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Corporate Specialties Goes To Washington For PPAI L.E.A.D. 2023

Published: 2023-06-13 Author: Lisa Horn

As the world’s largest not-for-profit promotional products trade association with a 120-year history, Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) serves a membership of more than 15,000 companies and 500,000 professionals. Part of its mission is to advocate on behalf of its members with legislators in Washington, D.C.

On June 7, more than 60 promotional products professionals—including Corporate Specialties President Valerie Hayman Sklar—took the industry’s message to legislators and their staff on Capitol Hill through PPAI’s 2023 Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.).

During the first in-person PPAI L.E.A.D. since 2019, the industry contingent held more than 80 meetings with congressional members and their staffs, making connections and educating lawmakers on the promotional merchandise industry.

As a Michigan-based business owner, Valerie met with Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow as well as Representatives Lisa McClain and Haley Stevens.

Part of the discussion centered around the size and importance of the promo industry—it represents a $25 billion sales market domestically and employs approximately half-a-million Americans across 38,000 companies, of which roughly 98% are considered small businesses.

“It is surprising that, as a $25 billion industry, not more is known about the economic impact we make not only as business owners and the jobs we provide but also how the merch we supply benefits the bottom line of our customers,” Valerie says. “Branded merchandise helps our customers grow their businesses through brand awareness, lead generation and sales campaigns, and it also supports their staff through onboarding campaigns, health and wellness initiatives, employee engagement programs and more.”


Beyond industry education, Valerie (above right) and her fellow L.E.A.D. participants built their meetings around key points that are impacting the promotional products industry today:

1. Promotional Products Work

Whether you call it promotional products, swag, branded merchandise or merch, these logoed items are the most cost-effective, memorable and longest-lasting form of advertising,

In fact, promotional products are ranked the No. 1 most effective form of advertising to prompt action across all generations. And, according to PPAI’s most recent Consumer Study, 88% of people remember the advertiser on a promotional product, and 85% of recipients do business with the advertiser after receiving its promotional product.

The same marketing medium legislators use as part of their election campaigns can make a profound difference in the lives and businesses of constituents. To demonstrate the point, Valerie and the other L.E.A.D. participants left sample products with representatives and their staffs, including Promotional Products Work branded tumblers, hand sanitizer and more.

2. Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) Online Act

Through the COOL Online Act (S. 1421), Congress is attempting to increase visibility into supply chains. PPAI and industry practitioners understand and support transparency and traceability via supply chain mapping.

But the nature of the promotional products industry’s complex supply chains and quick orders make compliance with this bill practically impossible. Adhering to these requirements poses challenges relating to dual sourcing, diversifying global supply chains and fluctuating supply chains.

For example, Valerie and her fellow L.E.A.D. participants explained how it is common for a single SKU number to be applied to multiple products found in different countries, which is especially the case for apparel where the same shirt may be dual sourced based on various size or color preferences. They asked Congress to revise the legislation so that it provides for the flexibility to identify multiple countries of origin for unfinished products sold online.

3. Independent Contractors

In the promotional products industry, salespeople willingly and intentionally choose to be independent contractors instead of employees. But they aren’t operating in a gig economy fashion, and this is why there’s concern around the PRO Act (H.R. 20) because it involves the ABC test and the broad definition that classifies all workers as employees.

Unlike the members of the gig economy on which similar labor law proposals have focused, the relationship between independent contractors in the promotional products industry and their clients is mutually beneficial for both parties. Uniformly applying the worker reclassification provisions, or ABC test, will have a devastating impact on tens of thousands of jobs and businesses in the promotional products industry, depriving them from earning an income.

Since the promotional products industry is not the focus of the proposed policy change, PPAI and the L.E.A.D. contention advocated for an exemption.

Making A Difference Through Advocacy

Creating policy is a difficult job, and Valerie says that the legislators with whom she spoke were very receptive to learning more about the promotional products industry and how it positively impacts the lives of Americans either by providing jobs to produce branded merchandise or through consumers’ enjoyment of receiving, wearing and using merch.

“It’s an honor to be able to represent my fellow promotional products business owners in Michigan and advocate on their behalf,” Valerie says. “Speaking with our elected officials is a key part of the democratic process, and as a woman small business owner, I felt it was especially important for me to be a part of PPAI L.E.A.D.”

For more about PPAI’s advocacy initiatives, click here.

Want to know more about promotional products, their effectiveness and how they can work for your brand? Interested in merch that’s Made-In-USA? Reach out at or book an appointment at to schedule a quick chat.


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