The annual, data-driven State of the Industry report released by the Advertising Specialty Institute® (ASI) examines the most pressing issues facing the $20.7 billion promotional products industry while offering a blueprint for success in a post-pandemic world.
Using data from the annual SOI survey, ASI Media provides coverage and analysis of what matters most to the promo industry. This year’s SOI issue provides suppliers and distributors with resources, data and strategies for moving forward in the face of continued worldwide uncertainties.
“If ‘pivot’ was the 2020 word of the year, ‘change’ is dominating 2021, from the make-up of the Top 40 to products sold and newly dominant (or freshly dormant) markets,” said Timothy M. Andrews, ASI president and chief executive officer. “Helping the industry determine what changes are likely permanent, and how to embrace and navigate them, is at the heart of this year’s State of the Industry report.”
The SOI report is divided into 11 sections, covering such topics as sales, products, markets and sourcing. Highlights include:
- Top Products: In 2020, T-shirts remained the No. 1 promo product, but as a combined category health and safety products accounted for over a quarter of all products sold – $5.3 billion worth. Promo sales in the first half of 2021 indicate neglected product categories are finally gaining solid ground.
- Sales Challenges: Nearly 40% of distributors cited increasing their customer base as their biggest challenge, with another 18% citing remaining profitable under price-cutting pressures. The solution? Adapt sales strategies to regain clients lost during the pandemic.
- Rising Profit Margins: As PPE dwindles, distributors jumping on trends like kitting while pursuing unique strategies and brand positioning is leading to new customers and markets, helping boost hard-hit profit margins.
- Multi-Country Sourcing: The pandemic accelerated the search for manufacturing partners for both suppliers and distributors in countries beyond manufacturing powerhouse China, with nearly six in 10 suppliers (58%) reporting exploring new countries within the last 12 months due to trade uncertainty with China.
“Our aim with the annual State of the Industry report is not to just present the data, but to give it context and weight in light of the future trends that will matter to the promo industry,” said ASI Media Editor-in-Chief C.J. Mittica. “Distributors and suppliers are taking the first real steps in a post-pandemic world. These reports will enable everyone in the industry to take them with confidence.”
Click here for an ASI Promo Insiders podcast with Mittica, SOI report author Nate Kucsma, ASI’s executive director of market research and corporate marketing, and Digital News Director Chris Ruvo. The podcast examines dramatic shifts in the promotional products industry, with education eclipsed as the top promo market, apparel bumped from dominance as the top product category and overall Top 40 sales declining.
“Despite the economic disruption of 2020, throughout the pandemic distributors and suppliers adapted in ways they never have had to before,” said Kucsma. “This enabled many to turn what could have been a disaster of a year into one that they could survive, and in some cases even thrive in.”
Michele Bell is vice president of ASI editorial, education and special events. The SOI was reported on by ASI staffers John Corrigan, Theresa Hegel, Sara Lavenduski and Ruvo.
The print edition of ASI’s award-winning Counselor magazine mailed to subscribers contains the SOI report, along with profiles of honorees of the annual Counselor Awards celebrating the industry’s best and brightest, as well as the 2021 Top 40 supplier and distributor companies. Click here to watch the online Counselor Awards ceremony.
Data for the annual State of the Industry report was collected from ASI members, all of whom are the primary contact within their company.