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Incentive Rep Profile: Hoffman & Edgette

This RNN feature article on the venerable incentive representative firm Hoffman & Edgette of Saratoga Springs NY begins a series of profiles on this little-known field of experts who would probably be overwhelmed with business if more people knew about their services
A Resilient Group of Experts
A Unique Service Not Available at Retail Tom Edgette

Say your organization needs two dozen sunglasses to give out at an annual incentive trip, or you are looking for a creative gift for a fund-raiser, conference, or other event being attended by two dozen or more. Where would you go to find the right items and brands to select based on the demographics of the audience? Who would you seek to help ensure the items will be delivered when needed or drop-shipped to individuals with a personal note? Who will take the time to answer your email or phone calls to make sure your needs are met? Amazon? Target? Walmart?
Incentive representatives provide a service available almost nowhere else. They act as the sales arm for leading brands seeking to take advantage of the corporate marketplace for brands while minimizing internal sales and staff requirements. It is their job to know the particularity of the brands and their products and stories and to represent them to almost any other business marketplace other than retail.

A Resilient Group of Experts

To catch up with Tom Edgette (top photo)son of the founder of the Hoffman & Edgette manufacturers rep firm founded in 1972, where Edgette went to work after college, is to understand how the incentive representative business has survived enormous marketplace change and why it’s a business with significant upside opportunities if it wishes to or can make itself better known to American businesses. It’s trade organization, IMRA (Incentive Manufacturers Representatives Association, a Special Interest Group of the Incentive Marketing Association) has recently launched an effort to bring more visibility to incentive representatives. See RRN: IMRA Launches Campaign to Spotlight Reps.
Edgette’s firm represents over 30 name-brand lines with several dozen active customers of which about half are incentive and recognition companies, and the other half mostly promotional distributors active in the market and suppliers of casino programs. These  companies come to Hoffman & Edgette on a regular basis for ideas and presentations for brands, items, price quotes and specifications his team rapidly accesses and selects by using the incentive representative industry’s Replink product database platform. While the company does business with an increasing number of promotional distributors, a smaller percentage of them are active customers truly focused on brands, he observes. 
How has the business changed since his father ran the business back in the 1980s? “When I started in 1982, we had 12 lines and 100 active customers. That was the hey-day of the incentive business when there were still bank premium and consumer trading stamp programs.”

A Unique Service Not Available at Retail

When it comes to bulk or regular orders of brands for use in incentive, recognition, reward, and gifting programs, Hoffman & Edgette’s continued success with leading reseller customers attests to the value incentive reps add over retail, including Amazon. “When it comes to shopping for your own personal gifting or just a few gifts,” Edgette advises, “it makes sense to buy online at retail. You can ship the items where you want to and pretty much make sure they get there when intended. Organizations can benefit from incentive representatives like our company when they need at least two to three dozen or more items and have a few weeks or more of planning time. His company, he says, helps select the right brand for the organization and the program and audience, at the right price, with insights about potential issues such as product or brand desirability, availability, shipping, logistics, etc. most business people have little knowledge of and which they won’t get from retail.”
In terms of pricing, Edgette says the corporate channel is almost always competitive with even the most aggressive retail pricing when programs are planned in advance through the IRR trade, whose services also include expertise on brand selection, stories, and extensive hand-holding, starting with the initial product selection process that Hoffman & Edgette prides itself in turning around usually within a day for most of its active customers.
The Hoffman & Edgette name is a storied brand in the IRR field. “Back in 1955, my father answered a help wanted ad in a New York City paper for a sales rep position. He ended up becoming a retail housewares salesperson. The company morphed into Hoffman & Edgette in 1972 and began to increasingly focus on the “premium” business after it closed a sale supporting a supermarket continuity program offering a set of steak knives with proofs of purchase.” By the early 1980s, his father, John, had transformed the company to focus on the incentive industry. “I think my dad found it more interesting,” he said of his father who passed way in the 1990s. His father helped found and was a leader of IMRA, the field’s trade association.
Today, Hoffman & Edgette supports customers in the states of New York and New Jersey and works with several other regional incentive representatives to run the Metro Incentive Show, which usually takes place in northeastern New Jersey near New York City in spring.
In addition to Edgette, Hoffman & Edgette today consists of his wife and active business partner Terri Edgette, industry veteran Greg Canose (lower photo), whose Award Marketing Services company Edgette purchased, and Katie Lugas, who handles inside sales and marketing and who brings a fresh perspective to selecting brands and products for clients, Edgette says. “One of things important to us is having younger people with different skills, interests, and who are following the trends. She spots things I will miss, which is a great asset.”
For More Information
Tom Edgette
Hoffman & Edgette

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