Last week, the PPAI Expo 2023 brought the promotional products industry together for a successful, robust return to normality. As promotional merchandise’s largest and longest-running trade show, The PPAI Expo drew thousands of exhibitors and attendees together eager to connect, learn and be inspired by the latest and greatest ideas and products the industry has to offer.

PPAI Media checked in with numerous industry members who were at the show, both exhibitors and attendees, about their experience this year at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The response was overwhelmingly positive. One distributor said it “fuels the spirit.” And The PPAI Expo 2024, to be held again at the Mandalay Bay on January 16-18, 2024, promises to be even more extraordinary.

Here is more of the great feedback PPAI Media has received following The PPAI Expo 2023.

“Many people have referred to Expo 2023 as a reunion, which is spot on,” says Murray Siegel, marketing director at Baltimore-based supplier Towel Specialties. “It was great to see customers that we had not seen in three years and, after warm embraces, reverting back to business as usual. The world has changed a lot in those three years, and it was exciting to show and explain to customers the big technological leaps we took during that time.”

“Expo was a very positive experience for us this year,” says Mark Graham, president and chief brand officer at Toronto-based industry service provider commonsku. “The floor was packed with people, our booth was consistently very busy, education was dynamic and the off-floor socials were great. Particular standout social moments included the Promopalooza event and the alphabroder party. I also really enjoyed ‘The Pitch’ – the presenters were all excellent and the judges were very engaging. It was a great way to experience new product ideas.

“We sent the largest contingent of people from our company ever and the feedback from all team members – veteran Expo attendees and first timers – was all extremely positive. We also had the opportunity to produce our skucon event on Sunday to a sold-out audience – always a wonderful way for our community to kick off a great week at Expo. It was so nice to be back in Las Vegas for the first time in three years. The industry is ready for great things in 2023 and beyond!”

“As a past PPAI board volunteer and long-term member I absolutely loved experiencing a very busy and ‘dense’ show floor again,” says Mark Jenkins, MAS+, Midwest regional vice president of Lewiston, Maine-headquartered distributor Geiger. “The attendee group size matched the total floor space well which always contributes positively to the energy and buzz of a good trade show for both suppliers and distributors. It was great to see – in person again – old colleagues but even better to find so many new and younger attendees – and not just principals – throughout the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.”

“This Expo had some notable differences that really made it a standout year,” says Charity Gibson, national accounts coordinator at Newark-based supplier Peerless Umbrella Co. “The minute you walked into the convention center not only were you met by the world's most friendly singing and dancing greeter, but also by the addition of a giant LED screen with moving graphics. Something so simple brought new life to the show right from the get! Past that, I loved the simplified education offering. It made it so much easier to choose where to go and when. And finally, the people – there were so many people. Including a number of young, fresh faced new people I didn't know.

“Everyone I talked to said that the first day of the show was packed. When I had a chance to walk the floor myself it was after hours, so I missed the rush but saw a lot of sustainable and eco-friendly products and initiatives, some awesome new decoration methods, a nice smattering of retail offerings finally making their way into our world, and probably my favorite thing of all – names and booths of new suppliers! It's a very exciting time to be in promo.”

“There is no looking back,” says Danny Rosin, CAS, co-president of Raleigh-based distributor Brand Fuel. “PPAI Expo had our Brand Fuel team re-engaged, learning new trends and connecting with key and new suppliers. In particular, we loved the focus on sustainability. There is no doubt that our investment in this experience will pay great dividends as we giddy-up into a new year. Way to go, PPAI staff! Way to show up, members!”

“With over 10-plus years of Expos, this year proved to be one of the strongest, with an impressive group of attendees, show floor flow and a strong, enthusiastic energy,” says Jeffrey Brenner, director of sales and marketing at Mahwah, New Jersey-headquartered supplier Seiko Watch of America.

“It is a great show,” says Lisa Bennett, a Chicago-based multi-line rep working with HPG and others. “We’ve got terrific support from all of the distributors. It’s a little different this year. We’re not getting as many of the part-time distributors who maybe are not in this business with both feet, but we’re getting the really high-quality distributors who know what they want, they’re excited, they’re enthusiastic about what’s new this year.

“I think there’s an energy level at this show this year that we haven’t seen in a long time, and we’re all very happy to be back.”

“I thought it was fantastic,” says Larry Cohen, president of the East Region Enterprise Team at Sterling, Illinois-based distributor HALO. “There was great energy and I thought there were really good showings on both the distributor and supplier sides. It was a really good reminder that we’re in a visual media and also a tactile media. Not that I mind seeing products on Zoom, but really getting to see products and touch them, it’s a good reminder of how great our industry is and how diverse it can be.

“And finally, just being able to reconnect with our suppliers, the reps and everybody else. At the end of the day, we’re all dependent on each other. I can go out and sell really creative ideas, but if the supplier produce it on time or deliver quality product, we all end up in a bad situation. So I think building that relationship and those connections are really critical to building a strong business.”