2021 Top Distributors: Where Every Number Tells a Story
Welcome to our first Top Distributors Resource under the Print+Promo Marketing brand! What a year it’s been. Last summer, as we strategized the messaging of our soon-to-be combined print resource, none of us could predict how the pandemic would affect the print and promo industry. To be fair, the only thing anyone could confirm was that “uncertainty is the only certainty.”
Critical questions needed answers: Who was going to be the next president? Was a safe and effective vaccine coming? How long would we need PPE? Why was the supply chain such a mess? Would we get to disinvite our annoying relative from Thanksgiving dinner in the name of slowing the spread? Those answers came — sometimes in a manner that made things more confusing.
Now, more than halfway into 2021, we’re still sorting through shipping delays, production issues, price increases and staffing shortages. These are just a few of the variables that helped shape our newly combined (and expanded!) 2021 Top 75 Distributors list.
According to our data, the Top 75 Distributors totaled $6.79 billion in 2020 sales. Because this is Print+Promo Marketing’s first joint list, it is not possible to make a direct comparison to last year’s list for this analysis. However, for a general barometer of industry health, Print+Promo’s 2020 Top 50 Distributors put forth $2.49 billion, and Promo Marketing’s 2020 Top 50 Distributors generated $6.18 billion.
Of the top 75 distributors who reported annual sales this year:
- 31 had revenue increases. Only three of those companies placed in the Top 10.
- 42 had revenue decreases.
- Two finished evenly.
Those who have been tracking our respective lists will recognize the names that comprise our top five, but keeping with the theme of 2020, there are surprises. HALO Branded Solutions reported a small decrease in sales (2.71%), but its total revenue was enough to bump 4imprint Inc., which reported a 34.94% decrease in sales, out of the No. 1 spot. Proforma and Bensussen Deutsch & Associates LLC (BDA) maintained their ranks, and rounding out the top five was American Solutions for Business, which enjoyed an 18.22% jump in revenue. Taylor Communications, which occupied the fifth spot on the 2020 list, opted to submit financial data only for its promotional arm, Taylor Promotional Products.
Other interesting facts include:
- The top five vertical markets for distributors on our list remained consistent with 2020’s findings. Not surprisingly, Health Care was the most common top vertical (listed 37 times). It was followed by Financial (listed 26 times), Retail and Technology (tied with 20 listings each), and Manufacturing (listed 18 times). As we predicted last year, certain verticals like Hospitality and Education had a slower recovery rate, but they still managed to collect 14 listings between the two.
- Of the 78 principal officers listed for the Top 75 Distributors (three companies listed more than one principal), 66 were men and 12 were women. That’s a split of 85% versus 15%, in line with last year’s breakdown of the shortened Top 50 list.
- In all, 25 U.S. states and one Canadian province (Ontario) were headquarters to at least one Top 75 distributor. Illinois led the way with nine distributors calling it home, closely followed by Ohio with eight. Maryland and Minnesota each had six. Fourteen other states appeared at least twice on the list, leaving eight states with a single top distributor each.
- All four major regions of the U.S. (Northeast, South, Midwest and West) had at least one distributor on the list.
- This year’s Top 75 distributors employed more than 14,000 people at 2,059 locations (data includes some, but not all, parent company head counts and subsidiary or division locations). The highest employee count for any one Top 75 distributor was 1,800; the lowest was 15. Seven Top 75 distributors had 500 or more employees, while 42 companies had fewer than 100 employees.
- Six of the Top 75 distributors have been in business for more than a century, while two have been in business for less than a decade.
One thing that hasn’t wavered throughout the pandemic is the resiliency of print and promo distributors. Led by husband-and-wife team of founder Greg Muzzillo and CEO Vera Muzzillo, third-ranked Proforma had the foresight to invest early in PPE. As Vera shared, that meant wiring nearly $10 million for cargo planes to bring masks and other items to the U.S., which, no doubt, contributed to Proforma’s 7.48% sales growth in 2020.
Granted, not all distributors have access to that kind of cash flow, but there are more relatable examples to pull from, like No. 30-ranked Stran Promotional Solutions, which just celebrated one of its best years in its 27-year history. It, too, pivoted to PPE, though CEO and president Andy Shape also attributed the company’s success to its acquisition of Wildman Imprints and its involvement with the U.S. Census, for whom Stran sourced and fulfilled 16 million branded products.
We could go on, but why not let the distributors do the talking?
Download the full 2021 Top 75 Distributors Resource here.
In this resource, readers will see a detailed analysis of this year’s findings, followed by an expanded (!) Top 75 Distributors chart (including data on top vertical markets and prior-year sales), individual product category breakdowns, a Top 25 Fastest-Growing Distributors chart and company profiles featuring senior executives.
We hope your biggest takeaway is a sense of pride in being part of a wildly talented industry (even if you fall on the supplier side, which we’ll catch up with in October).
Elise Hacking Carr is editor-in-chief/content director for Print+Promo magazine.