Morning Brew - ☕ Merch madness

Promotional products are a major opportunity for retailers.
March 26, 2024

Retail Brew


It’s Tuesday, and Big Sugar could be in big trouble. Makers of granulated sugar are facing a lawsuit alleging that they’ve been engaging in price fixing since 2019, something federal law explicitly prohibits. The news happened to break during a week of sugary spending from US consumers, as they stock up on treats for the Easter holiday.

In today’s edition:

—Andrew Adam Newman, Alex Vuocolo, Jeena Sharma


Your logo here

Ads from WD-40 and Icemule in the March issue of PPAI Magazine promoting the brands as worthy promotional merch. Ads from WD-40 and Icemule in the March issue of PPAI Magazine promoting the brands as worthy promotional merch. PPAI Magazine

Whatever you do, don’t call them “tchotchkes.”

“Or even worse, ‘trinkets,’” Andrew Spellman, chair of the board of the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI), a not-for-profit trade group founded in 1903, told Retail Brew. “We don’t mind ‘swag,’ but right now we’re pushing the nomenclature ‘merch.’ We want ‘merch’ to be the word.”

Still, among the more than 15,000 member companies that comprise the organization, plenty sell the cheap your-logo-here stress balls, pens, and bottle openers cluttering drawers worldwide. But it’s a broad category that also includes coveted brands like Yeti (“Yeti has crushed it within the promotional space,” Spellman said) and Stanley, which may not be products a company gives away by the thousands on a trade show floor, but rather to sales prospects or beloved office managers on Administrative Professionals Day (on April 24).

Spellman has been in the industry for 24 years, first working for International Merchandise Concepts, a distributor representing brands in the channel, then on the brand side at Victorinox, the Swiss Army Knife and backpack company. Currently, he’s VP of corporate markets at Therabody, which is best known for its Theragun massager.

Spellman’s got a message for brands that have yet to dip their toe in the merch pool: Come in. The water’s warm. And companies want promotional products from established brands.

Keep reading here.—AAN



Deliver a serotonin boost


Many of us get our feel-goods from fitness, healthy eating, and sunshine. How about getting a funny text from a pal or reading a catch-up email from an old friend? Make good-mood moments central to your marketing game.

Listrak can show you how it’s done. As retail’s leading customer engagement platform, they provide truly top-notch SMS and email marketing to more than 1k big-timers like Hunter Boots, Untuckit, and Le Creuset.

To help you crush it, they’ve put together the 2024 Cross-Channel Benchmark Report. This bad boy goes in on how to drive click-through rates, conversion rates, and rev by using email and SMS to deliver campaigns your customers actually wanna see.

Send your audience a message.


Below expectations

Five Below Jetcityimage/Getty Images

Discount chain Five Below experienced “higher-than-planned shrink” in the fourth quarter even after investing in mitigation efforts that it hoped would reduce losses.

The store’s anti-shrink measures included hiring guards and additional store personnel, and checking receipts, to name a few, but CEO Joel Anderson told investors this week that “the most significant change we made across most of the chain was to limit the number of self-checkout registers that were open while positioning an associate upfront to further assist customers.”

He said that while the types of products being stolen are consistent with past trends, what is clear is that shrink is now higher at stores with self-checkout than at stores without self-checkout.

Keep reading here.—AV



Great expectations

Shopper at mall Mark Makela/Getty Images

As prices keep going up, so do customer expectations, at least when it comes to middle-class consumers, 50% of whom say they’re spending more than they did last year (thanks, inflation!), per Bread Financial’s latest State of the Middle-Class Shopper report.

The financial services firm conducted a two-part survey between October and December 2023, of 5,819 consumers across the US, and then in January 2024, of 2,289 consumers.

And yes, while most (91%) agreed that their spending was more need-focused than want-focused, discretionary spending, including dining and buying beauty and personal care products, was still a part of their lives.

But since money is tight all around, consumers also have higher expectations from brands.

Keep reading here.—JS



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Today’s top retail reads.

Whiskey woes: Demand for Jack Daniel’s whiskey is falling from its pandemic-era highs, as many US consumers cut back on alcohol consumption, opt for cannabis products, or change their preferred spirit. (the Wall Street Journal)

High hopes: As H&M prepares to report its quarterly earnings this week, investors are looking for reassurances that the new CEO has a plan to boost revenue. (Reuters)

DTC meets Ozempic: Direct-to-consumer telemedicine startups are embracing GLP-1 drugs that have become popular for weight loss, such as Ozempic and Wegovy, as they seek to pick up some of the demand spilling over from doctors’ offices. (ModernRetail)

Drop a line: Your audience is waiting to hear from you. Let Listrak’s 2024 Cross-Channel Benchmark Report show you how to ace the SMS and email messaging game. Say hi.*

*A message from our sponsor.


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