Unwrapping 2023

December 28, 2022

Sometime around the middle of November, the total population of our little planet hit a new milestone, topping up at over 8 billion for the first time ever. As we consider where we are at the end of 2022 and prepare for the new year, this is a number to give us all a reason to reflect.

As you read this, the world is still dealing with the aftermath of a global pandemic and its effects on the supply chain and the economy. Yet in a good way, some things never change, bringing us comfort and reminding us about who we are even when the world looks so different. We still need something to wear on a daily basis for form and function and more importantly, clothes help tell stories about who we are and what we care about. So here at SanMar, more people on the planet means more possibility for connections. And we’re feeling optimistic: the outlook for 2023 is looking pretty good.

Peering Into the Future

There’s plenty of news coverage lately about the possibility of an economic recession, though most projections remain uncertain at best. As SanMar President Jeremy Lott says in a recent ASI podcast, even though the supply chain is improving, “my crystal ball has been very cloudy. There’s a recession coming, maybe — how can we be smart about making sure we’re efficient, and how do we prepare from when growth comes again?”

Jeremy sees a lot of hope in what’s happening now. “When I’m talking to distributors today, they’re still really busy,” he says. “They’re taking new orders, their clients are busy. The industry as a whole is doing pretty well.”

HealthcareA recent article on commonsku takes a similar perspective. In a list of four ways those in the promo business can best prepare for the coming year, “recession or not,” the first one on the list is to “treat news headlines as suggestions, not commands.” Companies can survive and even thrive during a recession if they focus on the right aspects of their business.

Focus On Opportunity

Many of the industries that do well when times are rough also happen to be businesses that use a lot of promotional products. From the same commonsku article: “Focusing on these industries is simply a solid strategy for your business planning for 2023.”

Organizations that stay the course when economic seas are uncertain include:

Work from anywhereThis also underscores a point Jeremy made recently: “Make sure your customer base is diversified by industry.” If you’re not already working with businesses like those listed above, it’s a good time to expand the customers you work with, and partner with organizations that are grounded in the present as well as the future.

While you’re exploring new customers, make sure you’re also paying attention to promotional product industry trends. Items that facilitate a “work-from-anywhere” business model and accommodate a more aware and conscientious workforce are more sought-after than ever. Keeping sustainability and adaptability top of mind in your offerings makes it easy for your customers to work with you.

Plan For Growth

“As Anthony Okocha started hearing more and more talk about a potential recession, he didn’t get nervous — he got practical,” begins an article in Time magazine. While Anthony’s story is not about promotional products, his advice to make yourself “recession-proof” can apply to anyone. “’My main focus is on becoming as close to indispensable as possible,’” Anthony says.

EducationWhen planning for 2023, Jeremy would agree with Anthony. He predicts a bit of a slowdown in the early half of the year but advises against overreacting to it, citing a relatable example. “The economy might get bad enough that you cancel your big corporate event, but your kids are still playing soccer,” he points out.

Instead, Jeremy advises that those in the promotional products business stay efficient in the first half of the year, and plan for growth in the latter half with a focus on where you can add the most value for your customers.

“What we’ve shown over the last year is the power of our product to bring people together, to build community. Think about the amount of remote workers and ways to tie people together and the ways our customers are working,” Jeremy says. “The value we add is significant, and as the economy turns back to growth companies will look to our products to help accelerate that.”

He recalls a commercial he saw recently for a charitable organization who was offering a t-shirt when they received a donation. The shirt read “This T-Shirt Saves Lives,” and Jeremy’s first thought was about what that shirt stood for in our world. “That’s what our industry needs to lean into,” he remembers thinking.

Looking ahead, our crystal ball might be on the cloudy side. But this we know: more than 8 billion people in the world need apparel to help tell their stories and share their connections. When you can expand your customer base, stay efficient and focus on what you do best, there’s plenty of reasons to look forward to the new year with hope and anticipation.

From everyone at SanMar, we wish you a happy, safe and prosperous New Year filled with positive changes and sparking new connections.