COVID-19, also referred to as the coronavirus, has now spread well beyond its origin in China at this point as there are multiple confirmed cases in all 50 U.S. states. This airborne virus, which spreads from person to person through droplets, has caused a number of countries to close their borders, restrict travel, and require mandatory quarantining. The United States is one of them. Along with placing restrictions on travel, many states have required businesses of all sorts to close to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Preventing (CDC) recommendations for social distancing.

As healthcare professionals and government leaders work to stop the spread of the disease while attempting to develop a vaccine and caring for affected individuals, businesses that remain open, including those in the promotional products industry, are learning to adapt to an interrupted supply chain.

Not only has there been a disruption in the supply chain, but there has also been an expected increase in product prices, rising shipping costs, inventory shortages, health concerns, and business travel/trade show cancellations. These are just some of the issues the promotional products industry is currently facing due to COVID-19.

Promotional suppliers and distributors are encountering many of these problems because most of the products they sell are produced in China. And with China being the center of this virus, they’ve taken drastic measures in order to try and contain it, including the closure of factories and implementation of travel restrictions for citizens, meaning that workers are staying home unless it’s completely necessary to leave. It’s not certain how long it might take for these production centers to reopen and begin their normal rates of production once again, leaving promotional distributors wondering what to do next.

Amidst the crisis, suppliers aren’t panicking. They’ve continued to send updates to the industry regarding operations levels and most are trying to keep operations as normal as possible.

“No employees are traveling at this time, and some personnel are working at home in an abundance of caution,” Frank Cardenas, marketing manager at Beck & Call said. “No one has shown any symptoms, but we’re monitoring the situation and continue to take orders and fill them from unimpacted suppliers.”

Suppliers may be in stable positions for the time being and even over the next couple of weeks, but if things don’t change for an extended period of time, distributors and salespeople need to take proactive steps to protect their businesses. So what can distributors and salespeople in the industry do to combat this?

iPROMOTEu’s Recommendations

Shift Your Focus

It’s difficult to predict when the spread of this virus will die down and what things will look like when it does, but as for now, it’s important for distributors and salespeople to focus on working with suppliers that haven’t been as impacted by the virus. At this point, it’s likely that all suppliers have been impacted in one way or another, but working with the suppliers who have sustained less of an impact is important. Whether it’s due to less reliance on China for production or just less of an impact of the virus on their business and employees here in the states.

Maintain Relationships

Although you may be focusing on working with certain suppliers at this time, it’s important to continue to maintain your relationships with all other suppliers and remain in communication, even if you may not be working with them directly right now. Once the COVID-19 threat passes and things return to normal, you’ll want to be sure that your relationship with these other suppliers is still in good standing. And they’ll appreciate the fact that you’re still checking in during this time.

While maintaining relationships with your suppliers is important, it’s just as equally important to maintain your relationships with your customers. While they might be getting forced to temporarily shut down, it’s on you to reach out to them and maintain a line of communication with them, share what’s going on with you and your business, and provide them with updates as they come along.

Utilize Corporate Services

During a critical time like this, having back-office support for your business is especially valuable. You can take advantage of the many different services that iPROMOTEu has to offer so that you can keep your business running without having to constantly worry about it. Whether it’s order financing, billing and invoicing support, order follow-up, print and packaging, sales and marketing support, and so on, iPROMOTEu can help give you the peace of mind you need that your business is being taken care of during this time.

Stay Safe, and Plan Ahead

If you’re interested in discussing some of the services we have to offer, especially during a tumultuous time like this, we’d love to hear from you about how we might be able to help.
And if you’re interested in learning more about our plans to help offset the impact of COVID-19, don’t hesitate to reach out.