Promo’s Burnout Problem Is Only Adding to the Supply Chain Mess—What Can the Industry Do About It?

Michelle Long was ready to call it quits. An industry veteran, Long started as a clerk at a print distributor 25 years ago, working her way up to the role of promotional products director before departing in 2017 to start her own distributor company, Hullabaloo!, in Glen Burnie, Maryland. She loved her job, the industry and the people. More than anything, she loved her customers. That was the problem.

It was September, and Long was now feeling the impacts of the global supply chain mess. She was working longer hours than ever: chasing down stock on now unreliable supplier websites, calling to confirm changing ship dates and production times, following up on things that had never needed follow-up before. For one order, she called 14 suppliers in search of stemless wine glasses. No one had them in stock. (The customer switched to pint glasses and changed the event completely.) Sometimes, she’d wait 45 minutes on hold with a supplier, only to get through to a newly hired customer service rep who knew less about the products than she did.

This was Long’s new day-to-day. What once had brought her joy now felt more like an impossible grind. Worse, it was becoming increasingly hard to meet her customers’ needs.

The supply chain is making life hell for promo distributors and suppliers, leading to mounting frustration that’s costing time, money and jobs. As burnout sets in, it’s only adding to the supply chain mess. What can the industry to do stop it? And what happens if it doesn’t?

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