SKUCON and PPAI 2016 – Road Trip Report


Last month, Denise, Meagan and Sarah represented the Fairware team at SKUCON and PPAI EXPO, two industry events in Las Vegas. 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 (our CRM and order management platform). It’s a day of inspiration and making connections with the true thought leaders and creatives in our industry.

Denise had a chance to follow up on her keynote from 2015 with a workshop session on ‘Making Merch Matter’ and gave a primer on ethical sourcing, sustainable products and making your promotional merch matter.


Product Safety and Corporate Responsibility is taking hold. For the first time ever, ALL suppliers on the trade show floor had their ‘product safety aware’ certification, meaning that supplies have at least 4 hours of training on product safety issues and testing. Kudos to PPAI for drawing the line for the industry. We also noticed that our key suppliers (e.g. Sanmar and Spector and Co.) has their social compliance and CSR (corporate responsibility) staff on site to answer questions – which was great to see!.

The Sales Process is a Changing. While not news to us, it was good to be reminded that the majority of sales research happens long before a prospective client calls. Kathleen Booth’s keynote on “Your #1 Salesperson isn’t who you think it is” was great. We’ve invested in a website overhaul in late 2015 to ensure our site is reflective of the work we do, and is mobile responsive – knowing it’s a key salesperson for us. It was also reassuring to hear that our 2016 plans to create great, useful content for clients and prospects is the right direction to be taking (You can check out our first e-book on Ethical Sourcing here).

Co-opatition is a good thing. Gone are the days of keeping your competition at arms length. Co-opatition is a new term coined to describe ‘cooperative competition’. Coopetition is a mashup of cooperation and competition, emphasizing the cooperation side of things. SKUCON is designed to make competitors connect and share – and we had a great time with Vancouver based distributors and sowed the seeds of cross Atlantic connection with The Sourcing Team. We had great conversations with Gill Thorpe, TST’s founder whose shared passion for ethical sourcing and sustainable promotional products kept us chatting for hours. It was fabulous learning more about European Standards like SEDEX and what’s happening in Europe in our industry.



Pure Fix Bikes

Denise and Meagan on Pure Fix Bikes at PPAI Expo 2016

These awesome fully customizable one speed fixies and multi-speed cruisers were a fan favorite. Great for employee perks, consumer incentives and contests.

Castelli Appeel Paper Journal Books

Castelli Appeel Paper Journal Books

These great bookbound journal books are tree free and made from a proprietary process turning waste apple pulp from the apple juice industry into a paper fibre. So cool – a fun idea for natural food companies.

City Cut and Sew

City Cut and Sew bags

A perpetual Fairware favorite, City Cut and Sew have take an retail maker feel and turned it into a classy and contemporary promotional line up. These gorgeous bags, dopp kits, and ditty bags are incredibly high quality with finishes like a repeat imprint liner.

Helping Hands Partners

Helping Hands Partners

Some years back, Helping Hands Partners entered the promotional and corporate gift scene to bring social enterprise made merchandise to the industry. Their wide array of products all have a deep story of impact and sustainability. We loved the Smarteria line up of packs and merchandise. Smateria is a fair trade fashion brand that empowers and delivers sustainable livelihoods for Cambodian artisans through the sale of locally made, durable products. Some items are made from eco-friendly materials such as reused netting originally used in the fishing and construction industries. This raw net material is purchased in local Cambodian markets then dyed and revitalized to create an innovative collection of bags, purses and wallets.