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Welcome to the latest installment of ASI's e-newsletter for the Canadian ad specialty market, Promogram Canada.
Please don't hesitate to e-mail me directly with any news pertaining to your company, such as mergers and acquisitions, new hires, awards and accolades received, creative client promotions or new product launches. You can reach me directly at (215) 953-3323 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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Canadian Economy Buoyed By U.S. Housing Market
The outlook for the ad specialty market in Canada – and the Canadian economy as a whole – is "semi-rosy" and will be buoyed in part by the strengthening U.S. housing sector, Dr. Jack Mintz said in his opening keynote speech at last week's ASI Power Summit Canada, held at the Fairmont Banff Springs in Banff.
Mintz, a nationally-renowned economist and the Palmer Chair of Public Policy at the University of Calgary, said a resurgence in the mining and forestry industries in Canada is giving the country's economy a big boost. "The Canadian economy is still very much a commodity-based economy," Mintz told the audience, forecasting a continuing rise in the country's oil and gas industry as well.
Although the last few years have been a "dreadful" period for Canada's forestry industry, he said, the recovery of the housing market in the United States is sparking "great growth" now. And as the U.S. economy gains strength, particularly in the private sector, he said that can "only have positive side effects" for the Canadian market. Still, other economic factors across the world could slow the rate of growth in the Canadian economy, Mintz cautioned.
Counselor caught up with Mintz following his session at the Power Summit to find out more of his predictions for the global economy and how those might impact the ad specialty industry and small business. Click here to hear Mintz's outlook for the world economy over the next few years.
Want more highlights from the inaugural ASI Power Summit Canada? Click here to watch Tim Andrews, ASI's president and CEO, provide a synopsis of the topics covered and debated during last week's conference.
Building a High-Growth Culture
One session at the ASI Power Summit Canada featured two of the industry's most well-known and respected veterans: Rob Spector, president and owner of Montreal-based Spector & Co. (asi/88660) and Steve Levschuk, president and owner of London, Ontario-based Talbot Marketing (asi/341500). "Transforming into a High-Growth Culture" tackled such topics as how to find, retain and motivate top employees, how to implement programs to build company morale and loyalty, and how to manage employees from different generations.
Acknowledging that studies show that businesses with high employee satisfaction are, on average, 20% more profitable than those with low employee satisfaction, Levschuk said at Talbot – one of Counselor's Best Places to Work companies and a Fastest Growing Distributor, with 63% growth between 2010-2012 – said that because his team of nearly 50 is spread through Canada, one of the most important things he and his management team do is onsite visits and events to make everyone feel included. "It can get very lonely when you're working so far from the main office, so we make a real effort – which is why we have such low turnover – to make everyone feel included and part of the team." For Spector, whose company is this year's Canadian Supplier of the Year, he points to a hard-bound book given to every new employee, The Spector Way, which focuses on seven rules of engagement, such as "Customer Service is a State of Mind (Not a Department)" and "No is Never an Option."
With over 400 employees working at the company, Spector stressed the importance of keeping daily contact with managers to make sure that not only are departments running efficiently, but that employees feel supported and valued. "I really do believe," Spector said, "that the reason for our consistent growth has been the strength of our team and how we treat our employees. We want them to always know how much they're appreciated and how important their role is to the success of the business."
Counselor caught up with Levschuk and Spector after the session to find out how they instill high-growth cultures at their companies. Click here to watch the Levschuk interview and click here to view the interview with Spector.
Increasing Business With Smart Marketing Strategies
In a Friday morning session at the ASI Canada Power Summit, Debco's (asi/48885) Alex Morin listed several ways – some simple, others sophisticated – that companies can engage clients and prospects.
One basic approach that Morin recommends is to back off e-mailing customers and to start texting them. "There's technology that's been around for a long time, but it's not being used effectively," he said. "Texting is a lot more personal. You're bombarded with e-mails – you might get 200 a day – but you get fewer texts. Now we just take our marketing message and insert it into a text."
Morin, Debco's executive vice president of sales and marketing, also spoke about the benefits of identifying trends and translating them into products and services. "I like to look at financial news, technological news and make connections between that news and the voids I see in the marketplace," he said. "You can come up with a unique idea based on what's trending in the world."
Following the session, Counselor interviewed Morin to learn how Debco uses data to market to customers. Click here to watch.
Licensing: An Industry-Wide Opportunity
Becoming a licensee for a retail brand, a university or for a major event isn't just an opportunity for suppliers, but it presents a real chance for distributors to add to their sales as well. That was a key point made by Will Andrew, president of Trimark Sportswear (asi/92122), in one of the opening sessions of the ASI Power Summit Canada.
"Most of those products have some royalties built in, so you're probably also getting your customer to go up in price," said Andrew. "While your gross margin might be the same percentage, your true profit dollars could be bigger on the sale."
In a one-on-one Q&A with Counselor senior editor Dave Vagnoni, Andrew also explained how Trimark was able to secure an apparel license for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver. "We figured out that what the Olympics wanted to do was build their brand," Andrew said. "We had a great time doing it. It also resonated back to what we're doing as a company, which is to make other brands predominant and not necessarily promote our own."
Counselor caught up with Andrew after the session to learn more about licensing strategies. Click here to watch.
Counselor Reveals Fastest-Growing Canadian Companies
At a reception on Thursday night at the ASI Power Summit Canada in Banff, Counselor magazine unveiled its first-ever Fastest-Growing Canadian Companies list. Honoring 10 Canadian firms for their success over the past two years, the Fastest-Growing List is made up of both suppliers and distributors from Canada. Click here to view the list.
Simplex Promotional Products (asi/87343), an industry member since March 2009, was officially named the number one Fastest-Growing Canadian company for 2013, with a sales increase of over 250% from 2010-2012. Simplex has also recently doubled the size of its Concord, ON, location to keep up with demand, maintain customer service and increase on-hand stock levels.
Owner Dan Engel talked to Promogram Canada about hot markets for his company's products, reasons for the substantial growth, and advice for other suppliers and business owners.
Promogram Canada: What is your product concentration?
Dan Engel: We focus mainly on flashlights, or anything that can accommodate a flashlight, as well as multi-tools, key chains and more. Three years ago we had 12 total SKUs; today, we have 150. In 2014, we're planning on launching a new category of multi-tools, pocket knives and safety items.
Promogram Canada: What kinds of clients do you serve?
DE: We focus on all distributors; we don't sell direct and we don't sell wholesale. We have a few non-members, but that's a small portion of our clientele. Picture the typical ASI distributor member and that makes up our primary customer base.
Promogram Canada: What kinds of promotions do you put together?
DE: Everyone uses flashlights. I always say that it gets dark at least once a day. And we sell functional tools that recipients appreciate. So when you're looking for your keys in the dark and you use a flashlight from ABC Company to find them, it connects the client's name with a useful product. Our items are also used for everything from wedding giveaways to big petroleum companies. They're great for people who are on the road a lot, so real estate agents, insurance agents, campgrounds and the travel market are huge.
We also have excellent pricing, and we always offer free set-up, spec samples, proofs, drop shipping and split shipping. We believe in samples, especially. We always send them. When someone asks to see our catalog, we actually suggest that they pick out a few samples that we can ship to them.
Promogram Canada: How can you explain your growth over the past several years? What are some growth strategies you've implemented that have led to your success?
DE: There are several explanations. First, we have very good relationships with our overseas employees. We run the business as if they're our partners, and we're actually planning on buying into some factories soon. Second, we're a very efficient company. We look at the internal costs, not the external. So that means we'll give our clients whatever they need, namely the free set-up, spec samples, proofs and more. Also, all our employees can multitask, so they can both answer phones and work in production, for example. We have a diverse group of employees.
Number three is doing really in-depth market research and knowing how the market looks at any given time. Finally, we really take care of our distributors. If they don't sell, then we don't sell. So we give them whatever they need.
Promogram Canada: What's a word of advice you can give other suppliers looking to grow?
DE: It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. We think about it as how we can help them versus how they can help us. You want them to pull your catalog first. You might have the most tweets, the most Facebook fans, and a beautiful office and catalog, but none of that really matters if your customers aren't happy. Also, we don't do something that most suppliers do, and that's categorizing clients by size. Each one of our accounts is simply an account; we don't treat anyone differently. Some distributors have to meet certain criteria to qualify for EQP pricing, and we just always provide it from the beginning. That differentiates us and gives us a competitive advantage.
Promogram Canada: What lessons have you learned as a business owner?
DE: You have to invest wisely and make sure your cash flow is intact. You're going to have good days and bad. But make sure you have cash outlay for inventory, because financing isn't as flexible as it once was. Don't overspend. Grow from within and don't depend on anyone else.
Artech Acquires Décalomania
Artech, of which Simple Signman (asi/87400) is a division, has acquired Décalomania from Guy Touchette. "We look forward to working with Décalcomania's customers," says President Gaétan Dulude, "and will give them our best possible service."
Ash City Launches New App
Counselor Top 40 supplier Ash City (asi/37143) has released a new mobile application for the iPhone and iPad. The app will allow customers to navigate through user-friendly tabs, browse high-resolution and multi-angled images, view inventory, receive automatic stock updates and more.
"We recognize the importance of keeping our customers' business moving no matter where they are, and have developed this application to give them access whenever they may need it," says Doug Hayes, president & CEO. "As a leading supplier in the industry, we are always looking at ways to provide exceptional convenience to a distributor's busy lifestyle – and this tool does just that."
To download the free Ash City mobile app, visit the Apple App Store here. For more information and a demonstration of the application, go to www.ashcity.com/mobile.
Spector & Co. Canada Releases New Product Video
Spector & Co. Canada (asi/88631) has released a new video featuring the new attributes of the SpecTech Sound and Power items. View this video and others at www.spectorandco.com/video. Go to www.spectorandco.com for more information on Spector & Co.'s entire product line.
Kanata Blanket Relocates Showroom
Kanata Blanket Company (asi/63723) has moved its showroom to the Promo Expo showroom, located at 422 North Rivermede Rd., Unit 14, Concord, ON.
"Being part of this group provides a number of benefits to both Kanata and, more importantly, to our customers in the GTA," says Sharon Griffith, vice president sales & marketing. "The large showroom allows for Kanata's key items to be displayed to the distributors that frequently use the showroom. The sample lending library ensures that many of our products are immediately available." Sharon Griffith can be reached at 604 273 7002 x211, or at Sharon@kanatablanket.com.
Lasting Impressions President Announces New Address
Lasting Impressions (asi/249878) announces that President Lyndon Williams, CAS, is now located at 11 Woodacres Crescent SW, Calgary, AB T2W 4V5.
Prestige Glass Concludes Surf the Site Contest
Prestige Glass International (asi/79398) launched its "Surf the Site" contest at the 2013 PPPC National Convention in Toronto. Distributors were encouraged to surf the company's new website and then send an e-mail to email@example.com with commentary. Participants were entered to win a "Very Cool" Airline surf guitar and a Fender practice amplifier. Visit www.prestigeglass.com for more information on the company's full line of products.
Fersten Introduces New Freight 500 Program
Fersten Worldwide (asi/53974) has officially launched its automated Freight 500 program, which offers customers free UPS Standard Ground Shipping for all orders over $500. For more information, call Fersten's customer service at 800-565-7462 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Impact Identifies Core Values
Add Impact (asi/106606) has announced that the company has worked with employees to identify its core values, based on traditional family values that include respect, care and trust.
"With more and more time spent in the workplace nowadays, it was important for us to create an environment that mirrored traditional family values, such as genuine respect, care and trust," says Remo Niceforo, founder and president. "Our employees played a major role in identifying and ultimately creating the Core Values. The process had to be inclusive in order for us to achieve the vision as a philosophy, an attitude and a way of life." For more information, visit www.add-impact.com/corevalues.aspx.
PEOPLE ON THE MOVE
Stahls' Canada Appoints Spencer Ritchie
Stahls' Canada has hired Spencer Ritchie, CAS, as national sales manager, effective immediately. Spencer Ritchie can be contacted at email@example.com, or at 800-521-5255 x6023.
Dennis Lee Welcomes Mark Trimble
Dennis Lee Sales Agency has hired Mark Trimble, who has a background in multi-line sales and at the distributor level. Contact Mark Trimble at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 519-616-1906.
Starline Hires Bilingual Sales Rep
Starline (asi/89213) has hired Sean Sahoye as the new bilingual inside sales representative.
Originally from Montreal, Sahoye has over five years' experience in customer service, most recently as a consumer affairs representative with Nike Canada. His primary focus will be Quebec, British Columbia and the Atlantic Provinces. Contact Sean Sahoye at 905-669-5250 x 4342 or e-mail email@example.com.
Whiteridge Hires Sally Piitz
Whiteridge Inc. (asi/97061) has hired Sally Piitz from Promopartner Inc. (asi/825446) as the new sales representative for the Greater Toronto Area. Sally has over 20 years' experience in the industry, and will be based out of Whiteridge's GTA Showroom at 422 North Rivermede Rd. Unit 14, Concord, ON L4K 3R5 (Promo Expo). Contact Sally Piitz at 416-708-1551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.