ASI vs SAGE vs PPAI from an Industry Supplier's perspective
Richardson Seating is an active member of SAGE, PPAI, and ASI. Those are the promotional products organizations that we use to market our line of promotional bar stools. In the past we have also members of SAAC, PPPC, and SAAGNY.
We have also been members of our local trade organization PPAC which is the Promotional Products Association Chicago. We joined for a few years and we showed at the big trade show at the Arlington Race Track. It was a fun show and really easy to setup. We didn't have to deal with Drayage. Avoiding Freeman and GES is always a big cost savings.
We primarily joined SAAGNY and SAAC so we could show at their local promotional products organizations trade shows. We were also members of the main Canadian promotional products organization PPPC and we exhibited at the big Toronto promotional products trade show. That was a cold one. I mean it was really cold. I am pretty sure the Toronto show was in February. Although we are not members of PSI, I did take a flight to Dusseldorf and checked out Europe's biggest promotional products show. The shows were fun and pretty large but nothing compared to the big PPAI show in Vegas every year. PPAI's Las Vegas show is now the only trade show that we attend.
We also used to do do ASI's trade shows. We exhibited at Orlando, Chicago, Houston, and Las Vegas. The ASI shows were much smaller than PPAI. ASI priced the shows where it was advantageous to do all of them in many ways. They would give you significant discounts on the price of the booth and they would pay for the transportation of your freight from show to show. They also used to pay for distributors to come to the shows by giving them free hotel rooms and credit towards flights. I found after a few years of doing all the shows that I saw most of my customers at PPAI in Las Vegas. The really big companies all go to PPAI. We have gone to the PPAI show so many times.
Here are the websites of the associations I am referencing.
- PPPC Promotional Products Canada
- ASI Advertising Specialty Institute
- PPAI Promotional Products Association International
- SAAC Specialty Advertising Association of California
- SAGE Quick Technologies
- PSI The European Network of Promotional Products
When we get a quote request from a distributor, the truth is that we are not particularly concerned what affiliation they have. We don't use membership status to decide credit or to give different pricing. We have our dealer pricing and we extend it to any dealer regardless of the affiliation. ASI and SAGE both have good software for searching for products. It is our understanding that SAGE is a lot less expensive than ASI's ESP software. In regards to supplier fees, SAGE is far less expensive for us than ASI. ASI offers more opportunities for us to advertise to distributors than SAGE. We currently digitally advertise with both. We have maxed out all of the ad space for our category which is bar stools or furniture. ASI has a lot of print magazines in addition to special catalogs that you can add your company name to. SAGE also has product catalogs and leaflets to add your company name and pass out as your own. I think it really boils down to this. If you want to go to the best industry show which is PPAI's Las Vegas trade show you probably need to join PPAI or should at least seriously consider it. If you want to have a sourcing tool, you should evaluate both ASI's ESP and SAGE's software to see which you like better. You can't go wrong with either and if you don't like your choice, switch. You can always just use Google, but if you are serious about being a promotional products distributor you should seriously consider using sourcing software. It makes it a lot easier to find suppliers than just using Google.
We have been working very hard on improving our Google ratings the past year. We have worked our way up to 5 stars with 78 reviews. We haven't put the same effort into SAGE reviews or ASI ESP reviews. We can't see the software so we forget about it. It is really hard to get reviews without directly asking for them. That is how we get most of our reviews. We ask our customers via email if they were happy. If they say they were happy, we ask them to please review us on Google.
One of the key things to being in the promotional products business is being able to make our client's look good. Sometimes we need to send boxes next day air to trade shows. Sometimes we need to rush spec samples to get them in time for a presentation. If a distributor is thoughtful enough to be pitching our product, we want to know that we did what was needed to help him or her out.
I would like to also touch on buying groups and joining bigger distributor organizations like Halo and 4Imprint. We don't have very much experience selling to buying to promotional product buying groups. I guess most groups don't feel the need to negotiate bar stool pricing for their group. We are open to joining your buying group, so please reach out if you want to add us. For a new distributor, a buying group will help you get better unit pricing with certain vendors without the need to negotiate. This might not be the best pricing you can get if you were to negotiate on your own. There also may be competitive vendors that have the same product for less. When you join the buying group, you may not get the best deal on a buy, but it will be a fair deal and probably on a good product. While the buying group may help you get better pricing, keep an eye out for rebates that go back to the owners of the buying group.
The last distributor question I would like to address is joining a big firm as an outside salesperson. This is a fantastic way to sell promotional products. Having a big company like Halo behind you will let you go after bigger jobs knowing that Halo can finance the order. Most big companies have contract pricing and rebates with all of the major suppliers. You will have special pricing at almost all vendors. You will get someone to help with your catalog and you get a back office to help with billing.
I just heard back from PPAI, ASI and one of the buying groups that I reached out to. I will start to post the links and information that I received over the next few days. I hope the links to pricing and benefits will be helpful for my readers.
Here are some reasons why one might consider joining PPAI. PPAI is the non profit trade organization representing the suppliers and distributors of the promotional products industry.
Member benefits can be found below for both PPAI suppliers/distributor.
Benefits specific to PPAI suppliers can be found below.
Benefits specific to PPAI distributors can be found below.
Here are some links for ASI membership information. ASI aka the Advertising Specialty Institute is a for profit company that connects suppliers and distributors.
Distributor Membership - https://store.asicentral.com/Store/Distributor/Package/8
Supplier Membership - https://store.asicentral.com/Store/Supplier/Package/9
Supplier Advertising (which has a lot of information) - https://www.asiadvertising.com/
One of the most confusing things about the promotional products industry is the unspoken rules or in any cases spoken rules of who can buy from whom and who can sell to whom. The primary players are the distributors and the suppliers. With these two basic players, it is pretty simple. The distributor sells the job and sources the product from the supplier. Now lets make it more complicated. What if the distributor is also a decorator? Does the distributor now buy a blank from the supplier and decorate it themselves? What if the distributor decides to start importing the blanks and printing. The supplier has now been completely cut out. The supplier is also expected to not sell to the distributors client.
The suppliers used to be the ones that imported large quantities of promotional products from China and then decorated them here for small orders and had them decorated overseas for big orders. That doesn't happen as much any more. The supplier is now an overseas company and they sell direct to both the distributor and the distributor's customer.
This change of buyers and sellers and the advancement of the Internet have thrown the industry some strong curveballs. End users are able to do price comparisons online. End users can order online. In order to get business in these trying times you need to be able to differentiate yourself. We are trying really hard to make sure that everyone knows that we are the place to get logo bar stools. There may be other players in the industry but we are the biggest and the best. It is our goal to convey that message so that our customers feel good about working with us and our prospects are excited to try us.
We have taken the stance that we will only sell to dealers. We sell to dealers of promotional products, furniture dealers, and license holders. We are the OEM for a few licensees. We used to manufacture all of the custom logo bar stools for companies like Harley Davidson and every NFL and MLB team. Over the years we weren't able to keep pricing low enough to keep the business stateside. We are seeing a resurgence in customers coming back to us that had been importing. With the 25% tariff, price increases, and shortages it has made more sense than ever to purchase from American promotional product suppliers. There is a worldwide foam shortage. If you buy logo bar stools from us, you won't have to worry about that. We are still shipping on time.
We are members of PPAI, SAGE, and ASI promotional products organizations. As a supplier there is no reason to limit yourselves. We don't particularly like doing trade shows so it doesn't make sense for us to be members of some of the organizations if we don't do their show like SAAGNY and SAAC. We will always stay members of ASI promotional products, PPAI promotional Products, and SAGE promotional products. I also foresee us advertising on ESP search software until the market changes.