The Hosted-Buyer Debate
Editor’s Note: PPAI’s decision to introduce a hosted-buyer initiative at The PPAI Expo 2012 has raised considerable controversy among the Association’s membership and in the promotional products industry. Below is a selection of commentary received by PPAI from both sides of the debate.
I am not in favor of end-buyer clients attending any show not being put on solely by their distributor. It will dilute my relationship with my client. I will not be seen anymore as the one person to go to. Inviting my end users to a show will hurt me and other distributors in the long run. I want my clients to only call me, not spend an hour trying to contact someone they met at a show. Do physicians invite their patients to medical conferences with exhibits of the latest knee replacements, pacemakers, antibiotics and new blood tests? No, they do not. Like us, physicians are considered experts in their area, and they have the experience and knowledge to know which products are best for a problem and which are ineffective or potentially harmful. I do not want my clients to walk up to a table, speak to a supplier representative, pick up an object and say, “This is what I want to use at our new product launch,” while I’m thinking the product is going to bomb and I will be the one blamed. It is a no-win situation. That’s not the kind of partnership I am looking for in a supplier.
Gold Coast Promotions
If you do your job correctly as a distributor, you have nothing to fear. Clients must be invited by me to attend, and they’ll be wearing special badges with my company information on them. It is a way for us to showcase all that our company has to offer and introduce the clients to the very manufacturer professionals that produce the products they will buy. Let’s face it: Our clients already shop around for price. But they soon discover the benefits we professionals have to offer and the money and hassle we can save them in the process.
Dennis Morris, DSS, CDbA
Formulations Products Services, LLC
My personal view is that it is a mistake. There will be no easy way to control who visits and what they do with the information they gather. Reputable suppliers that respect the channel will not be tempted by a big order direct from an end customer, but some might see it as an opportunity to gain better margins and more control of the order process.
I sympathize with PPAI. [It is] looking to innovate and find new ways to grow the market for the benefit of all, as well as grow membership. The challenge is that while ASI gets about $10 million a year from suppliers just for the advertisements and pay-for-placement on ESP, PPAI has no similar income other than what comes from the SAGE alliance launched at Expo.
PPAI should continue to focus on being the voice of the industry. [It has] the No. 1 Expo; this year was a tremendous event. With the recent New York show being poor, it looks like PROMOTIONS EAST is set to further move ahead and secure its position as the No. 1 show for the East Coast. With so many good things going on, a new CEO on the horizon and a steadily recovering industry, my view is that this is the wrong time to make such a fundamental change to the structure of the show.
Trade Only, Inc.
Miami Beach, Florida
The facts need to be aired before we kill this idea. There is hardly a product that cannot be bought, searched for or obtained in today’s marketplace. As a supplier, it would be a “death knell” to sell to a distributor’s customer or client. Many large companies installed in-house acquisitions departments to purchase everything in the form of accessories and support product only to find that it did not work, and they disbanded them as quickly as they were formed. Read the conditions, and you will see that [end buyers at the Expo are] limited to two. As a supplier, I would not want to deal with thousands of individual orders or handle the customer service and issues that need to be served. Take a strong look at this before opposing it.
One Market Source
Please reconsider; it’s a bad idea. Since my customers can shop price all day on the internet, the most valuable assets I bring to the relationship are my knowledge and experience, contacts, ideas from attending the show and daily staying on top of our changing industry, and my creativity. Bringing end users to the show minimizes every one of these assets and reduces me to being just another price comparison. If I choose to run an end-user show and invite supplier reps, that’s great, because I’m in control, but allowing anyone who qualifies as a distributor to bring anyone they label as an end user into the show cheapens the integrity of the entire event. If this happens, I don’t anticipate wanting to spend Friday on the show floor, which is a loss for both me and the suppliers I could be spending time with.
Gary Thompson, MAS
I sat in on the end-buyer webinar the other day, and I came away convinced that the PPAI staff and Board of Directors have done their homework and this is not going to have a negative effect on anyone’s business nor the time they have on the show floor to talk to distributors. An end buyer is only going to be allowed on the show floor on Friday. Frankly, I don’t see that taking any time away from a distributor that is still on the floor at that time.
I have been in this business over 30 years, and 19 of these years have been with the same company as a rep. In the best days of the premium shows in both New York and Chicago, and at all of the standard industry shows, our company exhibited successfully to distributors and end buyers. Know what you are doing, [be] prepared and know who you are talking to and how to talk to them. If you don’t know what you are doing, or need to brush up on the end-user concept, there is going to be quite a bit of training offered by PPAI between now and January for both distributors and suppliers.
It is up to distributors to decide if they want to invite or pay for their end user to attend. Each salesperson is going to be allowed only two users on the floor, and they must be accompanied by the distributor at all times. Users won’t even be able to pick up their own badge; it will only be available through their distributor. As a rep, I welcome the opportunities to teach/talk to buyers about my product and support my distributors with my brand’s value recognition when they present it to customers. Who better to talk about our products then the staff in your booth who can tell your story?
I am usually one of the last people to accept or wrap my hands around something new, but I think the staff and board did their due diligence over the last couple of years before this concept was introduced. Let’s give them a chance to show this will or, perhaps, won’t work; things are meant to be tweaked if not perfect the first time around.
Michele Jennrich, MAS
Morris Plains, New Jersey
Canada Losing Out To Offshore Production, Too
“The Rise In American Made” [PPB, May 2011] was a great article. Unfortunately, the same does not ring true for Canadians. Our market is not large enough to set up the large production houses capable of competing with Asian suppliers. Hopefully, U.S. and Canadian currencies stay fairly even. If so, it will allow Canadians to purchase more “domestically produced” products.
Personally, I loathe the fact that we are so dependent on low prices and inferior quality. The [article’s] comment regarding selling out our factories for larger margins is right on the nose. The big picture is more unemployment and higher taxes due to the number of capable workers on social assistance. The winners in this case are offshore producers. With fewer workers and fewer corporate events, corporations looking to achieve larger margins have gone to great lengths to be more profitable while reducing their own consumers’ disposable income.
Drive Sportswear Inc.
PCT Brightens Up Your Day
Just a short note to let you know I read all of the PC Today articles and save most of them in my computer for sharing with colleagues in other lines of work later.
They really perk up my day, and I appreciate the effort and good work you do. Thanks so much for the daily boost.
Royal Oak, Michigan