Counselor’s 2020 State of the Industry Reports On The Rise Of A New Era in Promo

Annual SOI report assesses the industry’s challenges and offers new insights and opportunities

TREVOSE, PA – August 12, 2020 – Counselor® magazine’s comprehensive, data-driven State of the Industry (SOI) report examines the historic transformation of the promotional products market and offers new insights and opportunities for suppliers and distributors adapting, changing and persisting in the face of the coronavirus.


As the report shows, after a decade of record-setting growth, over a quarter of distributors and suppliers expect their revenue to fall by at least 50% this year, with total 2020 industry sales dropping by at least 30%. Order counts plummeted, and events and trade shows suddenly disappeared in the wake of economic devastation wrought by COVID-19. Further, distributors reported they are the most pessimistic they’ve been this century regarding the health of the industry.

At the same time, the annual SOI report shows the industry is embracing technology, accelerating consolidation, reimagining how it works and pushing an entirely new product category: personal protective equipment (PPE).

“This year’s State of the Industry report is really one for the books, as it considers historic losses while offering a blueprint for the future of our industry,” said Michele Bell (@ASI_MBell), ASI’s vice president of editorial and special events. “To help suppliers and distributors plan for economic recovery in 2021 and beyond, the SOI provides exclusive details about the markets, strategies, products and trends that can help our members come out of this extraordinary year strengthened and ready for the industry’s new ‘normal,’ whatever that may be.”

Using data from the annual SOI survey, Counselor provides coverage and analysis of what matters most to the market, especially in a time of crisis. This year’s SOI issue is especially unique, as it looks not only at 2019, but to the future, providing resources, data and tips for the promotional products industry.

The SOI report is divided into nine sections, covering such topics as technology, staffing and sales. Highlights include:

  • New Opportunities for Events. As some states reopen and restrictions are loosened, distributors share hopeful signs that the event business will slowly return.
  • The Benefits of Diversification. With buyer needs completely shifted, companies that expand beyond promotional products have something more to offer clients.
  • Dominant Markets. While all markets are struggling, healthcare, education and manufacturing show potential, generating a combined promo sale projection of more than $4 billion in 2020.
  • Increases in Consolidation. In the last few years, mergers, acquisitions and partnerships have gained in popularity to expand a company’s offerings and profit margin. Further fueled by a pandemic and a trend in private equity, Top 40 suppliers and distributors expect the trend to continue and intensify.
  • Frequent Searches. Starting in March, PPE dominated searches in ASI’s ESP® product search engine, as 71% of distributors reported selling health and safety products and equipment by May 2020. From May 2019 to May 2020, searches for face masks alone increased over 40,000%.
  • A Shift in Supply. Top 40 suppliers noted increased demand for USA-made products, as some companies have moved to direct sourcing and selling to clients during the pandemic. Recent data showed that 57% of consumers have a more favorable opinion of an advertiser if the product is made in the USA.

“The state of the promotional products industry has changed incredibly in just the span of a few short months,” said C.J. Mittica, @CJ_ASIEditor, editor-in-chief of ASI’s Counselor and Advantages magazines. “Nearly all will struggle. But from those depths, the industry will rise stronger. Let our in-depth articles and insights start you on the path to recovery.”

Also included in the special SOI issue are lessons learned from 2008’s economic crisis from industry distributors. Advice accompanies several articles and data presentations, such as “Markets to Target While Social Distancing” and “How to Conduct a Webinar.”

PPE is expected to remain the “lifeline” of the industry for months to come. Counselor also notes that providing digital services and the use of technology has changed the industry dramatically as promo companies and consumers adjust to working and making purchases online.

Additionally, winners of the 2020 Counselor Awards are profiled in the special edition. Included are Jo-an Lantz of Geiger as Person of the Year, PSI’s Michael Freter as International Person of the Year and BEL USA’s Sai Koppaka as Technology Executive of the Year. Recognition is also given to the top 40 distributor and supplier companies, listed in order of 2019 revenue generated. The 2020 Counselor Awards were held virtually for the first time this July.

Data for the State of the Industry report was collected from ASI members, all of whom are the primary contact within their company. To identify the shifting needs of promo companies and buyers, Nate Kucsma, ASI’s executive director of research and corporate marketing, re-sent the surveys to thousands of suppliers and distributors in May.

Counselor magazine, published by the Advertising Specialty Institute® (ASI), celebrated its 65th anniversary in 2019. Its signature issue, the SOI report, was first published in 1977 and is now available in print and online each summer. ASI’s comprehensive, in-depth research is considered the most important and influential in the promo industry.

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.

For more information on ASI research and the SOI issue, contact Nate Kucsma (@Nate_Kucsma_ASI)‏ at [email protected]. To advertise in any of ASI’s award-winning magazines, contact Matthew Barnes, ASI’s vice president of publishing and media services, at [email protected].

About ASI
The Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI®; serves a network of 25,000 suppliers, distributors and decorators in the $25.8 billion promotional products industry. ASI’s flagship product, the technology platform ESP®, manages the industry’s entire supply and marketing chain. ASI also produces award-winning digital and print content, live events and educational programs that enable companies in 53 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.