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Counselor PromoGram
Vol 1143, July 31, 2014
4imprint Sales Increase 14%
England-based 4imprint Group, parent company of Counselor Top 40 distributor 4imprint (asi/197045), has reported revenues for the six months ended on June 28 rose 14% to £115.7m ($195.5 million). Profits jumped 35%, increasing to £4.4m ($7.5 million) in 1H, compared to £3.23 ($5.4 million) during the same period a year earlier.
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"The group delivered an exceptionally strong first half as a result of continued market share growth," said John Poulter, executive chairman of 4imprint Group. "Indications for the second half year are that good performance, consistent with our stated strategic growth objectives, will continue."

In the UK and Ireland, 4imprint sales increased 22%, with new customer orders up 37%. In the U.S., based on constant currencies, revenues rose 23%, as 4imprint gained 87,000 new customers through the second quarter. New client orders also jumped 21% in the U.S. in 1H, according to an earnings statement. Further bolstering performance, 4imprint said online marketing initiatives and the implementation of bid management software for pay-per-click advertising strengthened its results, as well.

"The team has done a tremendous job delivering against our strategic objectives," Kevin Lyons-Tarr, president of 4imprint, told Counselor. "They, along with our supplier partners, continue to work hard offering our customers a great experience which is the basis for the solid results in the first half of the year."

Earlier this year, 4imprint Group completed the sale of its SPS unit for £7.3m ($12.4 million), generating proceeds of £5.9m ($10 million) after costs. The gains have left 4imprint Group with "a robust financial position" and net cash of £26.1m ($44 million), up from £10.4m ($17.6 million) last June.

Ranked by Counselor as the third-largest distributor in the industry, 4imprint reported 2013 North American ad specialty sales of $294.9 million.

Congress Seeks Faster FDA Sunscreen Approvals
Lawmakers passed legislation on Monday intended to speed up pending approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of several types of sunscreen. The Sunscreen Innovation Act, passed by the U.S. House, seeks to garner approval for sunscreen active ingredients that have been under review by the FDA for as long as a decade – and that are already available overseas.
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The Senate is readying a similar bill. The FDA hasn't approved a new active ingredient for sunscreen since the 1990s.

Despite the measures, Rick Carlson, vice president of promotional products with Aloe Up Sun and Skin Care Products (asi/34362), believes it would take at least 18 months for the FDA to approve new sunscreen products, and at least a couple of years before they come to market. "The FDA is always concerned with a lot of other things other than sunscreen," said Carlson, whose company manufacturers its own branded sunscreen and also has 13,000 retail customers. "Sunscreen has a lower priority [with the FDA] versus some serious drugs that are related to illnesses and diseases."

Carlson cites the FDA's deliberateness when it made a slew of changes two years ago regarding sunscreen, such as listing all ingredients, relabeling from waterproof to water resistant and mandating that sunscreens protect from both UV-A and UV-B rays. "The changes they made in 2012 were slow in coming – they took forever," he says.

Richard Massey, regulatory affairs manager for SnugZ/USA (asi/88060), thinks that the approval of new sunscreens will be a significant development in retail, but if they carry a premium cost, it won't sell well in the promotional product industry. "At least in my circles," Massey said, "I haven't heard a clamoring for whatever is out there that's been approved for use in Europe, Australia or somewhere else."

Cases of skin cancer have climbed 200% since 1973. While awareness about wearing sunscreen has been increased, it's still cited as the primary challenge for combatting skin cancer, instead of any perceived failures of current sunscreen products on the market. "The ingredients that are currently available seem to be doing fine for us," said Massey, whose company's skin care category grew 9-10% last year. "Our customers have not complained that our sunscreen doesn't work or that it doesn't offer the protection that's advertised."

ADP: U.S. Firms Added 218,000 July Jobs
The private sector in the U.S. generated 218,000 new jobs in July – capping four straight months of significant employment gains – according to data released by payroll services firm ADP. Although the July ADP figure fell short of most economists’ projections, the increase is considered yet another sign of economic strengthening.
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"At the current pace of job growth, unemployment will quickly decline," said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics, which works with ADP to produce the monthly report. "Layoffs are still receding and hiring and job openings are picking up. If current trends continue, the economy will return to full employment by late 2016."

Services providers contributed the bulk of the jobs – 202,000 – while goods-producing companies added 16,000, ADP said. More specifically, firms in the professional services sector brought in 61,000 jobs, retail/shipping/utilities companies contributed 52,000 and construction businesses added 12,000 positions. The manufacturing sector, though, added just 3,000 jobs. Small businesses (1-49 employees) were responsible for 84,000 jobs, medium-sized businesses (50-499) added 92,000, and large firms (500 or more) contributed 41,000 positions.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release the official government July jobs report tomorrow morning. Analysts expect the report will show the U.S. unemployment rate holding steady at 6.1%.

The Joe Show: Handheld Happiness
In this episode of The Joe Show, Managing Editor Joe Haley shows off several new products you can pitch to a variety of customers. Looking for the latest styles of custom-shaped USB drives? Want to make gains in the competitive real estate sector? Searching for unique ideas for education promotions?
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Click here to watch another episode of The Joe Show.

Want more videos? Subscribe now to our YouTube videos.


Counselor Commentary: Where The Jobs Are
Looking for an economic headline for this week? Try this: Job numbers disappoint. That was the tone for many websites and newspapers yesterday after payroll processing firm ADP reported that private U.S. companies hired 218,000 workers in July. The gain marked the fourth straight month of job increases greater than 200,000, but the numbers fell short of economic analyst expectations of 230,000 new jobs.

"The July employment gain was softer than June, but remains consistent with a steadily improving job market," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "If current trends continue, the economy will return to full employment by late 2016."

Late 2016? You would hope by now – five years removed from the recession that stole millions of jobs from the U.S. economy – we wouldn't need to wait yet another two years before we reached full employment. And yet, here we are.

One of the main reasons for the continued employment shortfall is that skittish companies are still stocking away cash like they're saving for the wettest of rainy days. The Association for Finance Professionals reported recently that U.S. companies raised more cash in the second quarter of 2014 than they did in the first and they also spent money at a slower rate.

The Washington-based group, which represents corporate treasurers worldwide, said its index of quarterly cash holdings rose to 12 points in the latest quarter from four in the previous quarter, due to stronger operating cash flows. Further, a measure of how aggressively treasurers invest cash fell from 10 points to two. The organization concluded that the data signals that "companies had become more conservative in their short-term investments."

And, while adding new employees is more of a long-term investment than a short-term one, the point is clear that companies are willing to make do with their current employment levels, rather than add new people to try to capitalize on growing opportunities. Yes, the GDP expanded at an impressive 4% rate in the second quarter, but job growth is lagging behind.

Now is the time to add people. The economy is on more solid footing, clients are improving their spending, and markets like health care, education, and technology are growing at impressive rates. There's plenty of business to be had, but ad specialty companies need enough people to be able to take advantage.

Are you content with the growth you have today, or would you rather outshine the competition by hiring bright, new employees who could make a major impact on your operations? The latter is the way to go.

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Alibaba Considers Snapchat Investment
China-based Alibaba Group is reportedly in talks that may lead the firm to provide financing to Snapchat, a popular photo and video messaging app that competes with Facebook. If the funding is completed, Snapchat will likely be valued at up to $10 billion, even though the U.S. company generates virtually no revenue. Facebook tried to purchase Snapchat last year for $3 billion, but was rebuffed.

The potential move by Alibaba would continue the firm's foray into the U.S. market, following recent deals with ShopRunner, Lyft and TangoMe Inc. The potential Snapchat investment is also seen as Alibaba's latest counter to Chinese rival Tencent, which offers the WeChat messaging service. Alibaba's interest in Snapchat was first reported by Bloomberg, which stressed that ongoing negotiations may not lead to a deal.

As of the fourth quarter of last year, Snapchat users sent one another more than 700 million "snaps" – or disappearing messages each day, according to the company. The Snapchat app has been among the top 25 most downloaded apps in the Apple Store in the U.S. for the past year, according to mobile data firm App Annie. Snapchat's core user demographic is age 13 to 25, with nearly two-thirds being women, company executives have said.

In the midst of its 2014 investments, Alibaba is poised to go public on the New York Stock Exchange later this year in what could become the largest IPO in U.S. history. Founded in 1999 by Counselor Power 50 member Jack Ma, Alibaba gained international notoriety for operating websites where merchants can sell items – including promotional products – directly to consumers worldwide.


Counselor Product Close-Up: Safety Items 
In the latest episode of the video series Counselor Product Close-Up, the focus turns to safety products. What markets should distributors target for this growing product category? What demographics are best suited for safety-product promotions? 

Click here to watch the video and find out. Featuring advice from Counselor editors Andy Cohen and Dave Vagnoni, plus a product segment with Managing Editor Joe Haley, this edition of Counselor Product Close-Up has ideas to help you pitch and sell more safety products in 2014.

Click here to watch the video report.

Advertisement: Maglite Promo Direct

Industry Votes for Top Ads and Best-Designed Products
In separate contests run by Counselor, industry professionals recently voted to name the winners in Counselor's Product Design Awards and Best Ads competitions. The Product Design Awards honor suppliers in 13 different product categories, ranging from apparel and writing instruments to drinkware and technology products. Click here to view the winners of Counselor's 2014 Product Design Awards.

The magazine's Best Ads competition considers all advertisements that were published in Counselor and Advantages magazines throughout 2013, as well as the ads that were placed in catalogs, on ESP, and through E-Mail Express. Industry professionals then voted for their favorites in the nine different print and digital categories to determine winners.

Click here to view the winners of Counselor's Best Ads competition.


Take Counselor's Second-Quarter Sales Survey Now
In an effort to gauge the performance of promotional products firms in the second quarter of 2014, Counselor is currently polling the market. The Second-Quarter Sales Survey is now live – and we need your input.

Click here to take the brief survey. Responses are completely confidential and will only be used to calculate overall industry numbers. The results of the survey will be published next month in Counselor PromoGram, and survey participants will be entered to win an iPad Mini or $500 gift card.


ASI Radio: Self-Promo Success
On this week's Tuesday Morning Show, the hosts gave callers advice on ways they can market their brands with self-promotional pieces. How can you determine what types of ad specialties are best for self-promo campaigns? Are tiered or staggered self-promos better than a one-time outreach? Can you really produce and send self-promos inexpensively?

Click here to listen to the complete call-in segment. If you missed any other part of the show, a recording is now available at And, don't forget to join us for our next broadcast on Tuesday, August 5. Log on at 10:30 a.m. ET to listen to the show – and give us a call at (215) 953-4979 to hear your voice on the air.


Enter The Wearables Top Decorator Competition
The Wearables Top Decorator competition for 2014 is hitting the home stretch. Sponsored by Hanes Branded Printwear (asi/59528), this competition will test the technical and creative skills of screen printers with a series of challenges throughout the year.

The challenge for our October issue involves creating a "cool" shirt for a politician on the campaign trail using jumbo or oversize prints. The name of the politician (hypothetical or real) and imagery is up to your discretion.

What else do you need to know?

Each month will be its own standalone challenge. If you don't participate one month, you are free to enter in the following month's challenge.

Anyone can enter. The competition is open to any company that offers screen printing.

There will be prizes. Each month's winner will receive a $200 Visa Gift Card courtesy of Hanes.

This is a competition. A combination of judges' marks and a popular vote by Wearables readers will help determine the winner of each challenge.

If you are interested in participating, contact Wearables Editor C.J. Mittica at Participants who sign up will receive further instructions and Hanes T-shirts to print on, courtesy of Hanes Branded Printwear. The postmark deadline for your printed submissions is Wednesday, August 20.


In The News
Proforma (asi/300094) recently concluded its 27th Annual Convention & Family Reunion in Grapevine, TX, at the Gaylord Texan Resort. The event drew a record-breaking 850 attendees, who experienced more than 90 educational sessions, interactive panels and personalized training instruction provided by author Eric Lofholm. Proforma also welcomed 18 new members into its Million Dollar Club at the event and nine new members into its Multi-Million Dollar Club. The 2015 Proforma Convention & Family Reunion will be held July 19-22, 2015 in Orlando, FL, at Rosen Shingle Creek.

BIC Graphic (asi/40480) has launched five multi-tools from Leatherman, including the Micra (21136) and the Juice C2 (21132). For more information, visit

Leed's (asi/66887) is expanding its proprietary four-color process, PhotoGrafixx, to nearly half of its collection of umbrellas. For more information, visit and

Charles River Apparel (asi/44620) received a Bronze Award at the 35th Annual Telly Awards for its promotional video entitled "Look Good. Feel Good. Charles River Apparel." Visit and for more information.

Liqui-Mark Corp. (asi/67675) has achieved Product Safety Aware status in the PPAI Product Safety Awareness Program.


People On The Move
Gill Studios (asi/56950) has promoted Kerry George to the position of regional sales associate for the Northeast region.

Starline USA (asi/89320) welcomes DeChelle Lauria as its regional sales manager for the Midwest/Central area, covering IN, IL and southern WI. 

Wendell August (asi/37457) announces the following hirings: Chuck Ertzberger, vice president of operations; Erin Lewis, digital marketing manager; Mary Beach, sales manager; and Jen Gorham, inside sales associate. In addition, Abby Magee has been promoted to order entry specialist.


Product Spotlight: Proforma

Are you looking for more sales, more profit and more fun?

Proforma's revolutionary Results First program will get you the results you want before making any financial commitments to join Proforma.

Only Proforma has the resources to offer a program like Results First. Only Proforma has $4 million per
year in sales and marketing support, $400 million in purchasing power and a 120 person support team to truly deliver the results you want.

Click here to learn how Proforma's Results First program can grow your business—even before you join.

Proforma (asi/300094)

Out with a Bang
ASI Chicago, the last national trade show of the season, attracts over 4,300 distributors from firms based in 42 states and eight countries.
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The Best of the Best
Counselor® magazine celebrates the most innovative and unique companies in $20.5 billion ad specialty industry and names top 90 companies.
Find out more.


The following are the dates and locations for The ASI Show in 2015:
Orlando, January 4-6, 2015
Dallas, February 3-5, 2015
Long Beach, March 24-26, 2015
New York, May 5-6, 2015
Chicago, July 14-16, 2015

Counselor Commentary: Where The Jobs Are | Alibaba Considers Snapchat Investment | Counselor Product Close-Up: Safety Items | Industry Votes for Top Ads and Best-Designed Products | Take Counselor’s Second-Quarter Sales Survey Now | ASI Radio: Self-Promo Success | Enter The Wearables Top Decorator Competition | In The News | People On The Move
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