California Wildfires Causing Major Disruption For Promo Companies

Widespread wildfires in California are wreaking havoc on the business operations and personal lives of promotional product professionals who live in areas affected by the rampant flames.

ASI data shows that at least 75 ASI-listed firms were within the area of active wildfires in Northern California as of late this week. Meanwhile, just under 200 industry companies – 100+ distributors and 90+ suppliers – were within about a 10-mile radius of the center of a wildfire in the Anaheim area during the same timeframe, data showed.

In Northern California, where more than 20 wildfires burned, suppliers and distributors were shutting up shop and, in some cases, evacuating their homes as blazes bore down on their towns. Companies like Sonoma Promotional Products (asi/88188) and Marmot Mountain (asi/68874) are just a small sampling of California industry firms grappling with the fires’ threat, with both reporting temporary closures.

“Due to the wild fires in our area our offices are closed this week,” said Sarah Briant, director of credit at Marmot, in an email. “We will all be answering with delay. We appreciate your patience during this difficult time.”

Based in Sonoma, CA, Sonoma Promotional Solutions is among the promo companies in the hardest hit zones. Due the fires, about 20% of employees had to evacuate their homes, but as of late Thursday the residences remained intact and workers safe, a company executive told Counselor.

From a business perspective, the week was essentially a loss. “We haven’t been able to get much work done,” Nickolai Mathison, Sonoma Promo’s general manager/VP of sales, said late Thursday. “We were semi-operational for one day this week and we’re hoping to be semi-operational again Friday.”

So far, it’s too soon to say what type of long-term impact the fires will have on sales at Sonoma Promo. “We have not yet tried to forecast what it means on the sales side because we have first and foremost been concerned with health and safety,” said Mathison. “Nonetheless, our industry and our company are pretty resilient. We expect it to be a relatively minor interruption over the long haul.”

Focused on their community, Mathison and some other Sonoma Promo team members spent time volunteering at a local shelter, where Mathison said about 265 evacuees were lodging and in need of essentials. “People are literally arriving with nothing,” Mathison said. “We’re trying to help them however we can.”

In turn, Mathison said the outreach and care Sonoma Promo has received has been heartening. “Tons of people have been calling and emailing to say that we’re in their prayers,” he said. “We want people to know that we’re okay, and that we look forward to their support in our recovery. We also want people to know that our hearts go out to industry colleagues who may have lost their businesses and homes.”

Elsewhere, Sherry C. Swim, owner of PIP Printing & Marketing Services (asi/398580) in Paradise, CA, in Butte County, witnessed some of the worst of the devastation firsthand. “People lost everything less than 15 miles from my place of business,” said Swim. Her business operations fared better than others, but didn’t escape unscathed. “I had Internet and land line telephone service, but interrupted fax service. I had constant cell phone service. However, less than a block from me, all their services were interrupted and a mile away they had nothing.”

While initially under an evacuation warning, Swim said that the warnings in her area had been lifted. Still, she expects the fallout from the fires to be far-reaching. “I forecast all sales will be down while people are finding places to live, clothe themselves, assemble home furnishings, buy toys for their children, etc.,” said Swim.

The California wildfires have wrought death and destruction, especially in Northern California, including famous wine country counties like Napa and Sonoma. At least 31 people had died as of early Friday – a grim tally that made the week of October 8 the deadliest week for wildfires in California’s history. Authorities warned the death toll was likely to rise as rescuers scoured flame-wracked zones for missing people and survivors.

After erupting Sunday, the fires began ripping through a drought-parched NoCal landscape that acted as tinder for the flames, which were swept along unpredictably by strong, dry winds. A late Thursday reckoning alone indicated there were 22 wildfires in multiple counties than had combined to char more than 190,000 acres, while damaging or destroying 3,500 structures and prompting about 20,000 residents to evacuate, according to official estimates.

As with the human toll, those numbers are expected to rise. Consider: In the city of Santa Rosa, the county seat of Sonoma, an analysis by The New York Times found that approximately 1,800 structures were destroyed – more than three times the official estimate issued at the same time.

“It will be years before the Santa Rosa area and our wonderful wine country can recover,” said Swim.