This week, Promotional Product Professionals of Canada returns to an in-person National Convention. Running September 13-15, Canada’s largest promotional products event of the year is back after a two-year hiatus at the International Centre outside of Toronto.

"We are so excited be back," says Sandra Harssar, MAS, PPPC board chair and president of Toronto distributor Bright Ideas. "The show floor has been bustling with attendees from across the country and the suppliers are talking their talk. If this is indicative to the return of trade shows, then it looks like we are on our way back. It’s great to be able to see the new products and get the ideas for upcoming Q4 projects.

"Nothing beats the person-to-person engagement of a trade show, and this year, after the long hiatus, it feels like a family reunion."

The Show Goes On

Like everyone else, Canada’s promo industry had to adapt during the pandemic and NATCON coming back as an in-person event is a welcome return to normal.

“We worked really hard to keep the Canadian community together, but being apart was hard,” says Jonathan Strauss, president and CEO of PPPC. “We did host a small trade show last October and had four golf events across Canada in June of this year, which helped. This is a relationship-driven industry, and relationships are best developed and nurtured when we are together, in person.”

PPPC has produced a two-day line-up of professional development and networking opportunities, and a trade show floor featuring 100 participating exhibitors. The approximately 1,000 industry professionals attending NATCON connected with customers and peers, and received close-up looks at the latest developments in the Canadian promo products industry.

Developing Professionally

Following attendee registration on Tuesday, the first full day of NATCON, Wednesday, opened with a panel discussion bringing industry leaders together for a discussion on the “triple bottom line” – people, the planet and profits. The panel featured perspectives from:

Speaking as part of the panel, Taschereau spoke on the basis of her company’s approach to being a socially-just and an environmentally-responsible business. At Fairware, the approach is built around managing its supply chain, its focus on its own operations and seeking to make the right community impact through advocacy and activism at the political and legislative level.

“We don’t really think through the lens of ‘people, planet and profit,’” says Taschereau. “It's a moment in time for our industry to think of sustainability as less as a compliance play, a must to do or a nice to do, and turning it into a strategic imperative to future-proof each of our companies and specifically our industry.”

The education available to NATCON attendees and PPPC members represents a valuable tool to help them navigate challenges the promotional product industry and its professionals face, no matter what side of the border they’re on. A number of industry leaders from the U.S. made the trip, including PPAI Board Chair Dawn Olds, MAS, and president and CEO Dale Denham, MAS+.

“We have the same challenges here – supply chain, freight costs, etc.,” Strauss says. “Everyone is really focused on the key fourth quarter sales season and getting the best products to their customers on time. Sustainability is a key topic and that is visible when looking at the supplier booths.”

A Spotlight On Excellence

The Canadian promo industry celebrated its achievements at NATCON. The PPPC Awards recognize and honor the outstanding accomplishments of Canadian professionals and companies and their products. Held on Wednesday evening at the Eglinton West Gallery in Toronto, the 2022 PPPC Awards honored:

• Top suppliers, multi-line reps and distributor member companies and staff who showed excellence over the last year
• PPPC members’ marketing campaigns and products, judged by their peers
• Supplier and distributor members voted best in the business by their peers and business associate PPPC members
• The PPPC Humanitarian Awards
• Induction into the PPPC Hall Of Fame

“I am thrilled to have the industry come together again this week in Toronto for NATCON and our Canadian industry awards,” says Strauss. “During setup there was a great buzz on the floor as suppliers reconnected with each other.”