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PMC Sees Changes in Redemption Trends

PMC, the incentive fulfillment division of Almo, one of the nation’s largest wholesalers of consumer electronics and appliances to the incentive market, has a singular focus in the marketplace: Support its resellers. According to Eric Anderson, Director of Special Markets Sales, his division only sells to incentive, recognition, loyalty and other companies that provide rewards and recognition solutions to end-user clients. That focus, he says, guides all of his division’s key decisions and shapes his perspective of the marketplace, which he views through the companies that actively sell noncash rewards for incentives, recognition, loyalty and related applications.
“We handle both highly recognized consumer brands and our own brands that we bring to market,” Anderson explains. “We try very hard to deliver products that are current and in fashion and allow for our partners to earn a good margin. We work diligently to stay one step ahead and provide new ideas.” Example: PMC has brought the Hanover line of outdoor furniture and fire pits into the market and expects to expand its selection of outdoor furniture based on growth in the category. The company has also introduced high-end cookware such as La Cuisine and Ballarini, which make for aspirational awards and which, Anderson says, “provide an excellent margin for our customers yet priced right to fit into the mid-level of a program or work perfectly as a standalone offer.”
He notes that PMC has brought Hanover memory foam UPS-shippable mattresses to the market too, offering them bundled with bed frames, again UPS shippable. “We have also introduced an entire line of home indoor lighting: AFLighting. They offer lamps, chandeliers and sconces in many sizes, designs and colors.” Lines like these also allow PMC’s partners to earn good margins while providing a value to corporate customers, Anderson adds.
Changes in Redemption Patterns
Over the last few years, Anderson says he has noticed a number of changes in the market, noting that he has seen a steady decline in the use of branded rewards in traditional loyalty programs. After decades of growth, he feels that this business has declined recently. He suspects that more companies are rewarding customers with their own products and services rather than using branded merchandise. On the plus side, Anderson says he has seen an increase in the use of branded products for traditional recognition programs – he suspects that organizations are changing those programs to appeal to Millennials, and that more money is being spent on people with just a few years at the company, “since fewer people these days make it to the 25-year anniversary.” 
Another interesting shift, he says, is in the nature of what gets redeemed. “Consumer electronics have always been the king of redemptions. However, nothing new and exciting has been introduced in the last year in the category, so we see people staying satisfied with their current tablet or flat screen television going more after aspirational items such as a higher-end Delonghi multi-purpose coffee machine, outdoor furniture, or a nice cookware set.” He adds that with the recession over for many, people aren’t using points as much to meet basic needs and instead seeking out luxury items they wouldn’t ordinarily purchase.
Anderson notes that he has seen the research supporting customization and personalization of packaging and personal messages delivered with the rewards, but echoes others in the industry when he says he has seen surprisingly little growth in that area. Still, it remains a steady but small part of PMC’s business. The company can imprint four-color logos and phrases on many items; add plates or badges on to products; insert letters, cards, or notes in the packing. They will also load apps on to tablets; provide gift wrapping; and customize packing slips. “It makes so much sense to personalize the award experience,” he says, “I just don’t understand why more companies don’t do it.”
The PMC Advantage
Anderson explains that one of PMC’s biggest advantages is its national network of warehouses, which is particularly beneficial for delivery of large items such as appliances, beds and furniture. The company has a customer portal where clients can place orders, check product pricing and availability, and access specification sheets and images. “We can provide EDI (electronic data interchange) with just about any system for anything from simple order and invoice processing to full catalog exchange with real-time inventory and even preorder notification,” he notes.
The company also has a team to provide creative content for promotional support. “PMC is a partner, not just a supplier,” Anderson says. ‘When we do business with people, we do business on a personal level. If a customer needs to talk to the Vice President of the Credit department, call him, he’ll pick up the phone. When a customer wants to meet with the President of the company, we make it happen. We care about our customers, because we know that if they’re successful then we’ll be successful.”
As one of the leading wholesalers in the marketplace, PMC is in a good position to know how many active incentive, recognition, loyalty and promotional companies serve the market, so we asked Anderson for an estimate: “If I had to guess, there aren’t much more than 400 companies in the U.S. that have level of significant sales in the incentive, recognition, and loyalty business.” That, he says, might help explain one of his frustrations in the business.  Anderson says that it amazes him how many businesspeople have never heard of the special markets business and go to their local retailers to purchase awards in bulk. People in one department of a company might know about the special markets business, he says, while someone just down the hall buys at retail. 
He notes that based on the calls he has received over the years, almost anyone in a company at one time or another is in a position to buy rewards. When corporate clients call PMC, Anderson directs them to his resellers. He realizes he may lose some sales as a result, but says “that’s the commitment we make to the marketplace.” PMC serves the U.S. market through a network of about a dozen independent incentive representatives, an arrangement that Anderson says “works very well for us.”  

For more information, contact:
Eric Anderson
Director of Sales Special Markets
PMC, a division of Almo
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