Distributor sales in 2017 skyrocketed by 9.3 percent to a record $23.3 billion, according to PPAI’s Sales Volume Survey, an annual estimate of U.S. distributor promotional products sales.

The industry-wide survey, conducted this spring with 23,564 participating distributor companies, indicates that significant growth among large distributors (sales of more than $2.5 million) drove the strong increase. Among this group, sales were up by 16.3 percent in 2017 over 2016, while smaller companies (sales less than $2.5 million) saw only a 0.89 percent uptick. In contrast, in 2016 the most significant growth was among small companies.

Last year’s increase is the highest percentage growth since 2000, when industry sales grew by 19.5 percent. In 2016, sales were up by only 2.4 percent.

“I am encouraged by the strong distributor sales growth reported in the 2017 survey,” says PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE. “While the overall U.S. paid media advertising spend—largely fueled by mobile advertising—grew at a moderate six percent in 2017, there is an obvious and demonstrated recognition that promotional products work. PPAI has been educating marketers and media buyers about the need to create strong, one-on-one relationships with their customers in meaningful, purposeful ways. Promotional products are scalable and cost efficient, and create lasting impressions, relationships and loyalty that complement digital and other media.”

Among the findings, two significant trends surfaced: continuing upward growth in online sales and increased sales of products from non-industry providers.

Online sales of promotional products grew significantly in 2017, representing 23.2 percent of the year’s total sales volume compared to 19.8 percent in 2016. Total online sales grew by 28.1 percent to $5.3 billion compared to $4.2 billion in 2016, and that trend is driven by a significant increase from both large and small distributors. 

In addition, on average almost $3.4 billion came from product sales from non-industry providers—14.6 percent of the total dollar volume. Overall, sales from non-industry providers increased by 20 percent over 2016. 

PPAI has collected and released industry sales data since 1965 and maintains an extensive industry sales information library. Its annual distributor sales survey reflects actual sales data reported by U.S. distributor companies and is considered the most definitive and comprehensive of its kind in the industry.

Read more highlights from this report, plus reactions and an anecdotal forecast on 2018 sales in PPB’s May issue available later this month. 

In appreciation for the thousands of distributors whose responses were essential to the survey’s success, each had the opportunity to enter in a random drawing for a chance to win one of 10 prizes. PPAI congratulates these winners:

Prize: Amazon Echo Show

Winners: Julia Buraczewski, Magellan Promotions; Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and Ann Reinman, Pinnacle Printing & Promotions, Southfield, Michigan.

Prize: Bose SoundLink Wireless Headphones II

Winners: Susan Engle, A2Z Trophy, Gilbert, Arizona; Ralph Broom, GroupAtlanta Inc., Roswell, Georgia; and Marco Antonio Gatica, Gatica Vision Group, Brownsville, Texas.

Prize: $350 voucher toward a promotional products purchase

Winners: Brian Rothmeier, Diverse Printing & Graphics, New York, New York; Rodney Giles, G4 Screen Printing, Valley, Alabama; Kathi Piper, Piper Sign Art LLC, Greenfield, Iowa; Jerry Assessor, Schmid Embroidery, Sandston, Virginia; and Robin Ray, 1st Coast Printing, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.