Sitting here in month TWO of quarantine, my team and I got to thinking about all of the changes happening in the meetings industry that planners might not even realize are happening. Looking into this, we took the decision to have a small interview with one company to see how they were pivoting to the new Covid norm.
Please welcome to DianeSchroder.com, Marty Bear – President of PMSI
Thank you Marty for joining us today and agreeing to give us all a quick overview of what is happening in the industry right now.
Q) How has Covid-19 affected your business?
A) PMSI has 3 divisions- Meetings and Events, Colleges and Education and Govt and non Profits. Each division for multitudes of reasons STOPPED abruptly at the beginning of March. Many orders in house for events in April, May and June were cancelled and numerous quotes and projects were put on hold. The Meeting Industry came to a halt and with it the lack of needing promotional items for face-to-face events. Meetings were postponed, cancelled or produced virtually. So… I had promised not to let our staff go and we needed something constructive to do. I decided we needed to give back to the Hospitality Industry and began letting all the major Industry groups PCMA, ASASE, MPI, IAEE know that PMSI Promos was offering FREE, no charge health kits to be sent to the homes of all members and their families. We eventually expanded the program to be able to send masks and sanitizer pouches to elderly parents of our members and to their children who might be isolated at school. To date, I am happy to say that my staff has sent out over 7,400 health pouches.
Q) What items are planners now asking for?
A) How is your solution to what is being ask for different than other promotional companies? Initially , the entire USA was desperately looking for masks and sanitizers mostly for family and staff. The requests began coming in for larger quantities for upcoming meetings potentially. Tons of quotes and RUSH orders. China was backed up with inventory but no ability to fly the goods to the USA as all air cargo shipments were being used for strictly Medical needs. The inventory backed up at the ports and air cargo terminals. Prices were being doubled and tripled to help cover air freight costs and flight premiums for air freight.
If you had inventory and put out an eblast, the goods were gone in hours instead of days or weeks. Crazy times. By April , hundreds of suppliers were importing masks and sanitizers. USA hat and t-shirt manufacturers like Bella, and Hanes turned over production from t-shirts to masks. Now, as May arrived, the masks began to arrive for retail and we would see hundreds of options on Facebook for custom imprinted masks. Over the past 2 weeks, we have shifted over to many more requests for health pouches and packs for the attendee that could be sponsored. We also have had many quotes for sending promo items directly to virtual attendees homes that could be sponsored as well. So we now have simplified the process with price grids for both kitting the items, packaging options to ship out, and exact freight costs so customers can calculate what to charge sponsors or how much it will cost the company.
Q) What is the biggest challenge for you and your company post – Covid 19?
A) Our largest challenge is trying to figure out what the World will look like in the Fall. As I am writing my answers today, I just saw that NYC and Broadway will now be closed until at least September 6th. That is another 3 months of having no activity in NYC and Times Square. ASAE just cancelled their face-to-face Annual event in Vegas in mid-August which also sends the wrong signal to those who want to bring back face-to-face meetings sooner than later. It is very difficult to know where the markets will be for promo items when the smoke clears.
Q) How long do you see planners asking for masks & hand sanitizer?
A) I strongly believe that the mask at least short term will become a piece of your wardrobe. You will find masks that fit your face and are comfortable for you to breath in and wear around your ears. People will eventually have a formal mask, workout mask and work mask. Attendees will not be hoping that the convention they attend will have a mask for them to wear. People will be bringing their own mask with them to travel so the imprinted mask with a UPS logo on it will have less and less appeal to attendees and sponsors. Sanitizers will continue to be strong and will alcohol wipe packets and health kits. Our new metal and acrylic touch free keychain is killing right now so you can open doors, get elevators etc without touching with your fingers.
Q) Tell us a little about yourself and your company?
A) Well, I am New York City born long ago. Attended University of Florida again long ago. After graduation, I became a recording artist for over 16 years touring North America Colleges with my solo act. When I got off the road to take care of my ailing Father, I started PMSI Promos almost 36 years ago. Back in the day, I Founded the Westfield Chapter of MPI in Connecticut where I lived for over 25 years. My facility is in Stratford Ct but several years ago I moved to West Palm Beach and run the business from there. I have 7 kids- 15, 20, 22, 25, 26, 31 & 33 !!!!
And I love Face to Face meetings and miss them very much.
Thank you so much Marty for taking the time out to answer our questions and give us a little more insight into the industry. For everyone out there reading this blog, if you would like more information from PMSI please contact: www.callpms.com
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