2023 Promotional Product Trends
The last three years have been quite a ride. But if we had to guess, your present footing feels a bit more solid than it has since the pandemic swept the globe.
While a degree of change is constant in the promotional products industry, even seasoned promo experts can acknowledge the magnitude of the adversity we’ve faced. With supply chains showing more signs of stability and a forecast for industry growth, the relative lack of disruption may feel unusual. Many of you managed to survive while responding to the pandemic’s challenges, but it appears we can resume proactive strategies.
Predicting the Promo Industry in 2023
Before jumping into specific product recommendations, we’ll review some of the broader trends for the industry in the coming year.
Smart Spending and Shipping
Loehrke discussed exciting new and ongoing promotional product trends, but in a time when the industry is looking to reestablish firm footing, promo distributors are also cognizant they should play it safe. With inflation driving costs from supplies to shipping, and with fears of an upcoming recession, Loehrke expects not so much a trend, but tried-and-true financial prudence.
“The Affiliates that will have success will prioritize trends, but also focus on ways to save costs,” said Loehrke. “Freight is expensive, so being more strategic on logistics is going to be important in 2023. Product that is dropship-friendly—whether it’s a specific weight or easy to package—that cost-effective shipping is going to be a point of emphasis.”
Further, Loehrke recommends that promotional apparel distributors lean into their more dependable, best-selling products, styles, and colors versus ancillary options.
“A henley shirt in mustard yellow, for example, is not going to move units like a basic t-shirt in black,” said Loehrke.
2023 Popular Promotional Products and Categories
As the industry strives to match and ultimately surpass pre-pandemic inventory and sales, Loehrke’s expectation is that conservative practices will be common among distributors. Yet he also cited a number of trendy promo products and exciting advents that could boost sales in 2023.
Promo Trend: Mindful Living
Sustainable and eco-friendly products and packaging are increasingly popular, but Loehrke says this preference is hardly temporary.
“At this point, sustainability is not a trend—it’s here to stay,” said Loehrke. “It’s a category. Affiliates that have that approach are going to win in the marketplace.”
Among the trends for sustainable promo products, he cites the following:
- Clothing made from hemp, organic cotton (and Better Cotton), and from recycled materials such as plastic water bottles
- Product manufacturing that creates less waste, uses less water, and environmentally friendly chemicals and dyes
- Responsible product sourcing, including manufacturers who give back to under privileged members of their mills’ communities
- With upgraded products, end users may want assistance in recycling old products
- A common color palette featuring shades of green, beige, and dark and earthy tones
Promo Trend: Home-Based Goods
Catering to these behavioral changes, Loehrke suggests the following trendy home-based promotional products:
- Popular games such as pickleball and foam axe throwing sets
- Home office products including wireless chargers, clocks, journals, plants, or candles
Loehrke also suggested that, in light of economic concerns, lavish or luxurious products are popular for both retaining employees and attracting new customers. He said that at the height of the pandemic, budgets for company events were often reallocated into drop-shipping promotional products.
“That was a new method, but I don’t see that changing this year or next year,” said Loehrke. “Events are certainly back, but with a marketplace competition and staffing challenges, it really is a unique time.”
Promo Trend: Nostalgia
Loehrke highlighted another promotional trend for 2023: nostalgic products. He said many bygone brands and styles are appealing anew to end users, such as:
- Over-sized or baggy clothes, including anorak jackets
- Brands including Champion, Russell Athletic, and Fila
- Tie-dye coloring, for apparel and for hard goods
A Return to Normalcy
As supported by the nostalgic promotional product trend, after a chaotic and unsettling couple of years, consumers are appreciating familiarity and comfort, and Loehrke said the promo industry is right there with them.
“It’s been a tumultuous couple of years. I give a lot of credit to the affiliate network that found a way to support their customers in a difficult time,” said Loehrke, citing a sudden industry pivot to providing personal protective equipment as one particularly resilient move. “I hope the next year starts to see some real semblances of normalcy whether that be products, inventory, lead times, staffing, capacity—all those things together.”
Part of Loehrke’s optimism is built off of the industry’s proven ability to weather challenges, but he’s also encouraged by recent inventory and sales improvements.
“Slowly but surely, we’re getting closer to where we want to be,” Loehrke said. “Again, we’re not necessarily out of it yet, but we are definitely heading in the right direction.”