the corporate awards market tends to show some ups and downs, depending
on the current state of the economy, it does continue to remain a strong
force in the recognition industry. The recent turnaround of the economy
has helped this market, and many major award suppliers have introduced
new products to their corporate award line.
Creation Corp., Garden Grove, CA, specializes in one-of-a-kind, high-end
optic crystal awards. Whats really unique is that all of the companys
awards are individually handcrafted in their facility in Korea and feature
sculptured images of eagles, stars, globes, flames, etc. The companys
golf series features a variety of interesting and unique awards, including
a very modern, new age sculpture of a golfer available in
either crystal or bronze, and crystal golf ball trophies.
Both of these products look more likeworks of art as opposed
to traditional awards. CIP Creation also has a personal gift line that
includes desk accessories such as crystal bookends and crystal paperweights
in the shape of a computer mouse and a cube.
finish award products continue to be strong sellers in the corporate awards
market, so manufacturers like JDS Industries have responded by beefing
up their lines in this area. In the corporate section, the hottest
thing really is piano finish products, says JDS Scott Sletten.
Mostly plaques and plaque-related items, but piano finish products
are probably the hottest new products in the corporate side.
materials combined with new technology make for interesting new award
product lines. According to Bob DAndrade, AT Designs, Toronto, Ontario,
Canada, Pewter is still very popular with us, but now we offer something
a little different. Weve recently introduced a photo etch
process where the customer can reproduce historic photos, portraits, landscapes.
. . in fine photographic detail on most of our products. True-to-life
detail is reproduced in fine, lead-free pewter, a definite collectors
Clancy says that Gravograph-New Hermes, Duluth, GA, is now carrying a
line of Prism paperweight awards that have a mirrored base
which reflects into the lines and accents of the award body. These awards
are popular because they add a touch of elegant green, blue or black color,
making for a very unique item, something that Clancy says she sees as
a current award-buying trend. Unique-shaped awards are very popular,
like our Octagon and Prism awards, she says.
E. Ilaria of Tropar Manufacturing Company, Inc., Florham Park, NJ, feels
that piano finished hardwoods are still the hot item for the corporate
recognition market. Ilaria revealed, "With the market so saturated
with Red Piano wood, and in order to provide something new and different,
we decided to take something old and make it new. In October, we introduced
half a dozen new styles of corporate awards with a walnut stained piano
finish. These products were designed to appeal to the mid-range corporate
buyer, like local car dealerships or hotel franchises." Tropar has
done very well with this new color and is very happy with its acceptance
into the marketplace.
Shih from Topmost Designs Inc., Montclair, CA, says that they will be
focusing on adding to their golf-theme awards during the upcoming year.
One example is a half golf ball attached to a crystal block with plenty
of engraving area. Like Clancy, Shih feels that unique designs are the
key to success. Traditional awards still have stable needs,
she explains. But non-traditional awards with specific themes or
functions are often preferred. For example, if end users look for golf
awards, awards with golf designs would catch more interest than plain
traditional trophy cups or awards. But the designs must be unique.
Shih says that its important to continually offer new merchandise
to keep these types of customers coming back. End users are tired
of traditional trophies or awards. Since the award-giving events may continue
year by year, they like unique designs for each year, she says.
Its A Tradition
course, traditional awards still have their place in the industry and
many customers actively seek out these types of awards whether it be for
budget reasons or the sake of tradition itself. Traditional,
however, does not have to mean the same and, realizing this;
many suppliers are adding new products and twists to their traditional
far as tradition goes, I guess Id have to say that many sports teams
are a little tired of the standard trophy with pedestal, says ATs
Bob DAndrade. Theyre always looking for something new,
which, for many years now, has driven them towards our custom medals and
plaques. The thinking is that they would prefer to hand out something
unique, created specifically for their team or organization, right from
scratch, not just personalized with a small nameplate.
Scott Sletten says that resin figures, i.e. one-piece trophies that are
pre-formed with a base, remain very popular partially because all you
need to do is add an engraved plate. No other assembly is required; resins
are also new and unique items. JDS offers resin figures for every type
of sport. That has been very, very popular for the last two to three
years, he says, adding that they keep this product line fresh by
introducing new versions, whether it is by adding color (JDS has an orange
basketball resin figure) or new themes. Last year, a big thing that
several companies did was bobbleheads. Those were all made out of resin,
too. So resins continue to be real hot in the awards section, he
says that JDS is also adding to just about every other award category
in their product line for 2004. Weve got a lot of new products
coming out this year, but they are really spread out. Some are in the
acrylic area; some are in the glass area. Weve got a wide variety
of products that we carry, he says. One of the biggest things
youre going to see coming from JDS this year is color. Were
doing a lot of products in color. We have some new resins coming out that
have more colors worked into them. We have a lot of new plastic parts
that are going to be full color, like figures, risers and trim. Weve
also got some new plastic tubing coming out for trophy columns. Were
using a new technology for the first time that allows us to do full-color
prints on trophy columns.
in the corporate award market, we found that packaging is very important,"
says Tropars Peter E. Ilaria. "We introduced a piano finish
base accented with gold metal accents and an acrylic upright. It comes
with a finished gift box. Five new shapes have been added to this line
including Zenith, Flame, Diamond, Pyramid and Apex.
terms of sublimatable award products, Condé Systems, Mobile, AL,
continues to beef up their product line, in part through their partnership
with Universal Woods. When baseball season came along, I said we
really need a baseball home-plate shaped plaque, explains David
Gross. So they (Universal Woods) cut them and made two sizes for
us and those sold like you wouldnt believe, because it brings a
little more value and its just noticed. I think the value of sublimation
is that we really have unlimited ability to customize our products, whether
it be a Unisub plaque or a piece of metal or tile or whatever.
The Best Gifts For 2004
appears to be an even greater boom in the personalized gift market in
terms of new products and trends. This is an ever-expanding market area
that is really only limited by how far you want to take it.
the gift market, weve seen a continual increase in personalization,
says Gravograph-New Hermes Diane Clancy. A gift is a very
personal thing, but when it is engraved with the recipients name
or a special sentiment, that personalization makes it timeless. Not only
does the recipient feel that special time and care were given in selecting
and personalizing their gift, but the giver has an added feeling of pride
for taking that extra step.
Sletten says that he is seeing new materials make their way into personalized
gift products. We do desk accessories in acrylic and glass, some
in marble, some in walnut, he says. One of the things we are
seeing more of is glass gifts and awards. People are sandblasting and
even lasering them, which makes it easy for people to customize.
Sletten says that some materials that were mostly used for awards are
now being used to create exciting new gifts. A lot of people are
using piano finish in new ways; for example, as a base to put glass on,
so its not just for plaques anymore. Youre starting to see
what we call mixed media, which means youre combining two different
technologies, like piano finish and glass, piano finish and acrylic, things
like that, so piano finish gifts are very, very popular, Sletten
states. We have nine or ten different piano finish clocks that we
market. Those are very nice looking products. Sharp.
area of the personalized gift industry that has literally exploded, and
shows no signs of slowing down, is sublimatable products. Overall,
the gift market just continues to grow very quickly. Its exciting,
says David Gross, adding that the key to success here is to continually
offer new products that really get noticed.
example, Condé is nearly ready to introduce a major new sublimatable
product that has never been offered before, and could prove to be the
next best thing in the sublimation market: a sublimatable paper cube.
In the past, technology prohibited a sublimatable version of this product
you cannot sublimate paper. After working on it for a few years,
however, Condé was finally able to break that barrier and will
be the first to introduce it. We used a special, high-tech paper
that is man-made, it doesnt come from trees, and its sublimatable,
explains Gross. And its just a fantastic product. Before
formally bringing the product to market, Gross says, they are waiting
on the development of a heat press attachment that meets their quality
are putting the fair way to local and national tournaments.
These crystal awards are perfect for challengers at any level. Photo
courtesy of SCT Crystal, South El Monte, CA.
the perfect personalized themed gift is easy with all of these golfing
options. Photo courtesy of Gravograph-New Hermes, Duluth, GA.
is just one of many new and interesting products being introduced for
sublimation; Gross has many, many new items that are all proving to be
extremely popular. A relatively new product line is our glass cutting
boards. Those are just fabulous products. They are very high-tech. They
are tempered glass with a white sublimatable coating on the back side.
particular product is available in two sizes, and they also offer a cheese
board made of cherry or maple that incorporates a sublimatable glass insert.
Gross says that these are excellent for all types of gift-giving occasions.
For example, he made one for his parents as a Christmas gift that included
a sublimated image of his parents prized rose garden. It was
knock-your-socks-off. It was just absolutely gorgeous, he says.
Another unique product that is gaining popularity are Condés
sublimatable night lights. This product is available as a kit and consists
of an oval diffuser (similar to a translucent tile), a night light base,
a light bulb and a clip to attach the diffuser to the base.
says that as sublimation continues to grow in popularity, he has seen
some products come back in terms of selling power. Recently
we introduced a couple of new additions to our wood product line. One
of the favorite, best-selling products is the wood keepsake boxes.
Gross says that they design their product line to appeal to a wide spectrum
of customers, particularly those in the wholesale sector. We have
a very large family of nice wooden boxes and we added an economy box that
has a removable wooden lid as an easy product to sell in a wholesale environment.
Its less expensive because it doesnt have hinges and its
not felt-lined. So what weve tried to do is just have a very large
family of products that, depending on who you are selling to, will have
both the very, very nice top-of-the-line stuff and also an economy choice.
product that fits into this family of products theme is Condés
newly designed mouse pads. In the digital decoration market, mouse
pads have pretty much stayed the same for a long time, Gross explains.
Weve tried to add a little flair to it, excitement. We came
out with a kidney-shaped mouse pad that has a wrist rest built into it.
Gross says that they try to do this with all of their product lines to
keep the selection fresh. We go back each product line
and add a couple more products into it to give it some new excitement.
keeping with this theme, Condé has expanded their sublimatable
mug line to include new products like morphMugs (black or blue mugs that
turn white to reveal the sublimated image when hot liquid is added) and
their stainless steel travel mug. Probably the biggest seller of
any product I can think of as far as taking off has been our stainless
steel travel mugs, says Gross. That has done just amazingly
well. . . it was so successful that we really sat here and said how
can we make it better? As a result of that forward thinking,
Condé just introduced a new stainless steel mug design that includes
a white panel for a sublimated image. The white background allows for
a more colorful and vibrant image than the original gray stainless steel.
tiles are another big seller in the gift market. Gross says that you can
dress them up and sell them in a variety of different ways.
For instance, put a sublimated tile on a keepsake box, in a frame or attach
a simple easel stand. One of Gross customers is a photographer who
has built a successful business by simply taking photos of lighthouses
and sublimating them onto tiles. Over a relatively short time, hes
built up a great business through his focused approach, says Gross.
jewelry is currently a big trend in personalized gifts. Condé has
recently expanded their jewelry line to include jewelry pieces with porcelain
inserts, such as brooches, bolo ties and ornaments. Its (porcelain)
a gorgeous gift, it renders color very well and it has a high perceived
value, Gross says.
the last year, sublimation saw a surge in home décor
products and that trend appears to be continuing. Condé Systems,
for example, offers two different types of serving trays, one with sublimatable
tiles and one with a sublimatable hardboard insert, and a Lazy Susan that
accepts sublimated tiles.
company also sells sublimatable tins in various shapes and
sizes which, Gross says, have been their number one best seller. Those
have sold incredibly well. They render the photographs very well, you
can put candy, nuts and the like inside. Gross says that another
trend he sees is combining sublimatable products to create new
products, so to speak. Some of Gross customers sublimate puzzles
and then sublimate a tin with the same image as the puzzle, combining
the two into one great product. It just makes an attractive gift
product for someones birthday, or whatever, he says.
with unique themed backgrounds are perfect for springtime competitions.
Photo courtesy of Visions Awards, Celina, OH.
To Market, To Market
this look at just some of the new products to hit the market, you can
see that there are all kinds of new possibilities being introduced for
2004. The time to start offering these options to your customers is now.
There are lots of award and gift occasions during the spring, so its
a great time to focus on out with the old and in with the new.
DAndrade, AT Designs, says that the corporate awards market is in
full swing during the spring due to both the anticipation of awards banquets
as well as the recognition for the events themselves. This is the peak
time to recognize 2003 sales accomplishments with products like precious
metal rings and pins, pewter desk accessories and golf sets.
winds up in March/April and the end of the season is traditionally celebrated
with award banquets. However, JDS Industries Scott Sletten points
out, this is one market avenue that hasnt really seen growth in
recent years. Bowling has really diminished in popularity over the
last several years, the last 10-20 years even, in popularity. At one time,
bowling was the biggest award market. . . but over time there have been
fewer people bowling and, number two, a lot of bowling has gone to a cash-back
type of award.
spring sports leagues do, however, remain an excellent opportunity for
award sales, such as soccer, baseball (particularly in the southern tier
of the U.S.) and golf outings. Corporate golf outings are especially big
events this time of year. Bob DAndrade says that items such as plaques,
golfers gift sets (bag tag, divot tool and money clip), pewter desk
accessories and championship belts are always steady sellers for golf
outings. Many businesses also hold corporate baseball tournaments where
medals and plaques are popular recognition pieces.
Clancy agrees that springtime is a great time for products with sports
themes. Sports enthusiasts love their sport symbols displayed on
everything! The golfer enjoys golf key rings, money clips that can also
serve as divot tools, bag tags in the shape of their golf bag, pen holders
in the shape of putting greens and anything else they can get their hands
on that remind them of their favorite sport, she says.
of the biggest award opportunities in the springtime are high school and
college events, activities and recognition programs. As schools
start to get close to being out, they have a lot of academic awards that
they give out, says Sletten. The academic market is an excellent
place to sell traditional awards, such as medals, ribbons, lamp-of-knowledge
types of awards, resins and plastic figures. And dont forget about
prom and graduation festivities, says Bob DAndrade, where products
like key tags, pins and pewter collectors items (figurines, charms,
bracelets) are always popular.
is filled with lots of gift-giving occasions, a time when personalized
gift items are extremely popular. For example, Mothers Day, Fathers
Day, graduation, Easter and weddings are all taking place during the spring.
Diana Shih, Topmost Designs, says that graduation is a popular springtime
gift-giving event. For graduations, crystal apples or crystal books
are very popular items, she says.
Clancy says that when it comes to many gift-giving occasions, being able
to offer packages can put the retailer ahead of the competition.
We have found people are very pressed for time. The shop that offers
a full wedding package, such as the bridesmaids and grooms
gifts, wedding cake accessories, champagne glasses, photo albums, etc.,
are very popular, she explains. Traditionally in the past,
the bride and her mother would handle the wedding arrangements, but times
have changed. More and more grooms are getting involved with the bride
on the wedding planning decisions, so to be able to select everything
from one shop, place their order at once and deal with one company to
handle the details is a tremendous time saver. It also helps eliminate
errors when one shop is handling the engraving of the items.
2004 Market Trends
experts agree that the market direction for the upcoming year is somewhat
dependent on technological advances in marking methods and product manufacturing.
As technology changes, says Sletten, people are able
to customize and personalize more and more products all the time, whether
it be through sublimation or some of these other processes. They are able
to personalize things more easily than they could five years ago, which
creates a larger market for customized or personalized awards. Things
they couldnt customize before, they can now.
Gross points out that those new advances in technology allow them to introduce
new and better products for sublimation. Outdoor sublimation is
where Im focusing a little bit more of my energy, he says
in speaking of the future. Sublimation now is almost prime time
says that seeking out areas where consumers are spending surplus money
is a great way to market sublimatable products, but that advice could
easily apply to other types of gift products as well. There are
so many markets to go after now, he says, For instance, the
dog grooming market. A couple of the spring products that we will have
out are dog collars and dog leashes. Its just something that people
have requested for a long time, and sublimation does a great job with
those. Gross even has customers involved in sublimating carpet squares
to create carpet murals for trade shows, playrooms and in schools, etc.
to Gross, its important to consider the images you are putting on
the products, too. One-hundred percent customized products is always
a great way to go, but I think another trend that people should pick up
on is the short-run marketplaces, like going to your local artists and
putting their stuff on tiles, he states.
terms of awards vs. gifts, Gross indicates that he sees sublimation as
a major player in the gift market. The award market is of course
an excellent market. Its large. The gift market is, to me, exploding,
he says, adding that, The most successful people insublimation will
be those who see sublimation as an add-onto their existing business. .
. After its worked in to it, they say, Okay, what are some
new markets that my company is not tapping into?
the other hand, the awards market is no slouch, either. For us,
definitely, awards show the greatest growth, says ATs Bob
DAndrade. My assumption would be that no matter what the state
of the world or economy, recognition for sporting or corporate successes
are to be celebrated with recognition awards. Gifts, to me, represent
a more elective or discretionary purchase. If times are tough, some of
those purchases may be put aside or seem inappropriate.
it comes down to it, both markets are alive and well and your particular
direction will depend on the focus of your business. The award products
are there, the gift products are there, the technology is there; now it
is time to put your marketing strategy into action. The challenge
for most people is not the products, explains Gross. The challenge
is, how do I sell it? What marketing do I do to be successful with the
product? I think thats where they have to focus. The products are
there. And indeed they are. Now go out and have a profitable 2004!