Counselor’s “State of the Industry” Reports E-Commerce Rising

Education remains largest market, with $3.28 billion in distributor sales

TREVOSE, PA – July 28, 2017 – Counselor® magazine’s annual “State of the Industry” reports half of the top 10 largest distributors in the $23 billion promotional products industry are now actively leveraging e-commerce for business, with an increasing number of clients expected to buy logoed items with a click insteaad of a call.

The report also shows education continued to dominate as the top industry market, accounting for $3.28 billion, or 14.3%, of 2016 distributor revenue.

The Advertising Specialty Institute® (ASI) publishes Counselor magazine, which annually surveys the buyers and sellers of logoed and branded promotional products for its special “State of the Industry” issue, available in print and online each July. The report, considered the most important and influential in the promotional products industry, analyzes key sales, marketing and operational metrics used throughout the industry.

“To be successful, brands of all types need to be where their customers are – and today, they’re no doubt on digital platforms,” said Counselor Editor-in-Chief Dave Vagnoni (@VagnoniASI). “Luckily, ASI’s data shows industry companies are serious about investing in technology, have a stronger understanding of customer buying habits and are offering more revenue-generating services to supplement advertising campaigns – all positive signs that they’re motivated to enter a new and better age of selling.”

The report is divided into 10 topical sections, exploring current business trends like mobile-friendly websites, prospecting and the need for speed.

The 142-page issue offers winning tips, tactics and growth strategies along with profiles and videos of the 2017 Counselor Award winners – including Boundless CEO Henrik Johansson as Person of the Year and PFConcept CEO Ralf Oster as International Person of the Year, as well as the exclusive revenue ranking of the top 40 distributor and supplier companies.

In 2016, the $550.2 million revenue spread between the first and last distributor company on the annual top 40 list represents the largest difference ever. Among suppliers, alphabroder (asi/34063) was number one, setting another industry record with $1.14 billion in North American sales

Of the top 40 suppliers, five are headed by female chief executives, with four women heading top 40 distributor companies.

In 2016, distributors reported their average profit margin was 34.3%, up for the second year in a row. While online competitors exist – with many distributors considering them their biggest threat – promotional products companies aren’t cutting their prices to match the lowest offer on every order.

Highlights from Counselor’s 2017 survey include:

  • More Suppliers, Greater Selection. Nearly half of all distributors (48%) say they expect to use more suppliers in 2017. As more high-end products like the Apple Watch and Amazon Echo enter the promo market, distributors can capitalize on custom campaigns and incentive programs.
  • Mobilizing for Success. 65% of distributors now have mobile-friendly sites, an 8% increase compared to 2015.
  • Big Data? Meh. Fewer distributors used data to analyze customer patterns in 2016. Only 44% of distributors tracked individual client profitability last year – a five-year low – and just 21% of distributors tracked successful client promotions and calculated ROI.
  • Cautious Optimism. Distributors commonly used words like good, steady and average to describe the state of the promo products industry in 2016.

For the State of the Industry, surveys were sent to ASI members, all of whom are the primary contact within their company.

Low-cost, high-return promotional products are usually given away for free by companies, schools, hospitals, sports teams, organizations and more to advertise a brand or event or to thank employees or clients.

To learn more about the issue, contact Dave Vagnoni at [email protected]. For more information on ASI research, contact Nate Kucsma, ASI’s director of marketing research, at [email protected].
About ASI
The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI®) serves a network of 23,500 suppliers, distributors and decorators in the $23 billion promotional products industry. ASI’s flagship product, the technology platform ESP®, serves the industry’s supply and marketing chain. ASI also produces award-winning digital and print content, live events and educational programs that enable companies in 61 countries to be more efficient, productive and profitable. ASI’s Counselor® magazine provides the most authoritative business content in the industry, and the ASI Certification Program features 500+ live and online education courses for over 40,000 professionals. The company, family owned and operated since 1962, is proud to have been consistently ranked among the “Best Places to Work” in Philadelphia and Bucks County, PA. For more info: