Helping You Navigate the Global Supply Chain Effects

Photo by Barrett Ward on Unsplash

In recent months, we’ve heard several pervading questions from our clients…

1. Who is to blame for production delays?

A recent surge in order volume is creating fresh challenges for suppliers after a year of intense disruption. Across the U.S., employers are currently challenged to find qualified workers who are able, and willing, to fill open positions. The lack of candidates, plus unexpected closures when COVID outbreaks occur, combine to create unpredictable production schedules.

We can help by recommending reliable alternatives to meet your deadline.

2. What is the reason for recent price increases?

There are four major factors affecting the current price of promotional products. The cost of shipping goods across the ocean has increased by 293% year-over-year. In the apparel sector, the cost of cotton has increased 31% and polyester has increased 29%. The U.S. dollar has weakened against many global currencies, and there is no way of knowing when previous tariff exemptions might be renewed.

We can help by utilizing our suppliers offering USA-made products, as well as those with deep inventory purchased before costs were affected.

3. Why is inventory disappearing?

There are unprecedented delays within shipping ports, which are affecting manufacturing on a large scale. The problem goes deeper than just a shortage of ready-made products: world-wide makers of everything from buckles and bottles to semi-conductor chips and cardboard boxes have containers waiting to be unloaded into clogged California ports. In many cases, the supplier has the product but they might be waiting on the parts to finish or package it. These factors compound problems for suppliers already bogged down with pandemic-related challenges.

We can help by accessing real-time inventory data and advising you on products we know are in-stock today.

4. When will everything return to normal?

While “normal” is a debatable term these days, experts anticipate the supply chain will begin to see some relief in June of 2021; however, the trickle-down is likely to last for some time. You can feel secure, knowing our associations and elite supplier partnerships provide us with up-to-date reports on the industry.

We’re your full-time branding partner and ready to steer your project to completion!

Specialty Incentives’ President Quoted on Vaccine Policy

With the numbers of vaccinated individuals climbing, an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, and a return to business as normal, may be at hand. These welcome developments have many companies, including those in the promotional products industry, mapping out how best to return to the office and what role, if any, vaccines will play in these decisions.

Working in the office is optional at some industry companies and for those employees who do come in, procedures and practices are in place to allow for social distancing and other safety measures. Drew Davis, MAS, president and owner of distributor Specialty Incentives in Denver, Colorado, says, “For several months now we have been following a schedule where salespeople are assigned specific days of the week where they can come into the office. We specifically looked at office locations within our space and divided days up so that there would be minimal headcount and physical space between those who might come on their specified days. We have relocated some workspaces within the building as well to ensure distance between people while working. People are not required to come into the office on their assigned days, but with our schedule, it establishes consistency and confidence of a safe work environment.”

Regarding vaccinations, Davis, adds, “We feel Colorado has done a very good job of communicating and executing its vaccine plan. I have confidence in our team to make the best vaccination decision for their individual well-being. Due to the continued uncertainty of whether an employer can require vaccination it is not yet something Specialty Incentives has made a decision on.”

Claudia St. John, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, president of Affinity HR Group, Inc., PPAI’s affiliated human resources partner, notes that should businesses decide to mandate that employees get vaccinated for COVID-19, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ruled that it is within their right to do so. In December 2020, it issued guidance stating clearly that a COVID vaccine, administered by an employer or by a third-party administrator on behalf of an employer, is not a medical examination and is permissible. While the EEOC has deemed such a requirement permissible, it stated that employers should have a well-articulated business reason for requiring the vaccine, such as the need to protect the health of employees or clients, or the need to travel, work with vulnerable populations, or work in close quarters with others.

The EEOC also cautioned that employers must provide “reasonable accommodation” to employees who either are unable to receive a vaccine due to a medical condition or due to a “sincerely held religious belief.” A reasonable accommodation may include allowing an employee to work from home, isolate from other workers or significantly adjust work duties to provide protections from the general employee population. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers must allow reasonable accommodations such as these as long as providing the accommodation doesn’t cause “undue hardship” for the employer.

“Our advice for employers is to take steps toward encouraging vaccines before they decide to mandate them,” says St. John. “For a number of reasons, employees may be reluctant to get a vaccine—either because of legitimate health concerns or religious beliefs, or because of personal beliefs, privacy issues and/or political concerns. While mandating the vaccine may be ultimately appropriate, we advise employers to encourage vaccines as a first step.”

St. John suggests that business leaders can encourage vaccinations as part of a larger workplace wellness campaign, supported by goals and challenges and positive incentives; provide educational campaigns for employees to address their concerns, including inviting a medical professional to address employees’ confidential health concerns; give employees time off with pay to obtain the vaccine and, if necessary, to convalesce from the inoculation, and also to lead by example by taking the first vaccine and celebrating the first step toward beating the pandemic.

Courtesy of PPAI Media

Hanes Talks Cotton

Hanes printwear has launched a U.S.‐grown cotton initiative to raise awareness among printers and promotional products distributors of its importance to sustainability, apparel quality and jobs. As part of the launch, the printwear group also announced that its iconic Hanes Beefy‐T is now being manufactured from 100-percent U.S.‐grown cotton.

“Sustainability and responsible sourcing are important considerations for customers today,” says Michael Johnson, director of marketing for Hanes activewear. “We want printers and promotional products distributors to know they can trust what they are buying from Hanes, and we want them to be able to talk confidently about sustainability with their customers. We know it matters.”

Hanes notes that during the past four decades, U.S. farmers have utilized technology and other advancements to make significant strides in growing sustainable cotton crops. According to the National Cotton Council of America, this includes reducing the amount of land needed to produce cotton yields by almost 50 percent, diminishing soil erosion by 35 percent, decreasing water use by more than 50 percent, cutting energy use by more than 50 percent and lowering greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent.

Additionally, U.S. cotton production is regulated as a food crop because cottonseed is used in both human food products, such as cottonseed oil, and animal feed. And jobs in the country’s cotton industry are subject to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.

“It’s a matter of visibility and trust to us,” says Chris Fox, chief sustainability officer for HanesBrands. “For decades, the U.S. cotton industry has supported our sustainability objectives, which is why we use U.S.‐grown cotton for most of the apparel we sell in our printwear channel. And because we own the majority of our manufacturing operations, our processes are tightly controlled and we have far closer oversight over the raw materials used to manufacture our apparel. We know where our U.S. cotton is sourced, spun and sewn—unique in our industry.”

Ask your sales associate to see samples of the famously reliable Beefy-T.

-courtesy of PPAI Media

Feeling Blue?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of Americans are suffering from “screen fatigue” due to prolonged use of digital devices emitting Blue Light. Are you and your team part of that growing number?

WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT?
Natural Blue Light from the sun is all around us and it helps regulate our sleep cycles, keeps us alert and elevates our mood. Artificial Blue Light is found in computers, flat screen televisions, LED lights and energy-efficient light bulbs. Blue Light has a shorter wave length and higher energy, which is more difficult for our eyes to process. In higher doses it can cause blurred vision, dry eye, headaches and restlessness.

DO BLUE LIGHT GLASSES REALLY WORK?
Yes! Special lenses filter 20% – 50% of Blue Light, reducing overexposure and minimizing symptoms.

Open your eyes to a safer way of working. Protect your team with branded Blue Light glasses, shipped directly to their door!

Sources: Eyebobs, Lens Crafters, Photo by Curtis Potvin on Unsplash

Trick? or Treat?

Kids have had enough tricks in 2020 to last a lifetime. It’s high time we deliver the treats! If you’re one of the 63% of Americans who plan to give out candy this year, here are some safe solutions for keeping the fun safe during the pandemic.

Socially distanced Skull Slide? Genius!

courtesy of WickedMakers

Take a tip from Willy Wonka and ‘Candy Stick’ your lawn.

courtesy of Wendy Reeves Winter on Good Morning America

Try not to wake the dead in this delicious graveyard.

courtesy of Oriental Trading Co.