Counselor’s “State of the Industry” Reports Record-Breaking Sales

Top 40 suppliers report highest revenue ever in sales of promotional products

TREVOSE, PA – July 29, 2014 – Counselor® magazine’s annual “State of the Industry” reports distributors hit record sales in 2013, while the top 40 suppliers in the promotional products industry exceeded $5 billion in revenues for the first time.

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 at each July. The 2014 report, considered the most important and influential in the promotional products industry, analyzes key sales, marketing and operational metrics used throughout the industry.

According to this year’s report, the top 40 suppliers and distributors in the industry exerted growing influence over the marketplace amid predictions of more major consolidations within the next five years. “I expect apparel suppliers will continue to consolidate and large distributors will create unique partnerships the likes of which the industry hasn’t seen before,” said Andy Cohen, editor of the Jesse H. Neal Award-winning Counselor magazine. “If you can’t beat competitors, join ’em!”


Low-cost, high-return promotional products, or ad specialties, 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.

As a whole, 2013 was a good year for the promotional products industry, the report concluded. The overall industry health for distributors improved for the fourth year in a row, with distributors growing sales by 5.7% to reach a record $20.5 billion. The 40 largest distributor companies in the market hit nearly $4.4 billion in sales, accounting for 21.5% of total industry revenues, and an increase of 3.9% over the year before.

At the same time, data shows the profit pressure distributors face and customer trends that include more price shopping, more interest in additional services and more safety and compliance inquiries. Click here to read the report in its entirety.

Industry predictors quoted in the annual issue say that while product staples like T-shirts and pens will remain strong, sales of branded technology items like USB cards should increase dramatically in the near future as more millennials enter the workforce. Other predictions: The average order time for suppliers will significantly decrease in today’s “need it now” marketplace, and 90% of the top 40 apparel suppliers will offer in-house decoration in five years.

Highlights from Counselor’s 2014 survey include:

  • Top 3 Markets. Health/Medical remains the leading market for the third year in a row, with Education ranked second and Finance and Insurance rebounding to 10% of the total market for the first time since 2009.
  • Shirts Down. Total sales of shirts – which remain the most widely sold promotional product – dropped to near 2011 numbers, while higher-end shirts like polos are trending up.
  • Pens Up. Sales of writing instruments grew for the third consecutive year, increasing to the highest percentage of sales since 2008.
  • Go West. More than three-quarters of distributors in the Southwest and West expect a profit increase in 2014.
  • More Hiring, Bigger Paychecks. About one-third of distributors are planning on hiring this year and/or paying employees more or increasing sales commissions.
  • USA! USA! Demand for American-made products is strongest in the West and Northeast, and nationally, 44% expect demand to increase in 2014.
  • E-Commerce Up. Distributors with e-commerce operations are earning an average of 25% of revenues through online sales.
  • Competitive Threat. Websites selling promotional products, followed by other local distributors and industry suppliers that sell direct, remain distributors’ chief threats.

“As it does every year, Counselor’s State of the Industry provides a working blueprint for the industry, helping companies plan strategically for the future, grow their business, streamline operations and tap new and emerging markets,” said Timothy M. Andrews, president and chief executive officer of ASI, the largest media, marketing and education organization serving the promotional products industry. “The breaking trends detailed in the magazine give entrepreneurs and small business owners simple, how-to tactics for success they can capitalize on now or include in next year’s business plan.”

The 152-page issue offers winning tips and tactics and growth strategies along with profiles of the 2014 Counselor Award winners – including Person of the Year Norman Hullinger – and the exclusive revenue ranking of the Top 40 distributor and supplier companies.

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

To learn more about the issue, contact Andy Cohen 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) is the largest media, marketing and education organization serving the promotional products industry, with a network of over 25,000 distributors and suppliers throughout North America. ASI leads the industry in technology solutions, providing cloud-based e-commerce, enterprise resource planning software (ERP) and customer relationship management software (CRM). ESP Web® is the industry’s leading tool for sourcing hundreds of thousands of products. A family-owned business since 1962, ASI also provides online research, marketing, advertising opportunities, trade shows, education, award-winning magazines, newsletters, custom websites and catalogs to help members sell, market and promote their brands. Visit ASI at and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and the CEO’s blog.

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