Promo Suppliers Coronavirus Update: Who's Open and How They're Supporting Distributors
The promotional products industry finds itself in an unprecedented situation with business interruptions and forced closures as a result of the coronavirus. The industry isn’t alone, as almost every other facet of life has been affected as well. Restaurants are closed except for pickup and delivery. Bars are closed. Retail stores are closed. Sports games, charity events, trade shows and big parties are all canceled.
These closed businesses and cancelled events are also often the primary clientele for the promo industry. Every time these customers take a hit, so too do the promo businesses that serve them.
Things are not easy, and they’re not certain. But the supplier community has been inspiring in its resilience and commitment to finding solutions to not only keep its own business wheels spinning, but also to support its distributor customers.
Thankfully, technology has allowed for a lot of things to be done remotely, and social distancing practices still permit some manufacturing and production processes to continue.
PPAI has posted a database for suppliers to report work process disruption. Most industry supplier are still up and running at full or partial capacity. That includes SnugZ USA and HandStands Promo, both reopened after temporary disruptions due to an earthquake in Salt Lake City yesterday.
So far, only one company has posted to the database that it has closed. Gilroy, California-based Chameleon Like will be shut down until at least April 8, but its Houston Packed Online facility will continue operations and will accept gift box and mailer projects.
Alpi International and Fossa Apparel, two suppliers also based in California counties with shelter-in-place restrictions in place, reported limited production activity as they operate on reduced staff. The Premium Line, meanwhile, announced that it is closing for the next 30 days as a result of the Nevada government shutting down all non-essential businesses, but said in a statement that it will keep lines of communication open.
"Due to this closure, we will be unable to ship items for the next 30 days," the statement reads. "We will continue to monitor our emails and phone throughout this time as we are here for you as much as possible. All we can do is work together to flatten the curve."
These likely won’t be the only companies to do this in the coming weeks. But, for now, most industry suppliers are continuing operations. And many are working on solutions and options for distributors.
Trina Bicknell, senior vice president of sales for HPG, told Promo Marketing that event cancellations have made an impact on their way of business life, but digital possibilities have helped act as a temporary salve. HPG is using what it calls a “trade show in a box” to work with distributor partners who miss out on business by not being able to attend trade shows, events or work with existing clients.
“We are overcoming this with virtual trade shows and our 'trade show in a box' concept,” Bicknell told Promo Marketing. “We are attempting to give our distributors as many tools as possible, like our work from home kit, to help them through this unprecedented time.”
This means using things like livestream events to connect with distributors while they’re working from home. HPG is also sending kits to distributors from brands like Origaudio and Beacon.
You’ve also probably read a story or social media post by now outlining good work from home practices. It’s only been a few days for a lot of us, but it’s easy to fall into the trap of decreased productivity or a lack of motivation. HPG recommends that supplier companies and employees still try to work with other team members as much as they can, as they would in a physical office together, and create a schedule to adhere to.
“What is most important is that we keep our associates and our customers healthy and well, so working from home and social distancing are first and foremost in our mind,” Bicknell said. “To keep things moving, we are doing virtual team meetings several times a week to keep everyone focused and positive to start the day. Communication is truly key right now. We need to keep in daily contact with each other to keep the pace.”
Having the peace of mind of knowing your orders are still coming in on time and a promotion will go through is paramount for distributors right now. To keep machines running and keep everyone safe, businesses like Crystal D have taken measures to adapt to the times.
“We have implemented additional daily cleaning procedures,” the company said in a press release. “Each Memory Maker is disinfecting their own work station, and we have an internal team that is cleaning common areas to reduce the risk of spreading germs.”
BIC Graphic reported that its Chinese factories are back to 100 percent production, but it is taking measures at home to limit the spread of COVID-19 while fulfilling orders.
“BIC Graphic will continue to take and produce orders with no anticipated disruptions to our order flow while we monitor this ongoing situation,” David Klatt, CEO of BIC Graphic North America, said in a statement. “It is our goal to stay informed, use necessary precautions and prioritize the health of our employees and customers.”
For those canceled events like awards ceremonies, Crystal D is working with distributor partners to get the products into the hands of the end-users.
“Crystal D is also emphasizing drop shipments for canceled events,” the company said. “Customers can reach out to their solutions specialists to learn more about the process to ensure their clients will still be able to get the awards they ordered to the recipients who have earned them. Additionally, the company is offering free insertion services for these drop shipments.”
Other suppliers have implemented "rush" policies to ship orders as quickly as possible given the day-to-day uncertainty over operating status. And some suppliers have developed products specifically for the current state of affairs, as Colorstrike/Liquid Tech did with its "Positivity Pods."
"Business has slowed or halted for most," said Andy Mackay, the supplier's president. "We created an item that fits to help corporations and organizations craft their own stay-positive messages for employees and customers."
With such intense demand for products like hand sanitizer, which put a lot of suppliers out of stock for the foreseeable future, there comes the possibility of distributors who might be, let’s say, less than patient with their supplier partners.
In these moments, it’s a good time for suppliers to maybe keep up that New Year’s resolution of practicing mindfulness. It could be easy to lose your temper and possibly burn a business bridge, but in these moments remember that we’re all in this together. With a cool head, a knack for finding solutions to difficult problems and a desire to help out, industry companies can work with one another to navigate the uncertain times ahead.