Tariff Impact on the Promotional Product Industry and Your Marketing: How it could affect your program, and how to work around it

  • Nov 2, 2018

by Amanda Hueneke


Tariff Impact on the Promotional Product Industry and Marketing: How it could affect your marketing program; and how to work around it.


Political views aside (please don’t go there, I don’t have the energy- lol), I feel it’s important to address the elephant in the promo product room and address how the Trade War tariffs that began in September will affect the promotional marketing industry and your marketing programs. I’ve been deliberating on this for a while now- I went through the list of tariffs from September a while back and made notes about how it could affect my product and price offerings, and I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways to get around all of this with out sounding a “the sky is falling” Debbie-downer alarm. That being said, I feel I would do my clients a disservice if I did not address it and educate the best I can, so here goes.


Here’s the skinny: It’s going to happen. It’s already happening. Tariffs have been imposed on about $250 billion worth of imported Chinese products. As you may know, we do have many Made in the USA products, but most of the promo products out there are currently sourced from supply chains through China. Products affected include, but are not limited to- leather, rubber, plastics, natural stones and minerals, textiles, bamboo and wood items, cork, electrical components, metals and more. Even some Made in the USA products source the components from China, and those products also will be affected despite being manufactured in the USA. According to our industry magazine- Counselor- surveys among the ASI Power Summit in October showed that the anticipated impacts on price could be between 11-20%. My manufacturers and supply plants are not just dealing with the trade war and rising material costs, but rising labor costs; and growing expenses to ensure product safety compliance and socially responsible production practices with CPSIA, FLA, and California Prop 65 standards.


Just yesterday, I had to re-evaluate a quote for products I had put together just weeks ago in October and found that the product had increased in price 5% as of November 1st. While many of my plants are choosing to honor their published pricing through December 31, 2018- in this case- I chose to honor the pricing I had presented through December 31st, despite the difference in cost on my end.


What items are affected? According to Counselor- “So far, headwear, bags, keychains, technology products and accessories, certain drinkware (including stainless-steel items), stationery, coolers, cases and some outerwear are among the items…” but items are not limited to those categories. (Ruvo, 2018)

Think- little things you don’t think about- the chemicals used in the plastics, the zippers on your jackets and bags- the fabric your hat or shirt is made from; the components of your flashlights. When you get right down to it- it’s pretty all inclusive.


Okay, so that’s not great news, but how will affect my marketing?

Well, it might affect the way you shop for promotional products. Because there’s a potential that the trade war could continue throughout 2019- we cannot anticipate when and if, and how much prices of products will fluctuate. This presents a change in the way we’ll be presenting product offerings. You will see fewer printed catalogs- as we can’t really nail down prices as a constant the way we have in the past. You’ll see more digital content and web-based content for prices and products, versus the printed materials we’ve also used in the past. If you’re not a hard copy catalog gal or guy, and you prefer digital- you won’t really notice this change.


We may need to work together to make some tweaks to the “bells and whistles” and simplify the promotional item components of marketing programs so that they are still the most cost-prohibitive, yet effective products possible.


We will need to put expiration dates on quotes so that we can make sure that the pricing has not fluctuated. Contract pricing programs will need to be evaluated and potentially managed on a more frequent basis than the annual evaluations we’ve done previously.


And, as always- we’ll be shopping and pricing your products in a specific, customized way to fit your budget and keep costs as low as possible, in each and every case- but the parameters of our pricing process may change on the backside in that we may be shopping for products that may be sourced from countries other than China to circumvent trade tariffs.


Ok, so what can I do about this?

Well, I would recommend two things- first, if you know that you will need promotional items for events coming up- reach out to us and let us help you shop them now- while some plants are being gracious with holding their published prices through the end of the year. And second, now, more than ever- it will be important to have an experienced promotional products consultant on your side- advocating on your behalf and working hard to present and bring product offerings to your marketing program with the best possible pricing. I’d love to help you circumvent the affects of this trade war in your marketing program.


Let’s make those marketing dollars count!


-Amanda Hueneke,

President and Owner, Hello Imprint LLC





Ruvo, C. (2018, October 29). Counselor, pp. https://www.asicentral.com/news/web-exclusive/october-2018/tariffs-impact-advice-for-the-promo-industry?referral=FB&fbclid=IwAR3OYrDISm_fjuySGVYKwOCTYbDt2SFe4eIiuQ3_5e7tPCYBZFGfho-mSk0.