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  • 11 Jul 2024 7:54 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Geiger (PPAI 105182, Platinum) – the No. 5 distributor in the PPAI 100 – has announced the acquisition of German distributor WER GmbH.

    • The integration process will begin immediately with WER GmbH rebranding to WER GmbH, a Geiger Company.
    • While Geiger has successfully completed five acquisitions in the United Kingdom, the acquisition of WER marks the Lewiston, Maine-based firm’s first in Germany.

    “Geiger is continuing our strategic path forward in servicing global clients,” says Jo-an Lantz, MAS, president and CEO of Geiger. “WER GmbH culture, commitment to the highest service, quality and ESG standards exceeded our expectations. By leveraging the strengths and resources of both organizations, we’ll deliver even greater value and innovative solutions to the market.”

    “One thing is for certain,” Lantz adds, “Geiger is global. Now more than ever.”

    Beneficial Partnership

    Launched in 1992, WER GmbH has more than 100 employees and operates six offices and several warehouses across Germany, including in Munich, Cologne and Frankfurt.

    Its alignment with Geiger’s service offerings, such as kitting, company stores, international distribution, custom products, in-house decoration and warehousing, will further enhance the range of services available to the newly combined customer base.

    “We have known Geiger as a global leader for many years and it has proven itself to operate with honesty and integrity, sharing the same values and culture as WER,” says Alex Heinecke, CEO of WER GmbH.

    “These qualities are vital to working in our marketplace and within our customer base. Geiger’s global network and industry leadership will provide our clients with enhanced services and offerings. We’re confident that this partnership will be beneficial for our customers and employees alike.”

    • Heinecke will continue to lead the division under the new ownership.
    • All WER GmbH employees have been retained by Geiger, including CFO Marc Strickrodt and director Mirco Häßlich.

    “We’re thrilled to welcome WER GmbH to the Geiger family,” says Vicky Kinasz, vice president and managing director of Geiger International. “This acquisition further expands our international presence and enhances our capabilities in key markets. The synergy between our organizations will create new opportunities for innovation and growth, further benefiting our many international clients.”

    Global Expansion

    This strategic move marks a significant milestone in Geiger’s ongoing international growth strategy, significantly strengthening its presence in Europe.

    Geiger has truly ramped up M&A activity this year, acquiring California-based distributor O2 Marketing + Design and New York-based distributor Broadway Marketing.

  • 11 Jul 2024 7:44 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Toronto-based Redwood Classics Apparel (PPAI 696010) has announced a partnership with Vantage Apparel (PPAI 113235, Platinum) making Vantage its exclusive U.S. provider.

    • Vantage was recently named PPAI 100’s No. 12 supplier.
    • Redwood Classics is a women-owned and minority-owned certified promo supplier founded in 2009.

    “We are incredibly excited to welcome Redwood Classics’ exceptional products into the Vantage family,” says Rob Watson, CEO of Vantage. “Redwood Classics’ commitment to quality, craftsmanship and innovation aligns perfectly with our values at Vantage. This partnership will enable us to offer our customers an expanded selection of value-driven options that are both stylish and meticulously crafted.”

    Redwood Classic offerings are immediately available through Vantage, and inventory will be stocked in Vantage’s New Jersey warehouse.

    • The news follows another recent development for Vantage, which opened a Santa Ana facility in June.The new location is intended to expand Vantage’s contract decoration services along the West Coast.

    From Redwood Classics’ perspective, founder and president Kathy Cheng says that Vantage’s distributor network in the United States puts Redwood Classics products in the hands of more end users.

    “Partnering with Vantage Apparel marks a significant milestone for Redwood Classics,” Cheng says. “Vantage’s extensive network and industry expertise will help us reach new heights and continue to grow our presence across North America. We look forward to collaborating with Vantage to bring our unique, made-in-Canada designs to a broader audience.”

    An Aligned Mission of Sustainability

    Redwood Classics has a long history of prioritizing sustainability efforts in its practices while also promoting diversity with its platform within the industry. Vantage’s shared values helped make the partnership between the two suppliers possible.

    “The path is clear: Whether you’re a multinational corporation or a local startup, championing social causes can be both a moral commitment and a strategic advantage,” Cheng has written for PPAI Media.

    • Redwood Classics introduced upcycling programs into its processes in 2014.
    • Vantage received a high mark for Responsibility in the 2024 PPAI 100.
  • 9 Jul 2024 1:22 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    The first major hurricane of the season slammed Texas on Monday, forcing multiple Houston-based suppliers to close for the day.

    • By the time Hurricane Beryl weakened to a tropical storm, more than two million homes and businesses were without power across the state, according to poweroutages.us.
    HIRSCH – the No. 20 supplier in the 2024 PPAI 100 – reopened on Tuesday with all employees safe and accounted for. “No building damage, but with issues city-wide, we may have some delays on specific orders that our team will be in contact with customers about,” says George Morgan, director of marketing at HIRSCH. “But we’re open, taking orders and production is operating.”
    Meanwhile, KTI Promo (PPAI 238818, Silver) remains closed after experiencing a power outage.
    At least seven deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to Beryl, which brought damaging winds and heavy rainfall throughout Monday, The Associated Press reported.
    • The storm is expected to bring heavy rains and possible flash flooding from the lower and mid-Mississippi Valley to the Great Lakes into Wednesday, the National Weather Service reported.
    • A flood watch is in effect for parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.
    Texas placed 121 counties under a disaster declaration ahead of the hurricane’s landfall. Should the state request federal assistance, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has pre-positioned 500,000 meals and 800,000 liters of water in the region and 60 generators on stand-by.

    4EZtees.com / Texas Art Embroidery (PPAI 380229, Silver) also closed its production facility on Monday due to a power outage. Micah Stalarow, business development manager at 4EZtees.com, says partial power has been restored and that the firm plans to be running production by the end of Tuesday.

    “We’re in the process of distributing remote login information to more team members, and we’re also working to provide flexibility for team members to continue to put their homes back together while helping keep business running as normal as possible,” Stalarow says.

    “The one thing I want to share is that the more business we receive, the more it helps us through this challenging time. We hope that the PPAI community at large will take this time to both help us and give us an opportunity to earn more valuable partnerships. I’m available to talk with anyone that would like to.”

    “Our staff is safe, although some still don’t have power at home,” says Shawna Cano, West Coast sales manager at KTI Promo. “Our IT team is working to see if we can get set up to work remotely. However, without power, our processes and responses may be a little slower than usual. We haven’t received an ETA on when the power will be restored but are hoping it will be within the next day or so.”

    Beryl’s Impact

    Josh Pospisil, MAS, vice president of business development at AIA – the No. 18 distributor in the 2024 PPAI 100 – lives in the Houston area and considers himself very lucky that his power was restored Monday evening.

    “My kids and I are very close to our neighbors, so we spent a majority of the day hanging out with them as they have a generator,” Pospisil says. “Once the storm passed, it was all hands-on deck with cleaning up our yard and helping the neighbors with theirs. Although we had power, we didn’t have internet or cell service. I was able to handle just one meeting yesterday morning via my phone, but once that was done, so was my access to everything.

    “My heart and soul go out to all those affected by the storms, that have dealt with the loss of a family member, flooding, downed trees that have hit houses and those that are still without power as this Houston heat rises back up.” 

    With temperatures expected to soar into the 90s and humidity that could make it feel as hot as 105 degrees, a heat advisory is in effect through Wednesday in the Houston area, according to the National Weather Service. The lack of electricity for air conditioning could make for extremely dangerous conditions.

  • 8 Jul 2024 8:18 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Steven Meyer, MAS, national sales manager at Arch Promo Group (PPAI 820951, Silver) – the No. 38 supplier in the 2024 PPAI 100 – is about to embark on a wild adventure.

    Over the next two months, the 25-plus-year veteran of the promotional products industry will be riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR).

    • Stretching approximately 2,700 miles long, it’s considered the grandest unpaved cycling route in North America.
    • The route begins in Banff, Alberta, Canada, and finishes at the U.S.-Mexico border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.
    • If he can average 45 miles a day, Meyer says he’ll complete the ride in about 60 days.

    Building A Better Future

    Meyer’s goal with this journey is to raise awareness and funds for the Promotional Products Education Foundation (PPEF).

    Arch Promo Group has committed to match the first $5,000 of donations, and Meyer hopes another industry leader will step up to match the next $5,000.

    “The challenges and difficulties of this ride don’t really compare to the challenges so many families have in getting financing together for higher education,” Meyer says. “Your generosity and donations help fund dreams for these families, and I believe we all have a stake in that future.”

    You can support Meyer by donating to the PPEF here.

    At both the regional and national level, Meyer has been an active volunteer in the industry for more than 20 years.

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 8 Jul 2024 8:16 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Delta Apparel (PPAI 188431, Gold) – the No. 69 supplier in the 2024 PPAI 100 – is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware.

    The Duluth, Georgia-based supplier reported between 200 and 299 creditors as of June 30.

    • At the beginning of June, the company had $337.8 million in total assets and $244.5 million in labilities according to the filing.
    • Its largest creditor is Park Mills, which is owed more than $22 million from Delta Apparel.

    Tim Pubian, president of Focus Management Group, was named chief restructuring officer in May, after Delta’s board of directors pushed out CEO Robert W. Humphreys amid ongoing financial struggles.

    • Pubian has been given board authorization to enter into a debtor-in-possession agreement with Wells Fargo Bank that would allow him to pledge the company’s assets or allow liens to be placed on its property to secure that agreement, pending court approval.

    FCM Saltwater Holdings has reportedly offered $28 million to buy the Salt Life brand from Delta Apparel, which the supplier is expected to agree to.

    • Salt Life produced a revenue of $59 million for the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2023.
    • Delta hopes that the FCM Saltwater Holdings offer will serve as a stalking horse bid, a term for the initial bid on the assets of a bankrupt company, which sets a minimum price for other potential bidders.

    In June, the company suspended its manufacturing operations in Honduras as it attempted to work through its liquidity challenges.

    “The company’s deteriorating liquidity position and lack of funding has continued to prevent it from purchasing raw materials necessary to operate its offshore manufacturing facilities and to pay compensation and benefits due to offshore employees,” Delta Apparel said in the SEC filing at the time.

    In May, the apparel maker reported that its net sales for the fiscal second quarter were $78.9 million, down nearly 40% from the same period last year.

    Net sales from its retail stores segment – Salt Life Group – were $15.5 million in Q2, down about 22% from Q2 2023.

    In the 2023 fiscal year, which ended September 30, 2023, Delta Apparel reported a loss of $33.2 million.

    Written by: Jonny Auping

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 2 Jul 2024 2:46 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Amy Rabideau, MAS, has joined Hit Promotional Products (PPAI 113910, Platinum), the No. 4 supplier in the 2024 PPAI 100, as the St. Petersburg, Florida-headquartered company’s vice president of product. Previously, the industry veteran and former PPAI Board member served as senior vice president of strategy and innovation at promo industry software platform provider Facilisgroup (PPAI 493664).

    “Amy is a huge addition to our industry-leading technology team,” says Jon Norris, chief strategy officer at Hit. “Her experience as a supplier, distributor and software provider provides a strategic perspective that will help Hit deliver technology solutions for our customers. Hit hiring a vice president of product ensures that we have a well-managed lifecycle and go to market for all our technology solutions.

    “If the industry is in the middle of a technology arms race, Hit just added a new aircraft carrier.”

    The New Role

    As vice president of product, Rabideau’s focus will be on technology and how the supplier goes to market.

    Her new role is part of Hit’s initiative to build its technical proficiency and modernize its infrastructure, according to Raj Mukherjee, chief information officer at Hit.

    “I can’t think of anyone else in the industry who can help me lead this initiative other than Amy,” Mukherjee says. “Amy comes with decades of promotional products experience in leading IT teams and managing the buildout of complex e-commerce products. Her experience will add a new dimension to how Hit does business, especially in the web store/e-commerce space. I’m looking forward to the leadership skills that Amy will bring to the team and am excited for Hit’s future in tech with her addition.”

    Rabideau’s History

    A 26-year veteran of the promotional products industry, Rabideau spent nearly three years at Facilisgroup, joining as product architect before becoming vice president of product and then SVP of strategy and innovation.

    • Previously, she worked as a senior project director for business solutions provider eXtendTech, director of purchasing at Summit Group and regional account executive at Bodek & Rhodes.
    • During her nearly 10-year tenure at Summit, her top priorities were compliance and product responsibility, and she earned several performance awards.
    • At Facilisgroup, Rabideau served as one of the inaugural chairwomen of the emPOWER Steering Committee – emPOWER is an initiative dedicated to empowering women within the Facilisgroup community and amplifying their influence in the promo industry.

    She broke into the industry at Starline, the No. 15 supplier in the PPAI 100, where she spent a decade as regional vice president of sales.

    Devoted Volunteer

    Rabideau, who currently serves as vice chair at PromoStandards, has a penchant for giving back to the industry.

    Among her volunteer efforts, she was a member of the Professional Development Committee, Market Research Committee and Regional Association Council (RAC) board.

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 1 Jul 2024 3:53 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Next Level Apparel (272027, Standard Plus) has shaken up its leadership team following the departure of former CEO Randy Hales in 2023.

    • Joe Simsolo, who founded the California-based company in 2003, has officially returned  to the role of CEO in after holding it on an interim basis since last August.
    • Additionally, his son, Eric, has been promoted to company president after previously serving as vice president of business development.
    • The father/son leadership team was selected by the Next Level Apparel’s board.

    Prior to his return to the CEO role in 2023, Joe had stepped away from the company’s day-to-day operations while remaining on the board. Eric has been with Next Level in an official capacity for over nine years.

    “We have brought together a strong team and added gifted leaders,” says Eric. “We are positive in the value we can offer to distributors and are keen to demonstrate that.”

    Part Of A Larger Restructuring

    Appointing the Simsolos to the top of the company’s leadership is the headline among a number of recent leadership changes in Next Level’s corporate structure in 2024.

    • In April, the supplier hired Brett Bjorkman as chief operating officer.

    Bjorkman previously served as senior vice president of Augusta Sportswear Brands for three years and has navigated sourcing and operations in leadership positions for Hurley and Billabong.

    • In March, Michael Niemann was hired to the role of senior director of product.

    Niemann has held various leadership roles with apparel companies including six years as director of apparel at Quicksilver.

    Turning Things Around

    In the years since the pandemic struck, Next Level Apparel has seen sales decline. With a nearly complete overhauling of leadership in 2024, Eric says that strategic plans are in place to begin showing signs of growth. Key focuses going forward will include:

    • Core groupings and product lines
    • Aggressive pricing at guaranteed rates
    • Emphasis on product quality and customer service.
    • Improved marketing campaigns

    “We plan to innovate while building on a sturdy foundation,” Eric says. “With high-quality products, best inventory levels, aggressive pricing and successful marketing and sales strategies, we are positive in our business prospects.”

    Written by: Jonny Auping

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 1 Jul 2024 3:50 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Crystal D (PPAI 112326, Gold) – the No. 88 supplier in the 2024 PPAI 100 – has promoted Kyle Nordby to operations director and hired Todd Hambrecht as vice president of strategic accounts.

    Nordby’s Background

    As operations director, Nordby is now responsible for overseeing all components of the St. Paul, Minnesota-based firm’s day-to-day operations.

    Nordby joined Crystal D in 2013 as a temporary hire for a production artist job. He was hired permanently three months later in large part due to his experience with 3D modeling, a key graphic design skill that helped the company meet the ever-increasing demand for 3D imprint orders.

    • When Crystal D invested in 3D subsurface etching technology, Nordby helped set the standard for the new process and positioned the 3D subsurface department for exponential growth, the company says.
    • His leadership expanded further when he took on management of the production department.

    “We’re excited to bring Kyle into this leadership role,” says Mike Irvine, executive vice president and COO at Crystal D. “He possesses a rare combination of creativity and strategy and is naturally drawn to continuous improvement. He’s a perfect fit for this position.”

    Hambrecht’s Background

    Hambrecht brings 20 years of experience in the IT and packaging production industries, having previously worked for Green Bay Packaging, CenturyLink and Intuitive Technology Group, among other firms.   

    • At Crystal D, he’ll be responsible for establishing and nurturing relationships with key individuals in the awards industry, as well as managing strategic accounts.

    Bridget Dahlgren, executive vice president of marketing and sales at Crystal D, says the company is delighted to welcome Hambrecht, “as he helps round out Crystal D’s sales leadership team and will be a driving force behind the company’s business plan and vision.”

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 1 Jul 2024 3:47 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Koozie Group (PPAI 114187, Platinum) – named the No. 9 supplier in the 2024 PPAI 100 – has sold its real estate properties in Pinellas County, Florida.

    The sale supports the Clearwater, Florida-headquartered company’s investment in its capabilities and future, according to Koozie Group CEO Pierre Montaubin.

    “This is an exciting moment for us where we had the opportunity to sell and lease back our Florida properties to a trusted real estate partner so we can reinvest in our business,” Montaubin says.

    RELATED: ‘Pen-fluencer’ Tours Koozie Group Facility After Viral Promo Pen Post

    Among the properties sold for a combined $35.9 million are two light manufacturing facilities in Largo and a facility designated for heavy industrial usage in St. Petersburg, Tampa Bay Business Journal reported.

    • Boca Raton, Florida-based IP Capital Partners bought the properties on June 20, taking out a $21.45 million mortgage, according to Pinellas County property records.

    Building On Success

    Montaubin emphasized that the transaction will be “completely seamless” for customers and will have “no impact” on employees in Florida.

    “Koozie Group is enjoying great momentum after significant investments in technology, services and product and decoration innovation over the last 18 months, which have resulted in renewed interest in our offerings from customers, as well as attractive growth prospects for the future,” Montaubin says.

    “This real estate sale and entry into a long-term lease agreement with IP Capital Partners builds on this success and fits our strategic plan to continue investing in our business and service delivery to create an even better experience for our distributor partners. As most companies do, we let real estate people do real estate so we can focus on our core business.”

    Written by: John Corrigan

    Published with Permission from PPAI

  • 1 Jul 2024 3:42 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    At first, the doctor did not think a colonoscopy was necessary for Chris Anderson, CEO of HPG and current member of the PPAI Board of Directors.

    That’s an important place to start. It was Anderson, after other test results were inconclusive, who suggested that he receive a colonoscopy –as he had been experiencing a prolonged uptick in fatigue. This procedure is what led to his colon cancer diagnosis.

    Anderson recently shared his story with PPAI Media in order to spread awareness of the importance of regular cancer screenings such as colonoscopies.

    “As much as a platform as I have or as we have at PPAI – my goal is to educate people to get their colonoscopies,” Anderson says. “Mine absolutely saved my life.”

    • Current guidelines suggest that individuals receive their first colonoscopy by the age of 45 and subsequent ones should be scheduled at least every 10 years, according to the MD Anderson Cancer Center.
    • However, pre-existing conditions or health scenarios could justify receiving one sooner and more frequently. Discussing the reasons for being proactive about a colonoscopy with your primary doctor can help educate you on the subject.

    “I Heard The C-Word, And It Stopped Me In My Tracks”

    Early in 2024, Anderson noticed his general energy levels were starting to wane, leaving him feeling uncharacteristically tired. The CEO of PPAI 100’s No. 6 supplier has always been known to be one of the higher energy people in the room, so it was a somewhat jarring development for Anderson.

    He had received a colonoscopy when he was 40, so his doctor reminded him that, at 47, he wasn’t technically due to get one for another three years but responded that it couldn’t hurt upon Anderson’s suggestion.

    The colonoscopy was scheduled for a few weeks later and Anderson was soon informed that a few polyps and one tumor had been discovered but he was quickly assured that there was a 99% chance they were benign. He was back at his office later that day.

    A week later, on a late Friday afternoon, he received a call from an unknown number.  

    He was sitting at his desk, and while the doctor ambled through the medical jargon, Anderson remembers multi-tasking, trying to respond to a few emails until the other end of the phone made a concrete point.

    “Then I heard the C-word – cancer – and it caused me to stop in my tracks, and it was almost one of those needle scratch moments,” Anderson recalls.

    They had found was a variant of cancer called a neuroendocrine tumor.

    • According to the Cleveland Clinic, about 5 in 100,000 people are affected by neuroendocrine tumors.
    • On average, 77% of people diagnosed are alive five years after their diagnosis.

    Anderson, who flies airplanes in his free time, coincidentally had an Angel Flight mission scheduled to fly a cancer patient from a remote corner of Montana to the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, where Anderson is based.

    “Little did I know that I would be a patient at that same cancer center in less than a week,” Anderson says.

    Surgery was a necessity.

    Source: Cancer.org

    “A Spectrum Of Outcomes”

    Anderson initially told no one of the developments beyond those in the innermost circle of his personal life and HPG. The surgery was scheduled for April 17.

    “It was understood that there was a spectrum of outcomes, and the best possible outcome was it would be minimally invasive, and they would be able to remove all the cancer.”

    The other end of that spectrum would be a difficult surgery that still potentially required radiation or chemotherapy to address a potential spread.

    Fortunately for Anderson,  it has turned out to be the best-case outcome. A successful surgery resulted in the removal of all the cancer from his body (follow-ups will still be required to monitor his health). Barely two months after the surgery, Anderson sat in his office for this interview, cancer free and cleared to travel.  He is even allowed to fly airplanes again (and is excited to fly his next weekend Angel Flight mission –which will be particularly meaningful).

    The cancer had been caught before it could spread. If Anderson had waited three years, until he was technically due for a colonoscopy, the likely outcomes would have been considerably more harrowing. The experience has made him something of an advocate for the procedure.

    “I’m ready to shout it from the rooftops and share my story,” Anderson says. “Hopefully if it reaches even just one person who is teetering on whether or not to get a colonoscopy, they go and get it.”

    Written by: Jonny Auping

    Published with Permission from PPAI

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