PPAI’s Suppliers’ Forum, held August 2-3 in conjunction with the SAAC Show, brought top supplier industry leaders willing to share best practices and detailed strategies to the Long Beach Convention Center in Long Beach, California.
Murray Siegel, marketing director of Baltimore, Maryland, supplier Towel Specialties (UPIC: TOWLSPEC) and chair of the PPAI Suppliers Committee, said speakers and attendees at this year’s forum were more open to frank discussion with details of their own business performance, as well as offering strategies that have worked and not worked during and after the recent recession.
“I felt the content was a lot more intense than in previous years,” he says. “There was more hard-core sharing of information and it got down to real brass tacks. People were more open about sharing in a roomful of competitors.”
Attendees were treated to two power-packed education sessions before enjoying a networking mixer hosted by PPAI Integrated Media and dinner featuring keynote speaker Lisa Horn, CAS, president of Irving, Texas, Spark! (UPIC: GetSpark).
An earlier session featured all-star industry leaders who took questions and follow-up queries from supplier attendees on the major topics facing the industry. The diverse group of industry leaders included Art Olsen, CEO and chairman of New Ulm, Minnesota, supplier Beacon Promotions (UPIC: BEACONP); Lee Strom, director of marketing at Preston, Washington, supplier SanMar (UPIC: SNMR); Bernard Findley, CEO at Largo, Florida, supplier Corvest; and, moderator Michael Woody, CAS, CEO at Providence, Rhode Island, business services company International Marketing Advantages (UPIC: CONSULT).
“We really got into a lot of important industry topics,” says Olsen. “We talked about safety, acquisitions, marketing strategies and costs of goods coming from Asia. The panel diversity was very good.”
Findley says the questions, whether they were about Asian suppliers, catalogs, tradeshows or other industry-related topics, came down to the realities of the economic climate and how to make the best financial decisions.
“It was an intense line of questioning and every point of the conversation related to finance and how to get that positive return on investment,” he says. “It’s nice to see an Association that discusses this paradigm shift in the industry openly.”
The openness and honesty of the panel created the frank discussion, Woody says.
“The credit goes to the panelists willing to share their knowledge,” he says.
Another dynamic education session was on best practices relating to internal operations, technology and process flow led by Brian Padian of Tustin, California, supplier Logomark Inc. (UPIC: logomark).
“We wanted to provide an honest, straight-forward response to what suppliers were doing strategically to get out of the doldrums,” he says. “The roundtable discussions proved that everyone is doing something proactive, whether it’s more aggressive pricing, strengthening a rebate or doing follow-up to an e-blast.”
Suppliers’ Forum has grown into a proven, powerful, progressive program, says Melissa Hendrick, dirctor of professional development and business media for PPAI.
The event curriculum was developed through a collaborative effort between PPAI staff and the Suppliers’ Forum Action Group led by Gary Haley, vice president of sales at supplier Beacon Promotions (UPIC: BEACON).
Next year, Suppliers’ Forum will be held June 5-6, 2011, in conjunction with PROMOTIONS EAST in Atlantic City, New Jersey. More information and registration will be available soon at www.ppai.org/suppliersforum.