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We’ve Come A Long Way

Ten years on from the financial crash the merchandise sector has evolved for the new world, says Phil Morgan.

It’s hard to believe that this year marks a decade since the banking crisis, and the recession tremors that followed. For many years, UK businesses, including those in promotional merchandise, had to re-strategise, re-structure and re-focus to navigate the new commercial landscape.

Now, a decade on, the promotional merchandise market is stronger than ever, with the latest Sourcing City Industry Report valuing the sector at more than £1bn in 2017.

So, how did we do it, and can the lessons learned help us to future-proof our businesses?

At SPS, we navigated the challenging times with a focus on innovation. We innovated what we sold and how we sold it. It’s something that remains in our DNA.

We’re not the only ones –many suppliers and distributors followed this route, and I believe it helped us to get the market growing again. It will also help us to weather the uncertainties of Brexit, general elections and anything else that might crop up. As an industry, we’ve learned how to be flexible, how to exceed expectations, and how to shout about what we do.

It’s well-known that if you keep on doing things the way you’ve always done them, then you’ll keep on getting the same results. To grow, you must mix things up. The market has changed considerably over the past 10 years. Customers are more demanding, want faster answers, and don’t wait to be ‘courted’ by businesses –they know what they want, and, in a few clicks, they can find it. Nobody can question the importance of a strong presence on google and a good quality website.

But, it’s not all about being strong online. Even in a digital age, people buy from people. Building strong customer relationships has never been more important for trust, loyalty and continuing business. You can stand out in this marketplace and future-proof your business with personal contact. And once you’ve built a relationship, you’ll find it easier to grow in partnership with your customers by working together and negotiating on price.

The personal relationship is hugely important between suppliers and distributors too. As an industry, these two sides are working together in away that’s stronger than ever.

So, where next for our industry? Well its got to be up and up hasn’t it? Whether you choose to focus on social media, online, DM, events, telesales, or anything in between, let’s make it personal and let’s continue to work together. There’s huge potential, as we keep on innovating and evolving – so let’s go!

Phil Morgan is CEO of SPS EU.

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