6 Tips from SF University on Holiday Gifting

September 18, 2023 / Career & Networking

SF University brings you 6 tips on Holiday Gifting! Impress employees, clients, and partners with your Holiday Gifting this year by sharing something meaningful while being strategic and within budget. Follow these six tips for successful Holiday Gifting and then watch the full recap on SF University’s latest educational & networking event ‘Holiday Gifting From Inspiration to Execution.’

SF University logo Holiday Gifting

  1. avoid The Holiday gifting Rush

    Order early and beat the Holiday Rush. Even as stock continues to improve, we always recommend securing your order while items are available. Our production partners are currently at a ten-working-day processing timeline. Occasionally, rush services can be made available. We suggest getting orders in before November.

  2. collect Gifting inspiration

    Collect inspiration for your 2023 Holiday gifting by flipping through this year’s Holiday Look Book. You’ll find a wide range of price points and interests. We suggest picking items that pair well together like something cozy with an edible treat or something active with a health-conscious item. If they’re quite the traveler, go with the latest travel gear or tech items.

  3. Showcase company Values

    Add a printed piece to your Holiday gifting bundle that showcases your company values. It makes the experience more memorable and reminds recipients why they want to continue to support your brand. Printed pieces could be double-sided, have unique textures, and come in many sizes. If you’re not sure where to start, connect with our printing experts.

  4. Personalize your gifting

    The best gifts are personal. Now is the time to convey your gratitude for your employees’ hard work, your clients’ business, and your partners’ time. It’s an impactful moment. If done correctly, it can earn your business lasting respect and continued support. Use variable data to customize personal ‘Thank You’ letters with unique copy and unlimited signatures. Add personalized names, titles, and company logos to any promotional or apparel items with etching, engraving, embroidery, and unique decoration techniques.

  5. Deliver Holiday gifts seamlessly

    Use services like custom kitting, fulfillment, and white-label drop shipping to deliver your Holiday gifting items with seamless execution. After you shop for what you want, ask us to handle kitting with custom-branded boxes using variable data integration to send to your individual recipients anywhere in the nation.

  6. Full Event Recap on Holiday gifting

    Watch the video below for a full event recap on SF University: ‘Holiday Gifting, From Inspiration to Execution’ presentations, Q&A section, tips, tricks, and more. When you’re ready to get your planning underway, contact our experts at info@strategicfactory.com or 443.548.3500 to help you through the entire process.

    Speakers in order of appearance:  Anton Smoot (Strategic Factory), Pete Rosica (Pete Rosica Promotions), Ashley Carr (Strategic Factory).

SF University Session Recap

[Transcript Start]


Anton Smoot: No slides for me? 


Ashley Carr: No slides for you.


Anton Smoot: I don’t need slides. Good morning. How is everybody doing? Thank you, Ashley. Hi, my name is Anton. I have the pleasure of being the vertical manager of promo and apparel. I recognize quite some faces here. Some I probably just email with.


I’d like to introduce my team. You probably have spoken to some of them or even emailed them. So ladies, they’re all in the back there. Stand up, please. You can come down if you like to. Probably a good idea. Come up here. So there we go. Okay, so Emily, Stacy, Amberly. and Missy. They’re all experts in the field of what we do.


The promo department, also known as the promo gangsters. We came up with that when we were in Vegas. So I’m sure you probably emailed some of them or spoken to them. So anything that you need in our department, literally, we have a million products available that we can source for you. If you want it, we can probably get it. Carr, like I mentioned, probably put your name on it and get it done.


So if you have an idea of what you’re looking for but not sure, you contact us. We’ll put you in the right direction. You give us a budget, give us a theme. One of them will be more than happy to send you a sheet that gives you the product, the pricing, how you can decorate it, and different ideas.


If the project is even large enough we’ll actually make your virtual sample of that item. If you happen to pick custom glasses or something, we can actually make you an actual product with a logo on it. So you get to touch and feel it. We also will do a virtual sample. Amberly is our in-house graphic designer, so she does all of our design. Anything you need, she can help with that, right? Thank you, ladies. You can stay. Good work. Have a bagel. It’s up to you.


So, apparel and promotional industry. We’re about a $21 billion industry. Most people don’t realize that. That’s what we are. It’s growing at a rate of about 3.7% estimated for the next five years. The industry has changed. It’s no longer what it was 20 years ago, ten, or even five. And Pete will tell you that companies used to give items out and most of them, where they end up? In some drawer, eventually got thrown away. The theme is, well, we went to Vegas and Dallas and all the shows, that eco-friendly, sustainable, and recyclable. Those are the things. People have realized, we need to give a better product, help out the environment. And there’s a lot of companies that also have factories overseas, like in Costa Rica, where they pick all the plastic out of the ocean. They employ hundreds of people and they make products out of them. So not only are we making a product that is, in the future, recyclable, but we’re also taking stuff out of the oceans or keeping it out of the landfill.


The other big thing in the industry is that the products are getting more multifunctional and they’re also something that a person, whether it’s a client or employee, can use, not only in the office, but also use in their own life. You’re paying a lot of money when you buy something thousands of dollars for a product, you want it to be out there with your name on it. You don’t want it to be sitting on someone’s desk or end up in some drawer or eventually getting thrown away. 


So Pete has a lot of nice products. He’s one of our multi-line reps and we’re going to show you some really cool ideas where the industry’s heading. So sometimes spend a little more money, but then people will hold on to it. We use it in your home. We have items in certain companies that we use all the time. I have a nice cup that has your insurance on it. I use it everywhere. I drive around with it. I mean, it’s something that’s going to last for a long time. All right. We covered that. We covered that. So higher quality, eco-friendly products is the thing.


So anything that you need, just let us know. We’ll find you the product, we’ll get you where you need to be. Virtual samples, actual samples if you need them, and we’ll take care of that. So the promo department is always here to help you, so we thank you. We are here because of you, our customers, whether you’re an old customer, a new customer, or future customer.


That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to help you. And my team is probably one of the best in the industry. We are quick. We will be back to you immediately. Our response time on average, we’ll get back to customers is 18 minutes and I make sure. So when we get an email, we, we get something from you at 4-5:00, we always write back, “Hey, thank you for the email.” We will get back to you or you will have an estimate or say a sheet that you’re looking for, very quickly. We also sent you multiple options. You don’t like it? Just let us know. Say “yeah, right direction” or “No, I would see something different.” That’s what we’re here for. So thank you.


Alright Pete, you’re up next. Do it right. 


Pete Rosica: Thank you very much. I just want to reiterate a couple of things Ashley mentioned and then Anton mentioned: it’s not too early for holiday gifts. It really isn’t. Get it done. think it over, but get it done. That way, there’s no rush. There’s no pressure. They get enough pressure on themselves. So. Anton mentioned, I’ve worked with Strategic Factory for many, many years now. He told you how great their team was-it’s better than that. They’re super easy. Give them ideas, give them just a direction to go to and they will give you plenty of options for that. So you guys, in your bags, I don’t know if you’ve opened your bags yet, but this is one of our power bags. It’s inside your bag and it is a super creative idea. We put the nutritional information on the back and obviously, you can see on the power bag it’s got a great imprint area. So your company logo will be on there. You can put whatever you want in there and it can be multi-color. So many different colors on there. One other version we did, somebody wanted to really make it upscale, so we put that charger in a gift box, a real nice big box. Now the custom packaging, it adds a couple of dollars to it, but the perceived value really cranks it up.


We have, right now, one of our hottest tech pieces is our three-way charger. So this is something, if you don’t use all three pieces. Everybody can at least use two parts of this. It sits on your desk, plugs in up top, and it charges your phone, your watch, and your earbud, the same time, it’s [works with] both, Apple and Android. And then we can also dress it up with a nice travel case as well, which we can imprint on.


We have a full line of Bluetooth speakers. This is Creative Retro, the old turntable with a Bluetooth speaker. So we have high-quality tech products. I have a really creative piece here. So if any of your companies do a golf outing for your work, great piece here. So this looks like a dozen golf balls. Inside, you’re getting four tech products. You’re getting a power bank, power charging cables, Bluetooth speaker, and a little knockoff of the Apple Airtag. And then you can do full-color decorating on the clock and then on the product inside. 


And then you can use this on a golf outing, but you also use this in everyday life, whether it’s the power bank, whether it’s the Bluetooth speaker. So it’s a creative piece with a great imprint area on there.


We’ve got a hip Bluetooth sunglasses. So they have a speaker in the arms. So if you’re a bike rider or runner or whatever. Great piece for that. 


Anton Smoot: I can attest to that. I’d be five miles out in the Atlantic Ocean kayaking, and pickup through my radio, and it comes through on my glasses. I listen to it. It literally is like, yes.


Pete Rosica: This is a super nice gift and it’s a practical gift. It’s two sets of earbuds in one package. So the first set is your higher-quality, noise-canceling earbuds. And if anybody’s been on a call long enough but it starts to die, we have a second set inside, so you can put on the second set in while the first set is charging. Really nice idea. 


A unique gift idea is our little wellness kit. We call it our meditation kit. You have, this is a Bluetooth speaker. It’s also a white noise machine. So again, you have traveling sales reps. People have trouble sleeping in a hotel. Put on the white noise, It’s got raining, it’s got thunder, wind, whatever. You’ve got a little handle. And then inside this black case is our massage gun.


So it’s a nice wellness kit, a nice imprint area. And then Anton touched on, everybody now is bringing in some products that are eco-friendly or recyclable. There’s a lot of people in this room today, I did this yesterday. Nobody guessed it, but I’m going to do a quick survey. This is a Bluetooth speaker. What do you think it’s made out of? 30 seconds…any guesses? Plastic bottles? That is not correct.


So it’s it’s made out of recycled coffee grounds. So you know everybody’s adding several eco options to their lines, so that’s one of them: recycled coffee grounds. They’re getting it from Starbucks. It’s a very, very plentiful renewable resource. So that covers the tech area.


I also have a very nice line of outdoor accessories. We do key sports, chairs, blankets, and cooler bags. Start off with our best-seller, best-selling cooler bags and it’s very simple. One color, comes in eight different colors and a nice front pocket: keys, cell phone for the beach or if you’re at a picnic.


But the sun pocket also enables us to embroider on it. We can embroider this. We can decorate with a full-color decoration. So [it] holds 24 cans. It’s a great seller for us. You guys want to see? Wanna pass it around? 


Blankets. Blankets are easy to use with our best sellers. They come with a water-resistant bottom and then the cloth top. So they’re comfortable. Beach, a sporting events, again we can do with great…this logo doesn’t really show, but we can do a nice aerial here, multi-colored imprint.


We do our cheese boards which are in a nice laser engraving on top. So one of our best sellers also. The cheese board, you get it as a gift. The best thing for my customers, the logo is going to stay in front of them for that long. Flip this open, your utensils are inside and it comes in very nice retail packaging.


I don’t know any of you went to Catholic school back in the day, but this is the old ass beating board. I mean, some might call it a charcuterie board but some of us have bad memories. So, super nice piece. This comes in three sizes. It’s a nice laser engraving again, the charcuterie area with Covid took off. So these have been so popular with us. And then another insulated tote bag for lunches, throw a couple of beers in here. Grab a shoulder strap, front pocket, and then this is one of our other eco options. 


Looks similar to the first cool air bag I showed you, but this one’s made out of 20 recycled water bottles. Thick enough, nice insulated area in the front pocket. So that piece has been a very good seller for us as well. 


Everybody’s adding an eco product to them. 


Oh, I got two really nice pieces to show you. This is our whiskey box. So this is for your special customers. It’s a gorgeous laser engraving on top. And then inside you’ve got two glasses. You’ve got your stones, your whiskey stones, and your coasters. It’s up to you–you can decorate on the box or we can additionally decorate every piece inside with a nice laser edge. That is a gorgeous piece. 


One of the other things we do is chairs. I want to show you our big boy chair. This is, we call it our sports chair, could be your beach day or your tailgating chair. It’s got all the side pockets that you need, mesh, zipper, insulated. Holds over 300 pounds. It’s lightweight, it’s aluminum. Fold-up table, which doesn’t come decorated, but for a few dollars extra, you can do this whole color decoration on here.


Guest: Open?


Pete Rosica: I’m sorry?


Guest: Open up. 


Pete Rosica: Yep, yep, yep. So this is very light and folds flat and it comes with a shoulder strap, so when you’re lugging all your coolers and everything to the beach for the Eagles tailgate tonight. So this is super sturdy, lightweight.


All right. Give me one second. So as Anton mentioned, they are one-stop shopping for ends and items and apparel. So this, the apparel that I represent, comes basically in two areas. Our main areas are polos. Then we have a line of untucked shirts, which many of you are wearing. The Polos are all made in Egypt, so we really have no importing issues, but we have a nice line of untucked, you can wear them tucked or untucked, value shirts, we call them value shirts because it’s not an $80 shirt. It’s an affordable shirt, nice for the corporate world.


Feel this thing. I just want you to see we’ve got polyester. This one is gorgeous. Super comfortable wear. The polos and the untuck, that’s our biggest areas. But we do something a little bit different. We have a line of hooded sweatshirts where we can, what’s called, dye sublimation. We can fully customize the inside of the hood with as many colors as a logo. So let’s say you had our high school sports team. We could do football, we could do the fan, we could put instruments on here, we can put your company logo, and it’s just a 24-piece minimum for you to do that. So this could also be incorporated into your company uniform. This one especially. This is a tri-blade, lightweight, very comfortable. 


And then this our best we do inside the color. There’s a little more subtle but pretty flexible as well. All right, good. Okay, so you are getting a small gift today, another pack of pens. Never have enough. So our pen company has been around for about 60 years. We can do regular ballpoint pens. We do gel pens. And then we have what’s called our hybrid ink which is a cross between the two. And it’s super smooth, dries quickly. If it’s a metal pen, we will do laser engraving. And actually on the metal pens, we can also do a full-color decoration, what we call a full-wrap.


So I have plenty of these up here with the full wrap. And if you would like samples of these, those full-color, we can do as many colors as you want on here. Or we can do a nice laser engraving on a middle pad. We have gel. We have regular pens. And all they do, so I started with this company ten years ago.


I researched this thing like crazy, but I never even knew it was a thing. But, they do high quality at very good prices. So everybody, these pens, great company to go with. And how many people here have bought an umbrella for themselves? Not many. Not many. Okay. A great holiday gift, a great employee recognition gift for client recognition.


It’s an umbrella. We’ve got your eco version. Made with recycled water bottles. Everybody has one of these now. We’ve got your super compact. Fits in a purse. Fits in your glove compartment. We’ve got a safety umbrella. This one has a reflective stripe around the perimeter, so if a headlight hits it, it’s going to reflect off of it. And we’ve got your super big golf umbrellas. They come vented, they come not vented. They can come with a rubberized grip. They can come with a wooden grip. 


But most people don’t buy an umbrella for themselves, but you get one as a gift and then you really appreciate it. So very nice with that. 


We have a very unique item here. so this is for the dashboard of your car. It’s nice we can do a bigger imprint in this one. We put a company logo on it and then one of the best parts is, instead of this big stupid cardboard things, this folds down. Fit under your seat. Fit in the glove compartment. So like a practical gift, again, with a great imprint area.


And then these have been around for a few years. But a lot of people I’m seeing quizzical faces. It’s an inverted umbrella. So and it makes perfect sense. You’re out in the rain. You’re walking to your car, getting in the car, the umbrella empties the other way rather than into your car. So our inverters are becoming a huge part of our line. Makes perfect sense that we can do, as you can see on this one, black exterior with a colored interior. Canopy can be different colors. At certain quantities, we can also customize this, be whatever you want it to be. Colors, designs. So umbrellas, great gift idea, nobody buys them for themselves.


Let’s see. Let’s see. We have one other area to talk about. This is our fun, kind of, an outdoor line. Kind of a inexpensive line. Beach items. Pickleball. Pickleball is everywhere. The poppers, you’ve seen these before, they are everywhere. From everywhere to little kids up to dementia patients. Great for anxiety or great for keeping someone busy. We can do multiple colors of those. 


Holiday ornaments, not too early. Desk items, nice size. Flagset with the sticky notes. First aid kits. Sunglasses for fun summer events, crayons, bubbles, items like that. Fun kids items, picnic items, and then a whole bunch of kitchen items. Ice cream scooper. So that line is more of our inexpensive line.


So we cover everything from high-end with the tech and the picnic items down to the pendants, which are high-quality and do a very good job. But I’ll just reiterate it again, it’s not too early for holiday items. Get your staff moving, Anton and his crew will do a great job for you. So that’s about it for me. So I thank you very much for your time and I’ll be around for a while if you want to do questions.


Ashley Carr: So keep those questions in mind. You’ll be able to ask them at the end. I will have a mike to pass around so that we can look back at these questions and learn what you guys are inquiring about.


But like you said, it’s not too early to order or to start brainstorming, you know? Covid used to be a problem. Not so much now. Stock has improved greatly. But that being said, our production partners are taking about ten working days. So just keep that in mind when you are ordering products and, you know, the earlier you order, probably the better the parts of the item that you’re going to get. So just keep all of this in mind and then just a little offer for you guys while you’re thinking about orders that you’re going to place. We do have a holiday card promotion going on up until November 6th. When you spend $500 minimum, you guys will get a customer card, which I will hand out samples of these to you guys as you leave. 


They are embellished. Your logo will go in the center and you will get one card per piece order. So enough for all your recipients of those presents. You’ll also have this little pamphlet in your folder to keep that promotion in your mind. But go ahead. When you get those cards, feel them. They’re so satisfying to touch and it’s just a little extra perk with your present. So any questions about the promotion? So you guys had questions earlier about products. Anybody you need to ask for that now?


Anton Smoot: So if you saw a product that you really like, my card is in everyone’s bag, just email me. Pricing all depends on quantities and how we’re decorating it. So if you send me just a quick idea of a product that you saw, just like pop me an email, I’ll send you a specific spec sheet for that item.


It will give you price points, what the minimums are, and what the different levels are. So everything that we send out to each of you will have the different quantities, different pricing, and then just let me know what you need. But I’ll be around after the show for a talk some more. We’ll go downstairs and we have some special projects we’re looking for and looking for something with Stacey.


So and hopefully some of you will stay for the tour. You can come by my department downstairs and we’ll chat a little bit if you have any questions on that. Anything else that we can help? Yes. 


So, with certain pens, not really, but we can get pens usually quickly within five days or seven days. We print them here, all the pads done here. We can also laser engrave the pens. Here we have a machine that does that, water bottles and all those things. 


So turnaround time can be pretty quick if you need them. Just give us a little time. But yes, anything else? Questions. Wow, I usually get a lot more questions, so. Well, thank you. Oh, yes. Oh, we’ve done them. We’ve done them for the place in Delaware for people AFSP organization.


Audience Member: Do you do dog tags?


Anton Smoot: Yes, we do them all the time. Yes. Make the large for large dogs, small dogs, multicolor. You can have one color imprint. You can have full-dye sublimated. Yes, we do it.


Audience member: Is there anything you can’t sell?


Anton Smoot:  I’ll be honest with you. Like I said, we have a million products, if you need it, we can probably source it. We’ve come across some strange things people are asking. Yes, we can get it. 


Audience Member: What’s the strangest thing you’ve been asked for?


Anton Smoot: It was a lady the other day who came up with this financial board game which she wants to teach to high school students all over today’s kids have no the idea of what it is, mommy and daddy give them a credit card, whatever. They’re learning about by a card paying interest, you take out a loan, you gotta pay interest. To buy a house, you pay on it. So she came up with this really game, which is amazing. So we had to get special pieces made to play the game. A spinner, a custom game board. It had custom notepads and just a really intricate game. It was really interesting. So we’re kind of working with her, find the source, but it’s really interesting.


But we come across different things here or there, so we can source it, like I said, with a million. So we are an ASI dealer, so we belong to a group of vendors that do not sell to the public anywhere and there’s probably 50,000 vendors in there. I would say probably within our database and we can source it.


So whether it’s overseas or here, we try to get some stuff made here, but a lot of stuff unfortunately is made overseas. Most people don’t know that Under Armour, a Baltimore company. Zero product-maintenance country zero, zero! They are a marketing company. Bottom line, that’s what they do. Their product is made in Honduras, Egypt, El Salvador, Belize. It’s made in India, Pakistan, but they make zero product in this country.


They’re a marketing company is still logo. That’s what they do. Nike, same thing. So there’s certain organizations that sometimes ask for American made. There is some in North Carolina, South Carolina, but the pricing is higher because of the labor cost. It’s just the way it is. You know, when I have my own company, I used to work for the FBI.


So the FBI stipulated in my contract, has to be American-made. So we sourced the product, gave them the price, and they’re like, well, we can’t afford that. Even the FBI decided to go with a foreign-made apparel because of the costing. It just, the industry has changed this way. But more companies are starting to use sources closer on this side of the pond, like in South America, Central America, instead China, because it takes so long to get here. So we did a great job for Baltimore County. They had that special environmental bag made recycled, but they waited. Literally took the time we did the actual sample. By the time we got it here, it was probably 112 days. But they waited for it because that’s what they want.


So, it all depends how soon you want it. But a lot of our suppliers now in this country, so they do buy overseas, but they store it here and from here to the West Coast. We have them down in New York. We have North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Texas. So inventory has greatly improved. So there’s a lot of our vendors that we use now have inventory by the tens of thousands of pieces and we can get it.


Shipping, of course, in California, is expensive. So we try to, if we buy a tumbler, like a Yeti or some similar product, it’s very expensive to ship. Shipping costs have gone through the roof. They really have. We can’t control that. So we try to use, if we know, looking for some product, we try to stay in the East Coast.


We have customers all over the country. A company called Active Day. They have 6 to 8 locations. Some we try to find a vendor that’s close to where they are. We ship it there. If they’re on the West Coast, we use vendors out of the West Coast area. So although we have 50,000 vendors, we stick with a certain buying group. 


We launched a special buying group called TPG. We get special pricing, we deal with people like Pete, so we have several dozen vendors we try to stick with, because we know we can get the product, the quality. So I would say we’re probably over 90% of orders we do right the first time. Do we make mistakes? Yes, we do. Unfortunately, sometimes that happens, but pretty much over 90% of all the orders we get done on time and correctly and get them delivered. So, if you have something we will source it. Just let me know, we will find you the product closest where you are and get it here for you, made. But yes, so anything else? No? All right, it’s good.


[End of transcript.]