The promotional products industry continues its modest pace of continued revenue growth, according to PPAI Research’s latest bi-monthly snapshot. In April and May, the industry grew by 1.7% over the same period in 2023.

  • This is only a slight improvement on the 1.5% growth registered in February and March.
  • However, these gains trail behind the steady 3.3% annual inflation rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The latest revenue data isn’t cultivated from the same methodology as the annual Distributor Sales Volume Estimate, which polls distributors of all sizes. Rather, the current assessment stems from the aggregated results of 2024 PPAI 100 suppliers responding to a flash survey.

“Overall, the promotional products industry exhibits a blend of cautious growth and stability, interspersed with competitive pressures,” says Alok Bhat, PPAI’s market economist and research lead. “This scenario reflects a market where suppliers must remain agile and innovative to foster growth, even as the overall growth rate lags behind inflation.”

Indicating robust market demand and effective sales strategies, about 12% of suppliers saw significant gains and roughly 42% enjoyed moderate boosts in April and May 2024 compared to the same stretch of 2023. Meanwhile, roughly 10% of distributors saw significant growth and 63% experienced moderate growth in April-May.

“The promotional products industry is experiencing a general upward trend in sales revenue, with over half of suppliers and close to three quarters of distributors reporting increases,” Bhat says. “However, the reality of overall growth trailing behind inflation emphasizes the need for strategic innovation and agility to turn these positive revenue trends into substantial financial gains.”

Distributor Reaction

The PPAI 100 has expanded this year to 100 distributors and 100 suppliers, providing a more diverse mix of results and reactions.

Based on what she’s heard from peers, Paula Wygonik, MAS, president of Competitive Edge – the No. 92 distributor in the 2024 PPAI 100 – isn’t surprised by the modest growth.

“We’re ahead of trend, which we attribute to both a recent acquisition and a very active and loyal client base,” Wygonik says. Earlier this year, Competitive Edge acquired fellow Michigan distributor Creative Specialties, which created its third Michigan office.

Boost Engagement – the No. 90 distributor in the PPAI 100 – has been experiencing “exceptional” double-digit growth, outpacing the industry by a “significant margin,” according to CEO Dawn Conway.

“Our focus on new business and improved conversion rates have certainly contributed to this growth along with reducing our overall cost structure through outsourcing,” Conway says. “Our new business growth is driven from both our digital marketing efforts and robust referral program from our current clients.”

Magellan Promotions – the No. 94 distributor in the 2024 PPAI 100 – has been seeing robust growth for several years.

  • The West Allis, Wisconsin-based firm reported a 98% growth rate from 2020-2023.

“None of our growth would be possible without a team that cares about our clients, builds strong partnerships and strives for excellence,” says Michael Wolaver, founder of Magellan Promotions.

“Secondly, we’ve positioned ourselves as a business of expertise that targets two specific audiences. We learn about their challenges and use our expertise to create unique and innovative solutions. Third, we continue to evolve our business, which has included implementing the [Entrepreneurial Operating System] EOS model and adding a wider range of services to meet our clients’ needs.”

Supplier Reaction

For many suppliers, the modest growth reflected in the report has been in-line with what April and May – and the previous months – have brought about from a business sense.

“Those figures do reflect our experiences at Cap America year-to-date 2024,” says Sarah Burgin, chief operating officer at PPAI 100’s No. 18 supplier. “That said, we are cautiously optimistic for a more positive experience in the second half of the year. We pride ourselves on being able to adapt while thinking strategically. So, although we have experienced a soft first half, we are planning and focusing on what we can do to close the year out strong.”

Jason Lucash, CEO of Rupt, says that the temperature of the industry lately seems to more or less affirm these numbers.

“I’m not surprised that the industry revenue grew only 1.7% in April and May, which is below the inflation rate,” Lucash says. “From what I’m hearing from distributors, the industry is still a little soft and client spending isn’t where they’d like it to be, and compared to periods before, it’s substantially lower (especially in the tech sector).”

  • Lucash noted that Rupt, which is still a new company that was introduced to the promo world in 2024, grew by 15% in April and May and has seen steady increases each month since launch.

Supply chain precarity along with unpredictable economic scenarios have led to conditions that are perhaps not so insurmountable to cause downturns in business, but can still hinder growth.

One anonymous PPAI 100 supplier that manufactures a significant amount of product in Mexico reported, “the stronger peso to weaker dollar ratio has been a challenge along with labor shortages due to near-shoring.”

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