Publisher's Note
How Has The New Century Begun?
By Marvin Spike, vice chairman/publisher

Editor's Note
SOI: 25 Years And Counting …
By Richard Kern, Editor-in-Chief

How Has The New Century Begun?

In the twenty-five year history of Counselor State of the Industry reports, none have been more challenging, more important, more timely or more revealing than the volume you’ve just opened.

So much has transpired in our profession, so many things have changed or are brand new, affecting what you’re doing today and what you need to consider tomorrow. Consequently, our editorial team has spent more time than ever to dig out and present many of the vital statistics that appear in this issue.

We’ve even given State Of The Industry a special new perch as a stand-alone bonus 13th issue you receive free with your annual Counselor subscription.

I’m delighted to report that the conclusions and comparative data in this special report are based on two to three times the input we’ve ever had. Tonia Cook Kimbrough, who has helped manage this year’s study, was assisted by none other than Dr. Majorie Cooper (Baylor University), a longtime educator friend of the promotional products industry and an exceptionally gifted researcher and author in many areas of marketing and communications.

And watch for the indelible mark of the Counselor’s Executive Editor, Arn Bernstein who has been influencing the continued growth and excellence of State-Of-The Industry content for more than a decade.

Thanks for being a Counselor magazine subscriber and reader. We hope this report helps you take a giant step into the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. I’d love to get your feedback on the data, the conclusions and how they affect your promotional products business. E-mail me at:

Marvin Spike

vice chairman/publisher

SOI: 25 Years And Counting …

Statistics are the lifeblood of any business. From the twinkle in an entrepreneur’s eye (the words “… investment of X minus operating costs of Y equals a profit of Z …” scribbled on a cocktail napkin) to putting together a business valuation in anticipation of retirement, data allows us to communicate important concepts and results in a kind of numerical shorthand that’s universally understood by salespeople, accountants, bankers, warehouse managers, shareholders – even editors.

For 25 years now, The Counselor has been creating an annual statistical snapshot of the promotional products industry that lets business owners and others measure their performance against that of the industry as a whole and get a fix on emerging trends. Of course, since the first State of the Industry report in 1977, things have gotten a bit more involved. Much of the data in that inaugural article was taken from the ASI Market & Credit database and covered a grand total of seven pages (including charts).

Flash forward 25 years. The text and graphics on the following 80+ pages represent nine months of preparation, information-gathering and analysis by a team of a dozen editors and researchers that for the first time included Dr. Marjorie Cooper, professor of marketing at Baylor University.

Dr. Cooper’s name may be familiar to some of you, since she – along with her colleague, Dr. Charles Madden – has written regularly for The Counselor over the years and also consulted with PPAI on formulating its annual estimate of industry sales. Contributing editor Tonia Cook Kimbrough worked closely with Dr. Cooper in designing, analyzing and distributing this year’s State of the Industry survey, the results of which were then handed over to our editors for review before conducting interviews, constructing charts and graphs, and writing their reports.

This year’s State of the Industry has been divided into four sections: 1) Dollars & Cents; 2) Operations; 3) Markets & Marketing; and 4) Trends & Technology. The corresponding stats and cross-tabs, culled from four different surveys covering both distributors and suppliers, cover financials, facilities, staffing, services, products, programs and myriad other topics that are part of your day-to-day business.

In addition, this special 13th issue also includes a detailed look at the biggest suppliers and distributors in the promotional products business – this year having expanded our perennial Top 25 list to include the Top 40 firms on both sides of the fence. Executive editor Arn Bernstein has once again outdone himself, soliciting and compiling financial data on “the biggest of the big” and providing an in-depth look at the industry’s top-ranked firms, as well as other companies and businesses that impact your ability to sell in this ever-more-crowded and volatile market.

And speaking of which, what about that looming recession? While all indications are that 2001 won’t be quite as stellar a year as 2000, no one we talked to for this report is predicting the end of the world. Despite an acknowledged downturn at year’s end, nearly three-quarters of the distributors we surveyed said sales were up overall in 2000 – an average of 37% (the median was a slightly more palatable 20%).

Do these numbers reflect reality? You’ll have to read this year’s SOI to find out how suppliers and distributors reacted to the statistics. We’re not giving anything away. Except this: With our data showing industry growth rates slowing, we may be entering the “perigee period” in our orbit around the almighty dollar. But regardless of whether we’re expanding or contracting, the important thing is that we’re still circling that critical mass, basking in its radiance, fueled by the entrepreneurial spirit and innovative thinking that launched this industry over 100 years ago.

Richard Kern