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ASI Chicago 2021 Trends and Takeaways

This past week, the Sock Club team was thrilled to be able to participate in ASI Chicago 2021, which was our first big trade show after quarantine. Sure, we all missed traveling, and Chicago is one of our favorite places, but the most exciting part was getting to connect with new clients, and reconnect with our current clients. 

Since we didn’t see every single one of our clients at the booth (but please, bring it on!), we wanted to send a short recap of the trends that we saw at the show.


Events are Back!

When we got our first “ship to hotel for an event” order in 2021, the whole team gasped with excitement. Are events coming back?

The feedback that we received from our clients is YES! People are ready to travel again and ready to spend time connecting in person again. 

A trend that we have noticed with events coming back, and something that we have experienced first-hand, is that people are also hesitant to spend on promo items for the trade show until they are 100% sure that the event is going to happen. 

In those situations, we are thrilled that we are able to help because of our short lead time. Whether your client is looking for a more cost-effective item like our Hand Sanitizer (turn time: 2 days), or a real traffic-driver like our Custom Socks (turn time: 5 days), we are able to help in those moments where it seems like it will be impossible to make something cool happen for your client. And remember, we offer rush orders with no fees!

ASI Chicago Is Back


Kitting and Fulfillment

While in-person events are becoming more prevalent, some companies and organizations are still planning virtual events.

Most offices are still operating remotely or on some sort of hybrid work schedule. And, as the post-Covid resignation boom heats up, employers are looking for a way to keep their employees engaged and happy, even from afar. Google Trends even indicates that “employee appreciation” searches are at an all-time high in 2021.

The combination of all of these factors means that kitting and fulfillment is here to stay (at least through the end of Q4), with Employee Appreciation Kits being the most popular item.

A lot of our clients have also been burned by complicated kitting projects over the past year, or have been impacted by the cardboard shortage in creating custom gift/mailer boxes.

Since we started as a sock subscription service, kitting and fulfillment is something that we have always done. We’ve had 9 years to iron out the kinks at this point, and there are some lessons that you can only learn the hard way, unfortunately!

Coffee - Single-serve coffee container


Simplifying Sourcing

Supply chain disruption has, unfortunately, been a theme of the past year. And, with the landscape of the promo industry changing so rapidly, a lot of our distributor partners are looking to simplify their sourcing process to make it possible for the Sales team to spend their time selling instead of looking for products.

For most people that we talked to, this looks like finding a reliable vendor who delivers on time and is able to meet the broad needs of their teams.

It also means finding that supplier that can be your go-to expert, one that works as hard for your clients as you do.

We at Sock Club would love to be your partner for all things socks (and other items – see below!). We have the quick turns covered with our Made in USA products, and the lower price points covered with our overseas options. We also HATE saying no, and with no hidden fees, we really do our best to help you pull off the impossible, no matter what the circumstances.


Trying New Things

2019 was a very good year for the promo industry. Businesses were buzzing and consistently growing, and the promo industry was right along with it.

Over the past year, distributors and suppliers alike have had to get really creative about providing clients with creative solutions for their needs. While there were certainly some late nights and some “learning opportunities” (to use a euphemism), this flex of our collective creative muscles reminded us how fun it can be to stretch further than you thought you could, and how much opportunity there still is on the table.

To this end, Sock Club has added a lot of non-sock items to our line. From Branded Coffee Bags to Slippies, we are rounding out our product line to make it super easy to have a one-stop shop for high quality, quick turn, low minimum products at a variety of price points.

New Items for 2021


Marketing Your Business

Lately, we have noticed a lot of our distributor partners coming to us with needs for client-friendly marketing material to help them promote our products on social media and through their email marketing programs.

This has been a really exciting one for us as a team, because it feels like we are building growth together. Learning more about what needs our distributor partners are not getting met has opened our eyes to the types of creative and collateral that we need to be focused on creating.

In the upcoming months, to this end, you will see a change to our email marketing program. With each marketing email update, we will be sending a client-friendly flyer that you can personalize with your own logo and contact information. Don’t see what you need? Reach out to your Account Manager to get what you need!


In Conclusion

Overall, our biggest takeaway from this experience is that we are lucky to be in an industry of creative people who love what they do, and are excited by the challenge that the next few months will bring.

2020 was a tough year, but we are all looking forward to coming back stronger than ever.

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Custom Swag

How will COVID-19 affect product sourcing in Q4 2020?

The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected every aspect of our daily lives. We are physically removed from our friends and family, unemployment rates are surging worldwide, and we are having to reconsider our safety in every activity for disease control and prevention. 

Most of our reconsideration involves minimizing risk – what is the safest way to get groceries, to go outside, to see our families? That focus does not stop at our personal lives, however. We are also focusing on minimizing risk within our businesses and global supply chain.

Any order in the promotional products industry requires at least two things to happen successfully: product sourcing/manufacturing, and delivery. Q1 2020 saw significant disruptions in both of those areas. How can we avoid those supply chain disruptions in the third and fourth quarter? Should we be looking out for the same obstacles?

 

Product Sourcing and Manufacturing

The first indicator that the promotional products industry was going to experience some rapid change was when the Chinese New Year shutdown extended far past its expected end date. We saw an influx of orders looking for quick-turn domestically-produced products to meet clients’ deadlines that were non-negotiable.

One thing that we at Sock Club are trying to learn from this experience is what could be indicators of future obstacles. Based on our current knowledge of of the situation, we have identified three main indicators to watch out for:

Another outbreak in the Fall.

The pandemic has definitely had more success in being controlled in the rest of the world than in the United States, but this is due to closures rather than a cure.

If reopenings in the United States are showing us anything, it is that more activity can make new case numbers skyrocket.

Without a vaccine or a control mechanism that is not based on physical distance, we could easily see a situation in Q3/Q4 that is very similar to the rise in cases worldwide in Q1/Q2.

 

Policy changes and pressures due to the upcoming 2020 US election.

No matter where your political leanings lie, we can all agree that this upcoming election is going to be a contentious one.

Biden and the Democratic candidates for Congressional elections will likely try to differentiate themselves by proposing corporate tax hikes. This could have an impact on the amount of budget that companies have to spend on promotional products, marketing campaigns, and expanding teams.

 

An escalation of the US/China trade war.

Last Fall, we saw a steep increase in tariffs on Chinese products that affected almost every promotional product possible. While those tariff increases were eventually repealed, the impact on Q4 orders was significant.

Even if cases do not rise again in China, if there is a restriction on items being imported into the United States, we could see those same issues arise again. Price fluctuations are the fastest way to lose a client’s trust and confidence and can be a budget-buster.

 

Shipping and Delivery

One of the ramifications of the pandemic that is ever-present in the promotional products industry and also felt acutely by people personally is delays in shipping. When even distribution giant Amazon stops guaranteeing the 2-day delivery that is their main differentiator, it is safe to assume that this is a problem with no easy solution.

Deadlines, however, still exist. There are certain dates that need to be met for marketing and sales initiatives, and it is our responsibility to make sure that happens. What kind of disruptions should you plan for in your delivery timeline?

Hub delays due to high volume.

With many areas of the country still under shelter-at-home orders, most people are ordering more online than they ever have. This high volume could be expected at holiday peak times, but, with more restrictions on shipping companies to provide safe working environments for their employees, things are simply moving more slowly.

One Oakland UPS hub saw delays of up to two weeks between a package arriving at their facility and being put on a truck for delivery. Potential delays can be identified by calling a destination and getting a timeline, but that does not solve the problem that the delay exists.

 

United States Postal Service funding issues.

Even with the influx of parcels in 2020, the USPS is facing some severe financial problems. The organization requested a $75 billion bailout in the Fall of 2019, and operational costs have increased in 2020 due to the increased measures for workplace safety.

This situation is still very much unfolding, but this could lead to even more complications in the Fall of 2020 as we get closer to the US election.

 

Unexpected office/facility closures.

With shelter-at-home orders being implemented so quickly in the US in March, many companies did not have time to think about the shipments that were still being directed to their offices.

That led to a lot of shipments being missed or sent back due to delivery drivers not being able to drop a package off to a closed location.

One thing that we at Sock Club implemented to avoid this is to double-confirm the shipping address 2 days before the order is scheduled to ship.

 

Increased shipping prices on imports due to lockdowns.

This obstacle goes hand-in-hand with a potential second wave of the virus. While tariff rates normalized in Q1 of 2020 from the spike in 2019, shipping rates skyrocketed due to the limited amount of space on cargo flights as the US and China shut down.

This is another area of unexpected cost increase that could bust your budget or lose the trust of your customers.

 

Potential Solutions or Work-Arounds

It is important to be aware of the potential obstacles that lie in front of us, but it is even more important to be armed with the knowledge to meet those obstacles head-on and eliminate them. Here are some tips on avoiding the issues stated above:

Order early.

This may be easier said than done, but if your team or client is presented with the potential pitfalls of waiting to make a decision, they might be more incentivized to approve and order more quickly. 

Not only does this budget time for seemingly inevitable shipping delays, but it also is a great way to avoid potential price increases due to supply chain threats in the Fall.



Pro tip:
Want to place an order early but don’t have a place to store it? Order from a promotional products supplier that will store your order for you! Sock Club provides that service for a small fee – just ask your Account Manager for details.


Buy USA-made products.

The biggest reason that people purchase promotional products overseas is price. Branded items made in China do cost significantly less if shipping costs and tariffs are at a normal level. 

However, a sudden policy or public health change could easily change that. Buying a USA-made product ensures that those costs will be predictable and stable, and allow for more confidence in buying.



Pro tip:
Justify your increased cost to your client or team by pointing out the security that your order offers, as well as contributing to the stabilization of the economy by keeping American workers employed!


Think outside the box.

If there is a hub delay, can you hire a courier to pick up an order for you? If you are placing a large enough order from a supplier that does not offer storage, can you rent a storage unit to make sure that your order is accessible on its delivery deadline? 

If you can’t get a project approved without hitting a certain price point, can you suggest a different item that you can source domestically to fit the budget? Can big Q4 orders that might be event-based turn into individual shipments for virtual events? 

Creativity and being solution-focused are the keys to not only surviving during this time, but thriving.

 


 

In short, we have seen all of these issues before, just not at this scale. We are all equipped to navigate them, it just takes a little more planning and foresight. At Sock Club, we are your partners, and it is paramount that we get through this together!

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Custom Swag

Design Custom Socks for Sports Uniforms ?

Custom knit socks are a great way to unify a sports team. From major professional football teams to recreational kickball leagues, Sock Club has the perfect option for your project.

Soccer game

ATHLETIC SOCK OPTIONS FOR ALL SPORTS

Nylon Crew Socks

Our custom nylon crew socks are perfect for a sports team looking to create a branded head-to-toe uniform. They are endlessly customizable with features like breathable mesh, compression around the foot, and cushion on the footbed. The length of the cuff is shorter than our typical cotton crew, which gives our nylon socks a more streamlined style. Because this nylon sock provides a snug fit without ribbing, logos knit cleanly into the calf of the sock.

Nylon Ankle Sock

Our custom nylon ankle socks have the same optional features of our nylon crew socks but in a shorter, no-show style. This style is popular for sports like running or weightlifting where a shorter sock is often worn.

Cotton Athletic Sock

Our custom cotton athletic sock has been gaining popularity since we began to offer it as an option for a more casual athletic sock. It is customizable with features like ribbing on the calf and a shorter cuff than our standard cotton crew sock. Our cotton athletic sock is closest to what most recreational athletes use on a daily basis for physical activities like going to the gym or playing basketball with friends.

 

WAYS TO USE ATHLETIC SOCKS

Official Uniform Gear

Custom socks for official athletic teams are an easy way to visually unify a group. When teams don’t have personalized socks, their mismatched outfits stand out in photos and make the players look less professional. Socks are a one-size-fits-most product, so it’s easy to order one run of custom socks and make sure that your team looks polished!

Branded Event Merchandise

Custom socks are a great way to promote marathons, cycling races, CrossFit meets and many other kinds of athletic events! Often, marathons we’ve had as clients include socks as an item runners get when they check-in before a race. This is a great way to get people excited about the event. Custom socks also act as collector’s items for people who return to annual athletic events and want to collect socks to train year-round.

Because of Sock Club’s fast turnaround time, we can often meet deadlines even if you’ve got a late start on planning your event merchandise.

College Sports Teams

Often, colleges have limited budgets for merchandise. This means that custom products made for the sports programs at the school need to apply to multiple sports. Socks can be branded with the school’s colors, shield or mascot and worn by student-athletes across different sporting programs. Unlike sport-specific items, socks are an item that can be used by every athlete in a college setting.

Children’s Teams

Custom socks for children’s sports teams are a fun item they can use year-round. Socks are an inexpensive, unisex, one-size-fits-most product, which makes ordering for a group quick and easy. No need to collect sizing information from team members’ parents!

Gym Merchandise

Gyms and workout centers often have a space of their entryway designated as shops to sell branded merchandise and fitness essentials. Custom socks are a fantastic fit for gym shops because they are an item people coming into workout often realize they have left at home. Branding these essential items is an easy way to keep customers representing your gym while they are working out or are around town running errands.

Check out some of the custom sports socks designed by Sock Club!

Example of custom socks for sports

 

Categories
Custom Swag

Five unexpected ways to use custom socks

Custom socks are unique and fun gifts for so many occasions. No need to worry about what to get your wedding party or how to raise money for your kid’s sports program. We’ve got the answer. Here are five unexpected ways to spread custom sock love. 

1. Prizes Whether it’s at a school function or a kickball tournament, people LOVE a good prize. They inspire excitement, competition, and participation. Quality custom socks make an enticing prize because they are unique and super comfy-cozy. Prizes ranked number one out of our five because prizes are universal and work for all industries and companies.

 

2. Wedding Goodies Coming up with thoughtful and personal gifts for your guests can be daunting. Many gifts don’t create for a lasting memory like candy or bubbles. Beautifully designed socks celebrating the happy couple make for a lovely and lasting display of gratitude. Your guests will be wearing them for years to come.

 

3. Family Reunions For the next family reunion, ditch the kitchen t-shirts your Aunt Betty INSISTS on making every year and suggest something classy and new – socks customized just for your fam! They’ll be so cozy and cute, even your auntie will be on board.

 

4. Auctions Silent auctions are a great way to raise money and achieve a financial goal, but it can be tough curating items that people actually want to bid on. Custom socks or even a monthly sock subscription is something that keeps giving more than a fruit basket or fly fishing lesson. What’s more, they’re a cost-effective item which is important when you’re trying to reach a financial goal.

Tom Hanks giphy

5. Thank you gifts People who give so much to others make the world go round! They deserve to feel the karma of a thoughtful, thank you gift. Giving the gift of beautifully-designed custom socks can make for a great way to give back because they show true care and gratitude. Don’t forget to say please and thank you.

These are just five uses for custom socks. Our team is ready to help you brainstorm more ideas and ways your personal and professional life can use custom socks.

Explore our past designs!

Categories
Custom Swag

Why custom socks make the best volunteer gifts?️

Finding the right volunteer gifts can be rough. What’s thoughtful and not going to be thrown away after a week? Here’s why you should give custom socks out to your next round of fearless volunteers. 

You have creative control The beauty of custom socks is that the design options are endless. If you want the skyline of Chicago, your personal sock designer can make that happen. Maybe your organization wants to celebrate an MVP volunteer or multiple volunteers. Go ahead and slap their face on a pair. Designs can range from classy, business profesh all the way to Lisa Frank-Esque rainbow socks. No need to box yourself in because the customization options are endless!

…or not

Here’s the thing, some of us are not so creatively-inclined and find the design process overwhelming and that’s ok. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to. A professional sock designer is assigned to you, once you fill out the form. They spend their working hours coming up with four different sock design options for you to choose from. You can ask for revisions or not. It’s totally up to you and your needs.

You can even customize the packaging

Being thoughtful is an art form and the devil is in the details. Custom packaging allows you to put together an entire experience around special gifts. From adding a special note to volunteers to designing a custom box, up the hospitality by creating a whole gift-giving experience with thoughtful wrapping and packaging.

Your wallet will love you

money dance giphy

Are you ready to elevate your volunteer swag?

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