Distributor sales accelerated at a rapid pace in 2018, posting annual growth of 6.27 percent and pushing industry sales to a record $24.7 billion for the year, according to PPAI’s Sales Volume Study. The findings from the Association’s study, an annual estimate of U.S. distributor promotional products sales, were first announced in a PPB Newslink Breaking News alert on Monday.

PPAI’s research registered particularly robust performance among the industry’s smaller distributors—with annual sales under $2.5 million—who experienced a 12.27 percent increase over 2017. Larger companies in the survey saw only a 1.92 percent increase in sales.

“It was definitely a strong year for small distributors in particular and for distributors overall,” says PPAI President and CEO Paul Bellantone, CAE. “This was the first year since 2016 that small distributor companies enjoyed the lion’s share of sales growth. Not only did that segment of distributors grow at a much higher rate than large distributors, but they rebounded from less than one percent growth in 2017 and reported total orders of nearly $10.9 billion.”

The industry-wide survey, conducted this spring and reflecting the experiences of 24,240 distributor companies, also highlighted continued growth in the online channel as a share of promotional products sales. Online sales represented 25.3 percent of the sales volume in 2018, up 2.1 points from 23.2 percent in 2017. Total online sales grew 16.2 percent to $6.27 billion from $5.4 billion in 2017.

PPAI’s survey also registered a 10.6 percent year-over-year increase in sales from non-industry providers in 2018. On average, distributors earned $3.75 billion in sales of products from non-industry providers, or 15.2 percent of the total sales volume.

“For more than 50 years PPAI has been collecting, analyzing and reporting annual distributor sales and noting the nuances and trends that affect them,” says Bellantone. “And in that time, our research has evolved to reflect the changing face of the industry. For example, this year we looked specifically at sales of retail-branded products used in incentive and recognition programs and found that the segment comprises almost 15 percent of total industry sales. This is the kind of data that helps our member companies see the industry’s big picture and get the smaller snapshots, too.”

PPAI has collected and released industry sales data since 1965 and maintains an extensive industry sales information library. Its annual distributor sales survey reflects actual sales data reported by U.S. distributor companies and is considered the most definitive and comprehensive of its kind in the industry.

The continued success of this study is due to the thousands of distributors who participated in the survey. Respondents had the opportunity to enter in a drawing to be randomly selected to win their choice of three prize options.

Congratulations to the following winners:

Amazon Echo Show:
1. David Howren, Revelation Products, Manchester, Missouri
2. Pam Olson, Pro Marketing, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Apple Watch:
3. Anne Schiller, Schiller Graphics, Clackamas, Oregon
4. Britny Berndt, Brand Buzz, Fort Wayne, Indiana
5. Wendi Tillem, Innovative Promotions, Marietta, Georgia

$350 Voucher:
6. Mike Hohenwald, Spartan Promotional Group, Oakdale, Minnesota
7. Martin Kisser, MLK Promotions, Springs, Florida
8. Cathy Wright, Commercial Solutions, St. George, Utah
9. Gerry Brady, Corporate Identity, Cypress, Texas
10. Ron Cooley, RPC Program Consultants, Petersburg, Illinois

Read more on PPAI’s Sales Volume Study in PPB’s May cover story. A snapshot of key findings will be available at www.ppai.org/research on May 1. The full report and summary will be available to members only.