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Looking Ahead to Trends in 2016

Confidence in 2015 was certainly more buoyant in the promotional products industry with more and more companies expressing increase in sales revenue, albeit in some instances with a drop in margin. We asked industry figures for their take on what changes are in the pipeline for 2016.

Matt Pluckrose, managing director of Desktop Ideas:

“I certainly see more branding and personalisation on shorter runs, and in addition higher quality packaging for clients. Something we are great advocates of is joint presentations with distributors, what we call “the show and tell partnership”. I think the market is following online brands in a quest for 24/7 speed of service. Also the traditional ‘them
and us’ approach needs to replaced with more vendor/client relationships.”

Neil Cleere, managing director of the Pen Warehouse and Snap Products: 

“I can only speak for pens, but we expect that there will be very little change in consumer taste. There is a slight shift towards pens with a capacitive stylus and there seems to be a slight shift away from expensive metal pens, mainly due to the fact that Far-Eastern manufacturers are now very good at producing attractive metal pens at competitive prices. With regard to branding processes, there is an increasing demand for larger print areas on engraving, conventional printing and digital printing.”

“From a technology perspective. Vistaprint are now taking orders, small and large, from the end-user, right across a large spectrum of popular promotional items such as bags and mugs and we certainly feel this could well be a threat to the industry.”

“Generally speaking, suppliers such as ourselves will have to be more aware of productivity than ever before. A rise to £9.00 per hour on the minimum wage by the end of this parliament is a significant challenge for manufacturers if they wish to avoid passing a significant proportion of this cost on to distributors. Pension contributions will also rise to 3% by the end of this parliament and both of these costs will potentially put upward pressure on prices.”

“The government is trying to move from a low wage economy to a higher wage one and there is certainly merit in this if we are to make work pay. However, it is not a level playing field as countries like Poland with very low wages will now have an even bigger advantage over UK based manufacturers. The answer lies in productivity and this will mean that we all have to evaluate how we do things and that includes technology in no small part. ”

“On the plus side I see oil prices remaining low until at least the end of 2016 and this will help the Far Eastern manufacturers to keep their prices at current levels for some time and in some cases we will see prices dropping, particularly ones that rely heavily on hydrocarbons. I also don’t see the Chinese currency strengthening significantly against the dollar in the first six months of this year, and this will also help maintain price stability.”

Brian Hayward, managing director of the Page Partnership catalogue group:

“At Page, we start product selecting at the end of January for a catalogue which will be launched on June 1. The result is that about now we are considering with our members the likely trends and innovations which need to be reflected in the merchandise we select. Overall we think the economy is getting stronger although more fragile than we would all like to admit. So, it means currently that as an industry we will feature a lot of “confetti style” of products – cheap, cheerful and plentiful.”

“More due to budget than conscience, but I think that’s changing with more attention to better quality. The more canny decision maker is now choosing product based on “quality value” which incorporates eco, safety, technical standards and recommendations. Obviously value is important, but so is providing a pen that works or a Powerbank that doesn’t blow-up!”

“I think that next year we will see more emphasis on Eco and certified products. As a trend Eco products in the last few years have had reduced popularity. Blame it on the recession. But with less money in the economy people are buying cheaper and have less inclination to buy Eco. I suspect that the near future this will change to a more careful sale where Eco and safety levels have more consideration.”

“Obviously those who sell with little or no customer interaction may not be able to get the message across, but I feel customers need reassuring while they spend their money, ensuring a risk free transaction for both the end-user and the distributor.  I’m not saying we are going to stop selling Contour or Curvy pens, just perhaps they might become less important.”

“A strong potential performing category is our gadget range, where we expect strong growth on top of record year in 2015/2016. This has been helped by the Powerbank which hit our portfolio a few years ago. interestingly, as this product’s market develops there has been a growing influence towards quality and value rather than straight price. End-users prefer to use reliable, risk free products rather than rubbish. We will be ensuring that all our products have the relevant certification.”

“Also another big development over the past few years has been the development in digital print. Next year we will be offering more products with full colour personalisation. Express delivery is another subject that has changed the way we all sell promotional products. Currently we feature over 500 express products. The service offered varies between one and five days. We only expect this product range to increase, in line with end-users expectations. There has been a move to include the origination in the catalogue selling price.”

“It won’t be happening next year for us. We’ve asked all our suppliers and members their opinion. It’s simple, everyone likes the idea but most suppliers won’t build the origination in to the unit price simply because they think it will make them look expensive. Similarly, distributors want their catalogue or web price to appear to be as competitive as possible. We will encourage product lines that include origination and or carriage but won’t insist on it.”

Ian Barnham, Trade Marketing Manager at BIC Norwood Graphic:

“We saw phenomenal growth in our new Sport & Wellbeing category in 2015, and as healthy living becomes more integral to people’s everyday lives, we expect this trend to continue. Our launches in January reflect this, with extensions to our sport and lifestyle products range.

We’ve also seen a growing demand for soft-finish items across an increasing number of categories; from pens to notebooks, power banks to sport bottles. We foresee the desire for textured items is likely to continue, but as our customers look for something different in our tactile industry, we also expect them to look for new print techniques that add another dimension, such as soft-touch and textured print finishes to really bring a logo to life.”

Andrew Hill, managing director of Senator Pens:

“Senator are universally recognised as the ‘innovators’ in pen world, constantly creating and developing new designs. This is because they have a fully operational R&D department in Germany financed through re-investment by their parent company. No other pen manufacturer delivers on design quite like Senator, and in 2016 they will be working closely with Designworks BMW (Worldwide) to add yet another dimension to their creative portfolio.”

“On technology, Senator Germany were the first pen manufacturer worldwide to develop a machine capable
of printing Direct HD Digital with a raised 3D finish, taking nearly three years to design, build, and commission. This expensive piece of equipment is currently servicing Senator’s 88 markets worldwide, and demand for the finish it creates grew dramatically during the course of 2015. Expect Senator to add further exclusive capability in 2016.”

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