift, while the rest may be getting a card."
Nearly three-quarters of corporate end-buyers plan to spend the same on gifts for employees this year, while 19% plan to spend less. Seth Weiner, owner of Sonic Promos (asi/329865), has clients that have pulled back on their gift giving in recent years, offering something like $10 gift cards for their employees. "When that occurs," Weiner said about the decision to give less, "it's from somebody who isn't concerned with job security or appreciation or necessarily understands how far an item can go."
Gift cards are the number-one item for holiday gift giving. Cash bonuses ranked second, followed closely by food and beverage. Nigro typically recommends Belgian chocolates, but packaging matters as much as the quality of the gift. "If you're going to send food as a gift, I'm very particular about the packaging, because I think it should be excellent," she said. "I tend to go with Astor Chocolate for that because I think their packaging is beautiful."
Nearly two-thirds of corporate holiday gifts will feature a logo on the package. When giving a gift to a client, expressing appreciation is the number-one goal, followed by developing the relationship and generating goodwill. That's why Sonic tailors its branding for its own gifts instead of traditionally placing its logo. "It's not a marketing piece," said Weiner. "It's an acknowledgement of the relationship. That's why we go subtle on the branding or personalize it for the individual."
Protests Close 200 Garment Factories In Bangladesh
Clashes broke out this week in Bangladesh as thousands of workers protested for three days, forcing at least 200 garment factories near Dhaka to close. Read Article
Workers demanded higher wages at the factories in the Ashulia industrial district, an area that provides clothing for retailers such as Wal-Mart, H&M, Gap and Eagle Outfitters. Reports indicate about 100 people have been hurt as striking workers clashed with police, who retaliated by firing rubber bullets and canisters of tear gas.
"We have been forced to shut all garment factories in Ashulia fearing more vandalism, and also for security reasons after the unrest of the last few days," said Mohammad Atiqul Islam, president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Factory workers in Bangladesh are demanding that the monthly minimum wage be raised to 8,000 taka, roughly $103 a month, from 3000 taka, or roughly $38. The protests come after more optimistic news last week when a Bangladesh government-appointed board approved a recommendation to increase the minimum wage to 5,300 taka. "We can't accept the wages that are being offered to us," said Kahirul Mamun Mintu, a protest leader in Savar. "This is not enough for us. Our movement will continue until our demands are met."
Garment exports in Bangladesh jumped nearly 25% between July and September of 2013 compared to a year earlier, despite multiple accidents there. Factory owners and regulators in Bangladesh have come under scrutiny for the often harsh and unsafe working conditions after the collapse of a factory building killed more than 1,100 people in April and a fire last November that killed 112 workers. The garment sector in the Asian country employs about four million workers, mostly women.
Vote Now For Your Favorite Suppliers
Every year Counselor magazine honors the best industry suppliers with our Distributor Choice Awards. Read Article
Of course, we can't name the winners without distributors, because these awards are chosen solely by representative of industry distributor firms. As a valued ASI distributor, we want your opinion about who the best suppliers are to work with in the industry. Please go here to vote in the Counselor Distributor Choice Awards.
These valued awards will be given out to winning suppliers at the ASI Show in Orlando on Monday, January 6, 2014. Your vote counts and we thank you in advance for your participation. Voting ends Friday, November 22. Go to www.asicentral.com/asiawards to vote now.
The Joe Show: Unique & Useful In this episode of The Joe Show, Managing Editor Joe Haley showcases several new products that stand out for being practical and fun. Read Article
Looking for an item to pitch to hospitals and clinics? Been searching for a striking end-of-year award? Need a cool idea for winter promotions?
Click here to watch another new episode of The Joe Show.
Counselor Commentary: The Fallacy Of Employee Ratings
Two technology industry giants made news this week. It wasn't for introducing the latest gaming system or mobile phone or online search function. Rather, both Microsoft and Yahoo created headlines with internal announcements.
First, Microsoft informed employees that it would be doing away with its oft-criticized "stack ranking" system, which forced managers to essentially rate their employees on a curve. In other words, every department had to have a certain amount of people receive great scores, another specific percentage receive average ratings, and a third group that got bad scores. Ultimately, bonuses were doled out to the top scorers, and yes, many of the employees with the lowest scores were weeded out periodically. Now, concerned about the hyper-competitive and unfair environment that this system created, Microsoft has pulled a 180.
It will now have a review process that is more flexible and which encourages employees to work together, instead of against each other. "Our new approach will make it easier for managers and leaders to allocate rewards in a manner that reflects the unique contributions of their employees and teams," Lisa Brummel, executive vice president of human resources at Microsoft, told employees in a letter distributed on Tuesday.
Well done, Microsoft. Why would you want an employee review system that essentially pits people against each other? Annual reviews are designed to increase communication at companies by providing feedback to employees on where they're performing well and where they could pick it up. In a vacuum, that should work. But companies aren't implementing reviews in a vacuum, because many are applying ratings to employees at the end of the process on a curve system that forces managers to have certain amounts of their people in the different levels provided. All that succeeds at doing is creating a toxic environment where employees inevitably wonder who got the top scores (and why!) and who got the bottom scores (and why?). And many companies have begun to realize this. The Institute of Corporate Productivity says that only 5% of high-performing companies used a forced ranking system in 2011, down from almost 20% two years earlier.
So, what did Yahoo do? The company adopted the employee rating system that Microsoft – and many others – just shunned. Website AllThingsD.com this week reported that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has instituted the ranking system so the company can more easily identify the employees it should fire. However, in an unintended consequence, now the company has a morale issue on its hands. Said one manager: "I feel so uncomfortable because in order to meet the bell curve, I have to tell an employee that they missed when I truly don't believe it to be the case. I understand we want to weed out people not meeting their goals, but this practice is concerning. I don't want to lose the person mentally."
Not a good way to create a high-performance culture, is it?
NFIB: U.S. Small Biz Optimism Slips
A new survey released by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) shows that U.S. small business optimism fell in October, breaking a string of steady confidence gains throughout 2013. The NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index dropped to 91.6 in October, down from 93.9 from September, mostly as a result of last month’s partial government shutdown.
“Washington paralysis is never good news for the economy, so it was no surprise that while politicians were arguing over whether or not the government should remain fully operational, small business optimism measures deteriorated,” said Bill Dunkelberg, NFIB’s chief economist, in a statement.
Even though the government shutdown is over, NFIB data shows smaller firms still don’t expect business conditions to improve in advance of the next federal budget deadline in January. Nearly 70% of small-business owners think now is a bad time to expand operations. Of that 70%, almost 40% say their negativity is due to the political climate.
Separately, data from firm Sageworks shows that, so far in 2013, sales at U.S. businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenues are flat. Meanwhile, Manta.com recently found that 80% of small businesses don’t plan to hire additional employees for the holiday season. While these overall U.S. numbers demonstrate uncertainty among company owners, businesses within the ad specialty industry remain much more optimistic. In fact, the latest ASI quarterly sales report – released this past Tuesday – showed that 55% of industry distributors expect their 2013 sales to be better than last year’s revenues.
Counselor Q&A: Building A Personal Brand
Developing a strong reputation can make all the difference in business, but successfully building a personal brand doesn't happen overnight. So how exactly is it done? In a recent issue of Counselor, longtime industry executives Roni Wright and Missy Kilpatrick – both vice presidents at The Book Company (asi/41010) – argued that consistency, not flashiness, is key.
"Giving great service and communicating all the time, every time, has worked for me," Kilpatrick said. Wright added: "Do what you say you are going to do."
Are you looking to boost your personal brand? Click here to read a complete Q&A as Wright and Kilpatrick share several brand-building business lessons they've learned.
ASI Radio: Success Strategies For 2014
On this week's Tuesday Morning Show, the hosts gave listeners advice on how to improve their sales and marketing efforts in 2014. How can your firm strengthen its brand through social media? What self-promo campaigns can set you apart from competitors? How can keeping an event calendar help you get more business from current clients?
Click here to listen to the complete call-in segment. If you missed the show, a recording is now available at www.asicentral.com/radio. And, don't forget to join us on Tuesday, November 19, for our next broadcast. Log on at 10:30 a.m. ET to listen to the show – and give us a call at (215) 953-4979 to hear your voice on the air.
What’s Your Apparel Blind Spot?
Whether you have decades of experience or are just getting started, is there an area of apparel in which you wish you knew more? It could be anything: staying current with trends, choosing clothing for the opposite gender or knowing which decoration method to pick. Or maybe you want to improve in all areas. We're looking for people with "apparel blind spots" to participate in an upcoming article for Wearables. You will receive coaching and tips from industry experts. Our goal is to make you a stronger and more knowledgeable apparel authority.
To participate in this article, please send an e-mail to Editor C.J. Mittica at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include information about yourself and your "blind spot." Thank you to all of our potential participants.
In The News
Akran Marketing (asi/115329) has announced that the staff members and suppliers of its affiliate company, the Akran Foundation, will be donating $10,000 in cash, as well as $10,000 in clothing to people in the Philippines affected by Typhoon Haiyan.
BIC Graphic (asi/40480) and Norwood (asi/74400) was named the 2013 Promotional Supplier of the Year by Universal Unilink Purchasing Association.
Corporate Specialties (asi/169026) has launched an educational blog that provides information about promotional marketing and branded merchandise. To visit the blog, go to: www.CorpSpecBlog.com.
ERB Safety (asi/51204) has announced the addition of the vented full brim to its Americana line of head protection. The new item offers protection from falling objects and features cooling vents on the top of the hat.
Executive Apparel (asi/53418) has implemented improved website services, including enhanced online data management. The upgrades allow approved dealers to check inventory, invoices and purchase orders, while placing new orders online. For more information, visit: www.executiveapparel.com.
InnerWorkings (asi/168860) has announced that it has signed an agreement with ACE Group to provide the company with print management and promotional product fulfillment. The agreement is an extension of a current North American partnership.
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IT'S A BUSINESS EXPERIENCE LIKE NO OTHER
Interested in participating in fASIlitate, ASI's invitation-only, hosted buyer event? Let us know by filling out this form. (Click here) fASIlitate offers distributors the unique opportunity to spend private time with the industry's most sought after suppliers.
Meet one on one with ASI 5 Star suppliers
Spend time with suppliers representing a wide variety of products
Discuss sales initiatives and projects during pre-set private meetings
Network with an elite group of ad specialty professionals
"From the moment we arrived we realized that we were part of a truly remarkable event."
~Jennifer Maceyak, The Icebox, asi/229395
For more information on fASIlitate and to view the 2014 dates and locations, visit www.fasilitate.com.