The day before The PPAI Expo Conference, commonsku held skuconX at the Keep Memory Alive center in Las Vegas.

  • Sunday marked the 10th annual skucon.
  • The event included panels and sessions hosted by industry leaders discussing a range of trends and issues affecting the industry currently.

“This is the tenth time we’ve hosted skucon,” says Mark Graham, commonsku’s president and chief brand officer. “But I can honestly say that the energy and momentum in our industry has never been stronger. We were thrilled to bring together new challenger brands and world-class thinkers to learn about client-obsessed insights, brand engagement and to share the real and raw stories from the trenches that make this industry great.”

  • Catherine Graham, CEO of commonsku, announced that 833,3622 projects were created with commonsku and claimed, “My bet is we’ll pass a million this year.”

Much like The PPAI Expo Conference, skucon is designed to encompass issues affecting the industry as a whole rather than sticking exclusively to problems that its host company is designed to solve. It has also become one of the industry’s favored networking opportunities.

“I think continuing education is imperative in any industry, so I wanted to come,” says Melissa Gerbrecht of Brandigenous. “I’m feeling so inspired right now. I’m really taking away some key things that we can incorporate into our day-to-day.”

A Precursor To The PPAI Expo 2024

With so much of the promotional products community converging on Las Vegas for The PPAI Expo 2024, commonsku utilizes the opportunity to hold its own all-day event.

Indeed, skucon’s speakers included past and present members of PPAI’s Board of Directors, including current vice chair of financial services Denise Taschereau, CEO of Fairware, whose session was titled, “Future Proofing Promo.”

“This is why I started Fairware and why I ran for the Board of PPAI; because impact is more important than business as usual,” Taschereau said while challenging the crowd to operate their companies with a higher sense of purpose.

  • Even the event’s keynote speaker, Joey Coleman, author of the book Never Lose A Customer Again, kicked off his session about attending the first PPAI Expo in Las Vegas, three weeks into his career in promo. Coleman jokingly referred to himself as a “recovering distributor.”


A Conversation Between Two Industry Titans

One of the event’s highlights was a conversation with Jeremy Lott, president of SanMar, and Jonathan Isaacson, CEO of Gemline. As leaders of two of the promo industry’s largest companies, Catherine Graham took her opportunity as moderator to ask Lott and Isaacson about nearly every big-picture issue on the mind of just about every decision-maker in promo.

Topics that Lott and Isaacson provided their thoughts on included:

  • A potential war in China

“The world we’re in with geopolitical disruption is the world we’re going to be in for some time,” Isaacson says.

  • Freight costs
  • Mexican ports
  • Cotton ban in China

“If the U.S. government catches you buying cotton from China, it is really not a good thing. There are significant penalties,” says Isaacson.

  • The U.S. presidential election

“As a business owner, I don’t look forward to that level of uncertainty,” Lott says. “At the same time there’s opportunity.”

  • Labor challenges
  • Inflation

“I think the rate of inflation will stay moderated in 2024, but for most businesses there will be more labor available,” Issacson says.

  • Sustainability
  • Digitization
  • The economy

“I’m expecting a relatively anemic growth year for 2024 for SanMar, the industry and the U.S. economy,” Lott says. “But if you look ahead, we’re going to get to the growth chart we would have predicted a couple years ago. I think we’re going to reach it. We’re just going to reach it in a weird way.”

skummunity Awards

Over the past decade, skucon has been one of the institutions that has fostered a growing community in the promotional products industry.

  • In recognizing the importance of that community, the event acknowledges individuals who have made the promo world a more accepting, helpful and community-oriented place through their skummunity awards.

Winners of this year’s skummunity Awards include: