The Chronicles of PPAI Expo: Fun with Friends, Discovering Trends 

We don’t mean to brag, but we’re back from a truly amazing week at PPAI Expo! After collecting our thoughts – and catching up on sleep – we are ready to share all about our incredible experience and what we learned about some of the hottest trends hitting the industry in 2024! 

Before the trade show floor even opened the Proforma Family was kicking off the week strong, reuniting for a legendary reception at the House of Blues. Our community came out in full force, with more than 250 Distributor Owners and Supplier Partners mixing and mingling. It’s always a treat to see our Proforma Family members together.  Its a community full of caring and collaboration! 

Much of the credit for this unforgettable experience goes to the staff at House of Blues. Their sweet music and excellent service welcomed us all to Expo in the best way possible and really set the upbeat, positive vibe for the week ahead.   

We would also be remiss if we didn’t thank our main reception sponsor, Bella + Canvas. (Psst – we had a chance to connect with them later in the week as well. Check out our Bella + Canvas Proforma Suite Tour and a sneak peek at Hot for 24 HERE.) Additionally, we have to extend a huge thank you to Advertising Specialties Institute, Edwards Garment, ASI, 4over, Inc., Alphabroder, Ariel Premium Supply, Inc., Bag Makers Inc. (US), Edwards Garment, Gemline, Hit Promotional Products, HPG Brands, Koozie Group, PCNA, Navitor, Inc., Orbus Visual Communications, S&S Activewear, SanMar USA, The Magnet Group – we are so grateful for you all.   

And of course, a heartfelt thank you to our Owner community for all you do. It’s an honor to serve you! 

Now, let’s talk Day one of PPAI Expo, which began with a bang – we’re talking breakfast in our hospitality suite, roundtable discussions with Success Coaches, and education sessions by PPAI on AI, sales tactics, and more, including “Crushing It in 2024!” led by Proforma’s own Charity Gibson. Missed it? No hard feelings – here are some of the main takeaways: 

  • Crushing it in 2024 starts with defining what success looks like to YOU. Set goals that align with your values and desires, not someone else’s.  
  • Get intentional about building your brand: decide who you want to be and show it off! 
  • Ask for and accept help 
  • Prepare for success, and… 
  • Lift as you climb 

Day two brought us to the trade show floor and wow, were we impressed! In addition to some new Suppliers hitting the scene, we’re here to report that we tracked down what’s hot and new, spotted trends, and scoped out booths for the most effective approaches in branded merch. What did we learn? Well, a LOT. Here’s the inside scoop on the most significant insights: 

  • Full Color decoration has been taken to a whole new level. Whether we’re talking direct print on drinkware, edge-to-edge sublimation on bags, pillows, or apparel, it’s safe to say that full color imprints are taking over!  
  • Speaking of taking over, sustainability has arrived on the scene and truly come into its own. We’re here to tell you right here and now, it’s not just another passing trend – it’s a new way of life. A good percentage of our Supplier Partners have “gone green” in a big way, with many promising to be carbon neutral and working for full line integration of sustainable and eco-friendly items in the very near future. Mother nature approves and we do too! 
  • Along the same lines, CSR – that stands for Corporate Social Responsibility – is also causing some major buzz. Buyers are demanding ethical sourcing and, thank goodness, the industry is listening! As such, major Suppliers are taking a hard stance on social responsibility, working to ensure that products are produced without slave labor and under good working conditions. When embracing CSR, remember, it’s not merely checking a box; it’s doing what’s right.   
  • Now, when it comes to products, two words…Stanley DUPE. That’s right, if you thought the Stanley trend was almost over, think again. Buyers can now get the Stanley dupe in almost every color, with tons of different features and at all different price points. That’s fun enough, but want to know our take? In a world where everyone is going the same way, dare to be different. Find ways to embrace the trend but put your own spin on it. Get super creative with decoration or consider finding a similar but different option to help you stand out. Need some inspo? Try this on for size:

  • Speaking of Stanley, retail products in general are hot, hot, hot. Budget-friendly products still have their role in the marketplace, but people are beginning to make the shift from brand fill to higher quality, longer lasting products with messaging that matters. Embrace this transition; it’s not just what consumers dig, but it’s a win for you in the long run. Choosing a product people can use over an extended period of time leads to products being kept. Products being kept and used leads to brand messages being seen. Being seen leads to brand recognition, and brand recognition leads to business. So, when it comes to adding your brand message to retail products, lean in! It will serve you well. 

To sum it up, the week was a whirlwind, but one that was productive and invigorating. Best of all, in addition to all the work we got done and the inspiration we gleaned, an equal share of our time went into networking and relationship building. We are so grateful for trade shows like PPAI Expo for the opportunity they bring to see products, meet people, and get ready to take on the new year in style.   

Thanks to PPAI again, and to our incredible Proforma Family.   

Until next time friends! 

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