Best in Show – Promotional Product Trends in 2018

Innovators, Explorers and Dreamers. PPAI and SKUCON 2018.

Last month, Denise, Glencora and Sarah represented the Fairware team at SKUCON and PPAI EXPO, two industry events in Las Vegas, which provided great insight for promotional product trends in 2018.

The PPAI Expo is our industry’s annual trade show – with over one million square feet dedicated to showcasing products and trends in the industry. SKUCON is a conference put on by our friends at Commonsku, Fairware’s CRM and order management platform. It’s a day of inspiration and making connections with the true thought leaders and creatives in our industry.  

We learned a ton while we were there and want to share some of our favourites with you.


Corporate Responsibility, Cause Marketing and Sustainability Gaining Ground


Sustainability is gaining ground in the promotional products sector. As a founding B Corp, Fairware is steeped in sustainability and using our business as a force for good. Every year we seek out suppliers, products and strategies that align with our mission to change the world through the simple act of buying.

This year we found some great sources of inspiration. At Skucon, we got insight into the work our supplier, Strideline Socks, is doing at their Philippines based factory to improve the lives of their workers and local community. At PPAI, we were impressed to gain insight into the Corporate Responsibility program of one of our leading suppliers, Sanmar. From a robust approach to ensuring worker rights, to running their Honduras facility using bio gas fuel, to working with the SAC, they’re truly leading the charge in the industry. Check out their most recent CSR report here

We also had a chance to meet with some of our leading industry peers to discuss the launch of a new initiative #promocares, a platform for developing an industry led initiative for giving back and cause marketing.

All in all, we love where the industry is going.

Pastels Are In


Walking the show floor revealed 2018 lines with softer hues and more pastels than we’ve seen in past years. Our supplier fave, NUMO, took the lead in that department, rolling out their popular Considered line with a range of new pastel shades. The industry isn’t far off fashion trends – pastels came out as a leading trend from New York Fashion Week. We’re also seeing more sublimation where you can do all over prints, and mix and match trim – where you can colour match your zippers or stitching to make one of a kind merchandise.

Pastels are in!  Pastel Coin Pouches

Socks Are the New T-Shirt

Socks continue to be a leading merchandise gift – more and more suppliers are coming on board with options including a made in USA organic cotton sock and an affordable, exceptional quality made in Turkey option from our friends at Bam Bams. We’re loving what we’re seeing from Strideline on the athletic side, including a new pocket sock.

Socks for YVR  Socks for Kicking Horse Coffee



RPET Bags by Parkland

Sister company to Herchel, Parkland has shown up in the custom branded space with a line of on trend classic bags manufactured from recycled PET. We’ve been waiting for this! 

Parkland Bags, sister company to Herschel bags, making RPET backpacks.

Customizable Merchandise 

Build Your Own Merchandise. Numo was the belle of the ball (again) – Their booth ‘won’ the show with its whimsical set up, on trend merchandising and mind blowing showcase of new products. From their Made in Japan Pencils (perfect for the designers and creatives in your life) to their new line of ‘Vegan Leather’ bags and pouches, it was a hard booth to leave.

Social Impact Gifts

Helping Hands Rewards had an amazingly well merchandised booth – each and every one of their products are sources from high impact social enterprises and make exceptional corporate gifts. From bath products to custom bowls and jewelry – we love what they’re doing.  

The Skucon Merchandise Collection

From custom pocket tees to the best pompom hats ever, the team at Commonsku managed to curate a promotional merchandise collection that even jaded industry pros packed home. Check out the full collection here

SKUCON merchandise 2018

Fabulous and Fun New Power Bars

Having a portable battery to charge your phone remains a must have accessory and cool gift for 2018.  Check out these UL Certified 2500 mAH batter power chargers – packaged with a full colour wrap to look like an energy bar.  

Portable battery charger with awesome custom packaging.              Portable battery charger with awesome custom packaging.


Hex Brands

One notable newcomer to the show was Hex Brands – they had a killer booth (with a vintage VW) and their on trend bag and accessory lines stood out in a show of me too booths. We loved the phone case detailing and are looking forward to adding this brand to our line.  

           Hex Brands custom phone case.                           Hex Brands custom backpack for Coca Cola.


Flip & Tumble Bags

These folks were up there with the NUMO booth for merchandising. They had a clean contemporary booth to showcase their stunning re-usable bags. Flip and Tumble bags are made from premium materials and are designed to last. Bright and durable – they’re an awesome choice for a quality bag.

 Flip and Tumble reusable bags.  Flip and Tumble compact folding backpack.


We had a chance to check in with our friends at Waka Waka and check out their awesome one-for-one solar light products.  

C4 Belts 

One of our more unique finds was the C4 Belt. They are fully customizable polymer belts – a fun and out of the box approach to custom apparel and accessories. Low minimums make these a perfect way to spice up street teams and tradeshow staff and they’re made in the USA.

C4 custom belt


Grow Your Own Herbal Tea Kit 

We loved this Grow-Your-Own Herbal Tea Garden Kit! It contains 3 packages of seeds and starter soil, plus wooden plant stakes, all inside a recycled 6 count egg carton! Write on the wooden stakes to identify the seed type in each compartment. This is a fun activity based give-away and there are lots of other seed options.  

Grow your own herbal tea garden kitGrow your own herbal tea garden kit flavours 

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