In early 2022, we interviewed our top promotional product suppliers and attended industry conference sessions to assemble the most current news in promotional product delays, workforce shortages, inventory levels, production times, and more. We did uncover some positive improvements, although it's clear that we are still all working hard to get back to pre-pandemic norms.
Here's what we discovered:
Domestic Made Products. The amount of stock available in promotional products is beginning to improve overall. We are seeing abundant stock in domestic molded and manufactured products that are then also decorated in the United States. Industry suppliers that have historically manufactured their own items in the US are continuing to do so, and even adding more USA-made promos to their catalog. Other suppliers have quite a few name brand items that they source from within the US, which helps keep inventory levels up as well.
Imported Product Delays. Although our promotional products are customized with your logo here in the United States, many come imported undecorated from other countries. According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, over the past few months there have been between 95-110 vessels at anchor waiting to enter the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. These 2 ports account for about one third of US imports, and these vessels are importing more than promotional products. Suppliers state that they are starting to slowly see more shipping containers come through compared to 2021. Since LA and Long Beach ports are showing the biggest backlog, they are using alternative ports when possible.
Shipping Container Prices Decreasing. All industries are still competing for the same shipping containers, on the same ships, to import their goods. At the height of 2021, container prices were driven to more than five times the normal cost. Shipping container prices have started to decrease since then, and we are expecting those prices to level out to about double pre-pandemic costs.
US Factory Employees. Our suppliers are starting to get their production facilities and customer service teams back to full staff, but new hires will still require training before they can operate at full efficiency. To help facilitate this, suppliers are working on hiring from a quality over quantity approach, making any necessary changes in their processes to attract and retain the best talent. As they work on seasoning their new labor pool, production delays will start to decrease.
Domestic Transportation. Once the promotional goods are unloaded from the docks, they must be transported to the supplier's facility. However, the US is currently experiencing a shortage of truck drivers. One of the main issues is there are simply less people willing to drive trucks as a career. To help combat this, the major trucking companies are offering an $85k/year salary and sign on bonus and are considering lowering the age requirement for truck drivers.
International Manufacturing. A high percentage of the factories our suppliers use are located in China. The reason for this is other countries simply do not have the infrastructure in place that China has built. For another country to get to their level it would likely take 10 to 20 years. However, the new generation of Chinese workers are not interested in factory work. The factories try to offer incentives of bonuses for workers to stay for periods of three months, six months, etc. Social responsibility is another factor when considering manufacturing in other countries. Many consumers want to be sure that their products are made by people who are treated well.
We are delighted to report that we have been putting many of our promotional items back to showing NORMAL production times on our website! As we continue to receive better reports on production times from our suppliers, we are updating our product production times accordingly. Timelines listed on product pages are still subject to change, but are based on the most recent updates from that particular supplier. We process a lot of swag here at Executive Advertising and we will continue to use our supplier relationships to make sure our orders are processed faster than most of our competitors.
Of course, we will continue to keep you informed by marking any slower products with a red notice that says “Extended Production Time” on all affected product pages. Where we are seeing delays in production are when a wave of COVID comes through a factory and takes out several staff members or even a whole shift. As long as there are no other lockdowns, we do expect things to level out by 2023.
Our priority is to keep the very best communication with you, our customer. We will reach out to you when we know an order is going to be late, or has a problem like inventory. We always answer our phones between 8:30am-5:30pm CST if you have questions. And we will always be here to help in any way that we can.
FedEx Guarantee Policy: On Jan. 17, 2022, the money-back guarantee was reinstated for select FedEx Express® services for U.S. domestic and U.S. export shipments. In order to balance service and safety, the FedEx money-back guarantee for all other FedEx Express, FedEx Ground®, FedEx Freight®, and FedEx Office® services will remain suspended until further notice. The status of the money-back guarantee for these FedEx services and additional FedEx services worldwide is being evaluated on an ongoing basis.
UPS Guarantee Policy: Effective March 26, 2020, UPS® Service Guarantee was suspended for all shipments from any origin to any destination. For all U.S. origin shipments, the Service Guarantee suspension became effective as of March 24, 2020.
Effective October 18, 2021 delivery commitment times for UPS Next Day Air® destined to residential locations with a typical delivery time of 10:30 AM will be extended to 12:00 PM. Any applicable Service Guarantee with respect to these packages will be based on these revised delivery commitment times.
The best advice that we have is to keep ordering your promotional products EARLY! Right now, we strongly recommend ordering 4-6 weeks out from your event date. This will usually allow plenty of time to receive your products if there are any type of order related issues that need to be resolved along the way. And if you get your products early, then great! It's better to be safe than sorry. Ordering early will also help save your budget, as we see prices continuing to increase.
Another tip: Typically, custom logo products that are decorated with a 1-color artwork/logo and printed in 1-location can qualify for a rush production, so if your order qualifies for that and the product has that option available - take it!
Last Tip: When picking promotional products for an event, or if you are ordering a lot of a particular item, consider picking products that you will be able to use across multiple events in the event of a missed delivery date. Or to say it another way, don't over order products that you can't use for your next event. If you are ordering with plenty of time, this may not be necessary. But if every day counts to meet your event date, don't over order unless you can use those products for something else later.
We will do our best to notify you and monitor your orders for delays. We are an honest and hard working group of people; we will not guarantee dates that we cannot deliver. Nothing could have prepared us for the sudden delays that we have experienced during the past 2 years, however we feel that we have a much better handle on the actual production times and will make every effort to keep our 20,000 promotional products updated with the most current production times. We will always try to under promise and over deliver. If we can ship your order out early we will and that does happen. We will continue to be there for you when you call, answer the tough questions, and always think of you, our customer, first. We appreciate you and thank you for your patience as things return to normal.
President of ExecutiveAdvertising.com