Don’t Rain on My Parade
DURING THE TIMES of pharaohs and pyramids, umbrellas were a convenience reserved only for the upper-echelon of society. However, 21st-
century umbrellas have much more to do than shield
royalty from rain and shine. They are one of the few ad
specialty products deserving of the title, “walking
billboard.” With new imprinting techniques and equally modern designs, umbrellas are expanding their scope as viable promotional products.
Helen Stromberg, president of Hudson Valley Umbrella/StrombergBrand, Peekskill, N.Y., said, “Umbrellas really started taking off when the imprinting technology started advancing ten years ago.” Now, with a wide selection of printing methods
available—digital printing, heat transfer and sublimation, for example—vibrant, four-color graphics can be produced on an umbrella’s entire surface, she noted. Arriving hand-in-hand with decorative advancements were technological innovations in wind ventilation, said Bernie Trowbridge, vice president of Dallas-based Redline. He said the increasingly popular double-canopy design “allows wind pressure to be released through the vents instead of forcing the umbrella to turn inside out, which often destroyed the umbrella.” Other design features that keep umbrellas on top include collapsible styles as well as auto open/close features.
CHASE THE BLUES AWAY
As is the case with most other promotional product categories, umbrellas are experiencing a revival in color. From hot pink to lime green, the items lend themselves well to promoting on even the most dismal of days. “People want things that are new, hot and trendy,” noted Stromberg. “They want things that are bright and cheerful. They want exciting items, and umbrellas can be that.”
This year, Trowbridge anticipates the continued
popularity of Redline’s 48" auto-opening umbrella. He said of all the umbrellas the company carries, this continues to be its top seller. “I believe this is because the umbrella, which is available in low quantities and is very inexpensive, truly [has] a great marketing value.”
On the other hand, Stromberg said her company’s mid-size golf umbrella is her top pick for 2008. She noted the item is vented, extra-sturdy, made with extra-thick shafts and ribs, and has automatic opening. “We’ve taken the best of both worlds and put it into one piece, that’s why it has become so popular,” she said.
Furthermore, Stromberg said this year, Hudson Valley Umbrella is introducing its Thematic Series. Umbrellas in the collection display striking designs in a range of themes, including casino, sky and global signatures. Although the designs are not exclusively made and owned by StrombergBrand, the company completes set-ups, design and production overseas, and stocks the products in the United States. “The advantage of this,” Stromberg explained, “is the distributor doesn’t have to pay for the expensive set-ups, wait for a long length of time [for the order] and can buy in small quantities.”
A SHELTERED LIFE
There’s plenty of space in the promotional products industry for umbrella sales. Unlike other products that have heavily saturated the market, umbrellas still provide distributors breathing room. Said Trowbridge, “There is a lot less competition and a lot less suppliers with umbrellas, so the perceived value of umbrellas is still up there.” He pointed out this makes the price of an imprinted umbrella a “great deal,” even without a discount.
Along those lines, because umbrellas provide such a distinct canvas for promotions, their appeal can be far-reaching. Both Trowbridge and Stromberg said the items are
popular among hotels, nonprofit organizations, golf clubs, car dealerships, casinos, restaurants, realtors, retailers, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. “The nice thing about umbrellas is there really is no market that a distributor couldn’t sell [them to], nor is there really a geographical area that won’t work,” noted Trowbridge.
In keeping with current standards related to environmental safety, Stromberg stressed her company’s use of environmentally safe inks for printing as well as fiberglass (instead of wood) for the umbrella’s construction. “Umbrella frames either [can] be metal or fiberglass, and you can dispose of them the way you would a pen or aluminum,” she explained. “They can be recycled.”
In order to sell umbrellas more effectively, Trowbridge suggested distributors especially play up two of the items’ most obvious advantages:
1. The size of the imprint area. “There are very few products that give your customer that much
area for their logo or message,” he said. “Also, with several different panels on an umbrella, it gives them room for even more exposure or a place for
2. Longevity. “People don’t get an umbrella and throw it away. It goes in the closet, glove compartment or the trunk of the car and continues to get used for years, giving the distributor’s customer a lot of bang for the buck,” he pointed out.
It was difficult for Stromberg to contain her fascination with umbrellas. “I’m excited about the
product,” she stated. And like her, Trowbridge believes the category has a bright future in the promotional products industry. “Umbrellas ... will more than likely
be around as long as the industry itself,” he said. “Until technology comes up with a new way to
keep you dry when it rains, distributors will be safe selling umbrellas.”