2021 Top Distributors: How Stran Promotional Solutions Had Its Best Year Ever (During a Pandemic)
As part of Print+Promo Marketing's 2021 Top Distributors list, we asked some of the top-ranked distributors about how they fared during the first year of the pandemic, their thoughts on the industry, their future plans and more. Here, we talked to Andy Shape of Stran Promotional Solutions, the No. 30 company on our 2021 Top Distributors list.
Stran Promotional Solutions had its best year ever in 2020. Yes, in the middle of the pandemic, the 27-year-old company grew sales by 43% (to $48.6 million), made its first-ever acquisition (Wildman Imprints, in September 2020) and climbed more than a dozen spots on our list to finish at No. 30. The company’s early move into PPE played a major role in that success, as did its involvement with the U.S. Census, sourcing and fulfilling 16 million branded products beginning in 2019 and carrying through most of last year. But those weren’t the only factors. Andy Shape, Stran’s CEO and president, said the real key to the company’s success was its tireless focus on servicing its customers.
“Staying true to who we have always been as a company, singularly focused on servicing our clients and being an extension of their team, has helped us to build a successful business with long-standing customers, organic growth supported by regular referrals and a solid base that can withstand extraordinary circumstances,” he shared. “That culture ensures that we are nimble and flexible, [and] designed to meet the needs of our customers all the time.”
Outlook: Stran, like most of the industry, has spent this year dealing with supply chain issues and staffing challenges as it looks to build on its 2020 momentum. The company is addressing those areas through investments in technology and people, looking to bring in top talent from outside the industry. The ultimate goal, said Shape, is to keep providing the kind of top-tier customer experience that got Stran to where it is today. Shape also noted the impact of the pandemic on customer preferences, identifying online store programs, in particular, as one area to watch.
“Customers are demanding a technology solution and supply chain model that allows them to easily see products with their own branding and place orders for those items with minimal inventory commitments,” he said. “Offering a solution that takes advantage of inventorying items that are not conducive to an on-demand production model, combined with offering on-demand production for items that limit risk and obsolescence, is a trend that we are paying close attention to and delivering upon already.”
View the full 2021 Top Distributors list (including a list of the fastest-growing distributors and top distributors by product category) here, or click here for stats, trends and analysis from the list.
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.