promotional products

What Happens When You Leave The Door Open



For the last few weeks, the industry has been abuzz with suppliers advertising discounted pricing, and new programs offering very low pricing for in-house apparel decorating. There are suppliers offering the one PO Solution…and for most of these suppliers decorating is an after-thought. To offset the low price they tend to use an a-la-carte method of charging for each additional order variation of color, design or add-on service. At a quick glance these price lists offer less value and very aggressive low pricing. 

“ What are your thoughts?” My colleagues have called to ask. 

I am a contract only decorator, we never sell direct. I have been in the embroidery business for 30 years and previously worked with fashion and major sports labels when we were located in Greensboro, NC. These days my business is focused on collaborating with like-minded clients who sell promotional products. I believe in our industry, am an early adopter of product safety awareness, and was the first decorator to earn my MAS+, and for full disclosure.. I also serve on the Board of Directors for PPAI. 

These are my own thoughts on the subject. 

In the thought provoking post Amazon Supply for B2B: Is Promo Next? “ that Mark Graham published at Promo Kitchen, Graham explores the idea that the promotional products marketplace could someday be a potential target for Amazon. He suggests the 45% wearables segment of the $20+ billion in annual promotional products sales would be an appealing target.

In the same post he shares  “My good friends, Danny Rosin and Robert Fiveash of BrandFuel, talk of a doomsday scenario where they wake up one day and learn that the biggest suppliers in the industry have just started selling direct. They call it “Supplier Monday” and it’s when all of the normal rules about the promotional products industry change.” 

These ideas are all possibilities. Graham also shares this powerful reminder;

 “ In the absence of value, The only thing you can compete on is price.” 

So what is really at play here, is what is at risk, and how do we protect our profession? 

We commit to creating and providing value.  

Value in the way we source and purchase our own wholesale products and services- we don’t buy off the lowest price list. 

Value in the way we service our customers. 

Value in our expertise. Being dedicated to being the best at what we do.

Value in the way we represent our profession with responsibility - by continuing our education with Product Safety certification and MAS accreditation. 

Value in the way we price our products and services with integrity. 

Pricing sends a message and if you are constantly selling at the lowest price, you are not communicating quality and value, instead you are contributing to making this industry a market of commodities. 

After you create value- differentiate yourself with that value, build relationships. 

Relationships bring more people to the buying table. The purchasing manager may care only about the price, however the management and marketing teams will show passion for their brand. 

Because when a group of products from different suppliers have no differentiating benefits that represent value, the products become commodities. Price becomes the only distinguishing characteristic, and if we are opening ourselves to a truly commodities based market- than we are opening the door for Amazon, and we are inviting “ Supplier Monday” to just come on in.. 

We are leaving the door open for whoever walks in first. 

 Special thanks to Mark Graham, Promo Kitchen, my colleagues who posed this question, to Seth Godin who addressed this first in the PK Podcast and again in a recent conversation, and thanks to those who desperately compete on price, and force us all to think carefully consider our own actions.