Regional Sales Report: SOUTH Still Leads In Sales

06 Jun Posted by in Swag Projects | Comments
Regional Sales Report: SOUTH Still Leads In Sales

South: Still Leads in Sales 

South 4 Year Review

The sales outlook continues to be sunny for the South as it grows sales 5%, from $7.9 billion last year to a bright $8.3 billion. Here’s why.

Four of the top 10 Best States for Business on Forbes magazine’s annual list of winners are from the South: Virginia ranking #1, North Carolina #4, Texas #7 and Georgia #10. Little wonder sales of promotional products are up $400 million.

DeAnn Wells, co-owner of Exclusively Yours in Tyler, TX, points to a certain patriotism and can-do attitude in the South that reflects a national trend. “That really describes what we are seeing in our area – that rally cry to not just stand up, but stand for something,” she says, “to have your business be a member of the community, to be involved and let your people be included as well.”

 South Sales Breakdown


The passion Wells speaks of reveals one of the market trends in the South, particularly in key political states such as Florida, Kentucky, Virginia and, of course, Texas. “In East Texas where I live, politics, patriotism and growth reign supreme,” she says. “Politicians are gearing up and we are a battleground state so there’s massive demand here.”

Beyond the political, she points to bread and butter industries – such as healthcare, manufacturing, oil and natural gas and real estate – that are on the rise. She underscores the importance of entrepreneurs as well.

“More and more small, new businesses are opening,” she says. “Everything from dog sitters to landscaping to boutique clothing stores. I think the biggest increase is in the small business startups. College kids are graduating and realizing they don’t necessarily want the corporate rat race, so they are starting their own businesses too.”

It’s that rally cry to stand for something Wells points to as a driving force for product choice in the South. “There is a strange mix of old-fashioned comfort coupled with new technology,” she says. “A chip clip with a QR code on it. Stadium cups for picnics, but they change colors with ice. Little speakers for your iPhone to listen while sitting on your tailgate. People are getting back to the basics, but without leaving the comfort of technology behind. It’s reflected in the advertising message and being promoted in the corporate culture.”

Education is a hot market for Bruce Irvine, owner of Smyrna, GA-based Proforma Irvine Group. “As the economy continues to rebound, colleges and universities are spending more to attract and retain students,” he says. “The health-care industry is also a growing market when it comes to increased demand for promotional products.”

Irvine has found that his client base wants more from their promotional product investment than just a giveaway. “These markets are not only using promotional products for branding, but also are truly seeking a return on their investment in driving traffic through their doors regardless of what industry they operate,” he says. “In addition, more and more businesses are willing to spend money on client retention, not just new client acquisition.” This may be in the form of incentive gifts, holiday gifts or simply various promotional rewards throughout the year.

“Proforma is seeing tremendous growth in the Southern states, with more than half of the new owners we’ve brought on board this year located in this region,” says Greg Muzzillo, founder of Proforma. “We are heavily involved in industry events in the South and have been able to build relationships with distributors seeking new opportunities for growth in that area. As the economy rebounds, people are willing to invest in their companies again, and marketing and promotional spending is going up. We find that holding true in the South.”

Holly Spillers, owner of Katy, TX-based Proforma MVP Marketing, notes growth in the oil and gas, manufacturing and restaurant industries. “Our oil and gas and manufacturing clients are using promotional items primarily for trade show and client giveaways,” Spillers says. “Restaurants are investing in grassroots marketing, community and in-store events and manager conferences.”

 South Hotbeds


Another winner: technology. Mitch Emof, Executive Vice President at Nashville, TN-based Goldner Associates has worked in the promotional products industry for over 20 years. He has watched the arc of old-school specialties to sophisticated Web-based promotional solutions.

“I would say Southern-based corporations are just as sophisticated and maybe, more importantly, just as lean-staffed,” he says, comparing the South to other regions. “This causes more reliance on outside partners to pick up the slack and Web solutions that are as easy to implement and simple to manage as they are elegant, effective and user-friendly. As for tech… it’s definitely down here.”

And it’s industrial to boot. Durable goods represented approximately one-third of Tennessee’s GDP growth in 2012, coming primarily from automotive/transportation manufacturing. Nissan, Volkswagen and General Motors each have manufacturing plants located in Tennessee, buoyed by predictions that auto demand will continue to increase through 2015. There are also tech-focused firms such as EHD Technologies, a tech-staffing solution; Playmaker CRM, a cloud-based CRM solution for the healthcare market; and Value Payment Systems, a full-service e-payment system among several Tennessee firms making the Inc. 5000 list for 2013.

Where tech companies really shine, however, is in Virginia – the state that Forbes recently ranked #1 for business. Virginia has the largest concentration of tech workers in the United States, according to TechAmerica’s annual Cyberstates Report. Forbes cites tech giants such as and Microsoft for growing tech jobs in the state.



Is landing business in the South and servicing Southern buyers any different than other regions of the United States? Not really. “Like many places, the South is all about relationships,” Irvine says. “Being active in your community, working within networking groups and volunteering are good ways to grow your business in ways other than ‘direct selling.’”

Spillers notes a difference in size of community as it relates to making a sales call. “In the larger cities, customers don’t really want to be visited by salespeople,” she says. “They don’t have the time and would rather handle everything via e-mail. However, out in the smaller communities where there is a ton of opportunity, they want to see you. They buy from who they see on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.”

Her advice for influencing the Southern buyer: “Be a friend, not a salesperson, and do what you say you’re going to do in a timely manner.”

Wells has seen it work with her own clients, and oftentimes it’s a joint passion for growth that makes relationships work. “The pioneer spirit of whatever it takes, all-in,” she says, is alive and well.

“Anyone willing to work hard and work smart is welcome,” Wells says. “The pendulum swing has started back in the direction of self-sufficiency and self-reliance, but more than that, it is helping others grow and build. Like the old-fashioned barn raising, we want to help build others up. That is the biggest door opener I can think of: ‘How can we help each other and build something together?’”

Ignore the myth out there that Southerners move slow. “What I’ve found it really means is that you need to earn trust over time by being respectful and dependable,” Emof says.



When it comes to imprints and product design, the South isn’t shy. “Clients seem to be more open to more vibrant, ‘racier’ colors than in the past,” says Irvine. “They are not afraid to mirror fashion trends as they make color selections for the promotional products they use.”

Bold also means large. “Bigger is definitely better in the South when it comes to imprints,” says Spillers. She also cites the popularity of camouflage prints.

Perhaps partly due to the election year, Wells notes a predictable trend: “Anything red, white and blue is crazy popular right now,” she says. “One client told me if given a choice, 90% of people will choose a flag motif over anything else on the table at a trade show. And as the younger generation starts to weigh in as decision-makers and buyers, we are seeing more bright, vibrant colors or twists on the old. Mason jars with acrylic straws in the lid – new, but nostalgic at the same time.”

Wells sums up the potential for a new wave of imprints: “I think it is a very exciting time to be in advertising. We can really stretch our creativity, incorporating the modern with the old – Techno-stalgia.”