2021 State of the Industry Report: The Latest on Promotional Apparel
From a global pandemic to a new administration, the past year was filled with attention-grabbing headlines. For Print+Promo Marketing’s 2021 State of the Industry report, we set out to learn more about the central issues currently affecting the print and promotional products industry, and find answers to questions like: Which vertical markets are poised for recovery and how does that impact the products distributors sell.
As part of our investigation, we reached out to experts in various market segments: printed forms, promotional products, labels, branded apparel and direct mail. Below is an excerpt from our conversation with Pat Noonan, chief product officer for SanMar, Issaquah, Wash., who gave us an inside look at the promotional apparel market.
What are your general thoughts on the current state of promotional apparel (and where do you see apparel in relation to hard goods)?
Pat Noonan: We remain very optimistic about the state of apparel in our industry. Distributors have been incredibly creative in how they have kept sales flowing despite so many traditional markets being impacted by COVID. Once things return to normal, we believe there will be meaningful growth in the promotional apparel space.
What specific apparel product categories are seeing the strongest sales? Which typically high-performing product categories are seeing weaker sales? What factors are behind these trends?
PN: Two things come to mind. The first is fleece—that category has truly become seasonless and seems to be performing well in a work-from-home world. The second strong category is in “better” products. While the traditional recession playbook would say that consumers trade down to more value-oriented goods, we haven’t necessarily seen that in 2020-2021. If anything, consumers have remain committed to more premium fabrics, brands and styles. Struggling categories are anything associated with corporate uniforming or business travel—those will surely come back, but we’re not seeing it yet.
It seemed like, pre-pandemic, sustainability in apparel was finally becoming more reality than buzzword, with more apparel brands inside and outside the industry making it more of a focus. What impact has the pandemic had on that, if any?
PN: We’re really proud of our commitment to people and planet and believe that sustainability should remain front of mind for the apparel industry. SanMar has continued to introduce meaningfully sustainable products throughout the pandemic and we don’t intend to slow down at all. We believe consumers will continue to ask for sustainable options in the years ahead and want to do everything we can to meet their needs.