Global Supply Chain Woes: Navigating Today’s Challenges



Hiccups in the global supply chain have a wide reaching effect on the promotional products industry. Both domestic and direct import programs who source overseas will have to navigate a new series of challenges.

The global recession has also greatly affected our manufacturing partners in Asia. Asia is responsible for the manufacture of approximately 95% of ad specialty products. The net effect impacts price and deliverability. What are the issues and how do we proactively manage them?

The Issues

Inventory Shortages – In order to survive the recession, suppliers took a leaner inventory position. Subsequently, Asian manufacturers also took a leaner position in raw materials. Take cotton for example. There is now a worldwide shortage. The difficulty in obtaining yarns is causing production delays and increased material costs.

Fewer Factories – The global recession and subsequent lack of demand has resulted in a winnowing of production facilities. This may not have been obvious within the recent climate of curtailed need, but it is becoming increasingly evident as levels return to normal that there are fewer options out there.

Increased Cost of Labor – Manufacturing in Asia is simply becoming more expensive. Human rights issues have put pressure on governments to ensure better working conditions. Workers are beginning to organize and demand better wages and benefits. Populations are aging and younger workers are looking for higher status positions creating a labor shortage.

Lack of Container Space – The recession also hit shippers hard. With vessels still in dry-dock, it will take time for them to ramp back up. Upwards of 120 days on the water (if you can get your product on a vessel) is the new norm. The industry was previously at about 70-80 days.

Chinese New Year – It happens every year. The double whammy effect of Chinese New Year shuts down and causes major headaches for suppliers and Chinese manufacturing facilities alike.  The subsequent game of production catch up can be equally daunting. We have listed the schedule below for your review. The best way to avoid issues: plan ahead.

Proactive Management

Plan Ahead! – Your best protection against these issues is to give your supplier as much time as possible to position an order for success. End to end production will take longer. Allow enough time, particularly on the shipping side, to make in hands dates. A good vendor will tell you the reality of the situation not what you want to hear.

Expect Price Increases – There is a tremendous amount of pressure on price today. Between increases in raw material, labor, and shipping costs, product cost will rise. Some of this will inevitably be passed on. A good vendor will be solution focused and help you look for options or alternatives.

Lots of Communication on Both Sides – It is very important to stay abreast of fluctuations in the process. Make sure you are receiving good communication from your vendor regarding the status of your order. With good upfront planning, quality production art the factory can work with, and the luxury of additional time, vendors and clients can navigate current industry realities.

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Mardi Gras Beads: A great tool for fundraising

When the Sixth Annual Fred Biletnikoff  Hall of Fame Golf Classic / Raiders Tournament needed to spice up thier fundraiser – they turned to a tried and true favorite – Mardi Gras beads. We would like to thank the Office of  Gorilla Rilla for graciously allowing us to share the following images!


Why Mardi Gras Beads?

1. They are just down-right fun! Easy to wear and festive. High brand visibility and easily customized to suit.

2. Highly sought after – folks collect ’em! We see beads we produced years ago show up at various events. People hold on to them and reuse again and again.

3. Inexpensive to produce – lots of options! Beads run the gammit in price. You can go from standard round hanging medallions, to inline medallions, to brand specific designs with custom shape medallions and inline ornaments.

4. Never know who will be wearing them! From left to right: Jerry Rice, Fred Biletnikoff, Joey Chestnut (Man vs. Food Hot Dog Eating Champion,)  Tim Brown, Angela Biletnikoff and Gorilla Rilla.

The Biletnikoff Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting youth, primarily from low to moderate income neighborhoods or backgrounds, who are “at risk” particularly to the realities of drug and alcohol addiction as well as domestic and gender violence. The foundation was established by Fred and his wife Angela to commemorate their daughter Tracey Biletnikoff, who was brutally murdered in 1999 at a very young age.

The Biletnikoff Foundation also proudly supports STAND! Since they began in 1977, STAND! has helped over 15,000 crisis victims and their children annually by offering emergency shelter, counseling and support groups, and transitional housing. Their Battered treatment programs provide offenders with the opportunity to make meaningful changes in their lives and, more importantly, in the lives of their families.


Sports Promotional Trends: 5 Great Ways to Pump Up the Volume

Sports promotions continually looking for ways to make more noise – literally and figuratively. From cowbells lining the slopes at the Winter Olympics to plastic clapping hands and earsplitting airhorns,  the search to improve the volume of applause in ongoing. Here (in no particular order) is a list of some “noisemaker” trends in the promotional products today.

vuvuzelas#1 The Vuvuzela

South African in origin (traditionally made from a kudu horn – now made from plastic) the vuvuzela was used to summon distant villagers to attend community gatherings. Present day usage is an integral part of the South African soccer scene and has become a symbol of the sport in that country. A similar device, is used in Brazil and other Latin American countries.

It caught the attention of the world during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.  Hyundai constructed the world’s largest working vuvuzela as part of a marketing campaign for the World Cup and the loud monotone buzz eminating from smaller promotional units was the audio backdrop for the series. Unfortunately for some the noise level was too intense, leading to future  bans by a few sporting organizations.  But hey, some folks really like them!

clapper view#2 The Clapper Glove

Think about the sound when you smack two billiard balls together. Clapper gloves are a pretty fun way to keep your hands warm and avoid the muffled sound of a golf clap. These are not really native to anywhere – up for grabs for cultural affinity. They are however, a really great promotional tool for making noise.

Maracas#3 Maracas

Maracas are really cool, even though they originate south of the equator. The are native to Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia, Guatemala and several nations of the Caribbean and Latin America. Traditionally make from gourds or coconuts, maracas come in a variety of materials. One of my favorites, unearthed by our sourcing department is the inflatable maraca. Who know balloons, beans and plastic could be so much fun!

5532874#4 Inflatable Mylar Spirit Sticks

What happens when you inflate two elongated mylar balloons and bang them together? These popular promotional items are fairly commonplace. The colorful sticks come flat and can be inflated by the user at the event. The large live are for promotional messaging and optional LED illumination make them perfect for all sorts of sporting events. I recently cheered my husband to the finish at the Twin Cities Marathon with a set.

bbcowbell#5 The Cowbell

Who doesn’t want “More Cowbell”? Sneaky livestock I suppose, but they are in demand in the rally culture and sports promotions. Worldwide, in cross-country skiing and cyclocross, cowbells are often rung at the start and finishes of races.

Attempts to suppress them by imposing a ban include the Southeastern Football Conference. However, this does not stop intrepid Mississippi State University fans who smuggle the contraband item into games.  Elsewhere, at Penn State football games, the cowbell is played in a particular rhythm and accompanied by chanting. Cornell and University of New Hampshire ice hockey fans also want “more cowbell”. The Alaska Aces fans of the ECHL are well-known in Anchorage as the “Cowbell Crew”. The Tampa Bay Rays even have a pre-built graphic that says “More Cowbell!!” I say give the people what they want.

Fans will continue to look for new ways to pump up the volume. The promotional products industry will continue to pump out novel solutions to help raise the roof and deliver the sponsor’s message.