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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.