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Outside of Hand Sanitizer, What’s the Hottest Merch for Events?

30 Jun, 2020

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

Trying to find some branded merchandise that your participants will buy? At least you can cross toilet paper off the list.

As the country tiptoes back into hosting group gatherings, event owners are pressed to come up with ideas for what merch to offer. After a rough few months, there’s a very strong wish not to spend money on something that not only isn’t enthusiastically received but might be considered an infection vector by participants.

Not surprisingly, healthcare items are among the most popular. And while products such as face shields, gloves, head covers, goggles, glasses, shoe covers and gowns, fall into the category of PPE, they are generally not in demand by consumers.

So what is in demand as a promo item? Hand sanitizer and masks. According to Promo Marketing, hand sanitizer has seen an unprecedented demand: “At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., just as cases were starting to pop up in coastal cities, promotional suppliers were hamstrung by the demand, and many had to completely stop selling sanitizer for months. More recently, there were shortage issues relating to plastics for hand sanitizer bottles, and now government regulations regarding contaminants in the manufacturing process.”

But, the article adds, it appears the supply is getting back on track and those who want to order branded items for their event participants should have an easier time ordering them.

The only thing to remember, the article notes, is to order well in advance. Supply chains are still suffering from disruption and backordered merchandise is common.

Something else to note: healthcare items are the only ones seeing a tremendous demand; that being said, however, there are some other categories that are trending up. As the article notes:

  • Demand for print products, for example, was increasing for 18 percent of surveyed companies and staying the same for 26 percent. That means 44 percent of companies were able to at least maintain prior sales here.
  • After print products, apparel was the most reliable performer, with 11 percent of companies seeing increasing demand and 24 percent staying the same, for a total of 35 percent at least maintaining prior sales.
  • Office & home also saw 35 percent of companies at least maintaining sales (8 percent seeing increasing demand, 26 percent staying the same). This was likely driven by end-buyers looking to equip remote staff with work-from-home products.
  • Technology/electronics was next, with 32 percent of companies at least maintaining sales (11 percent increasing demand, 21 percent staying the same). It's likely that this category also saw some steady orders for remote-work products.

And in a season when many conventions have been cancelled and many expos have gone online only, items categorized as trade show/events products had the steepest decline, with 84 percent of companies reporting decreased sales.

We'll see how these projections have played out in the next installment of the research study, due out at the end of July. For now, you can download the full Volume 1, Number 1 COVID-19 Promotional Products Business Indicators Research study here.

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