Let's talk facts.

Do you have problems with buying merchandise? No marketing media is perfect, especially promotional merchandise. Let’s be honest there are lots of things that can go wrong with promotional products from the product, print, delivery, pricing, cheap packaging and breakages! If you’re new to buying promotional products it may be daunting as you may worry about what could possibly go wrong. It’s important to address the concerns before they happen.  But hopefully, this article will look at all the areas to keep an eye on, so you can ensure your promotional merchandise journey is smooth and easy and we can unfix all your problems with buying merchandise.

Questions of Problems wth Promo

Unexpected costs.

One of the pitfalls to look out for is ‘set up costs’. You would think at £1 a pen 100 pens would be £100, but this isn’t the case. There is usually a set-up cost on top. As your order is custom printed it will not be produced in bulk. So with every order, there is a custom handling charge - also called origination/set up/tooling/handling/screen/disc charge. This is the cost to get the machines ready to print your promotional products.


Speak to your promotional supplier and ask them to send you an accurate quote based on your branding. Then you can set your promotional budget properly. The quote your supplier will send will include carriage costs.  It may exclude VAT so check in the small print.

Design charges.

Ask about design charges up front from your supplier. You may not have the logo in the correct format or need help with the design. A good supplier will always help with design, visuals and options but ask about the cost of this front. Try to get to know your branding, colour palette and brand identity as well as you can so you can be clear with your promotional merchandise supplier.


The more information you can supply the better your supplier can match products to your needs.

Branding went wrong.

Before taking the plunge always ask for print areas, branding methods and Pantone matching. Never go ahead with an order without checking final print proofs. If the end product is different from your proof then your supplier should offer a refund or reprint. Branding should never be wrong if you have supplied the correct pantones, logos and checked the proof thoroughly. Your supplier will let you know on the proofs if there are parts of the design which might cause problems.


Zoom in and out of your proofs as a PDF sometimes looks distorted on screen. Print out the proofs and check the logo isn’t stretched. A good promotional supplier will be checking for all these things as well as dreaded spelling mistakes.

Spelling Mistakes with Promo

Logo doesn't work on merchandise.

Sometimes logos aren’t suited for merchandise because of their intricacy, products sometimes have small print areas so may not suit your logo. So before getting carried away let your supplier know of minimum print areas to replicate your logo properly.


It is always worth having your logo in various formats and spot colours. We can always re-draw your logos if you are struggling to find it in the correct format.

Poor quality products.

This is the number one concern for most buyers and rightly so. Promotional products are notorious to be tacky as they are deemed as throw away, give-away, tatt, freebies. Implying less than retail quality. But this should not be the case and the best way to avoid poor quality products is to ask for ‘real-life’ samples, photos, and product data sheets. Leaving orders to the last minute is the fastest way to poor quality merchandise so plan your strategy in advance so you have plenty of time to check out your samples.


Ask for printed samples and ask for the cost of pre-production samples so you can ensure that you have picked the best product for your promotion. Samples are always a good way to touch, feel and get an idea for size of a product.

Arriving too late.

Don’t leave it to the 11th hour to order your merchandise. Your supplier may print and dispatch on time but 99% of delivery delays can be blamed on the courier. Your supplier may buffer in a day or two for this but expecting merchandise to arrive on a specific day may raise the blood pressure unnecessarily. If your merchandise arrives after a promised date you will still be required to keep the products and pay for them.


A good supplier will keep your order tracked really closely and advise properly whether you will receive your goods on time. Make your supplier your close ally and stay in touch with them. Ask for tracking details so you can check the journey too.

Bad for the environment.

Like any consumable promotional products can be bad for the environment. The rule is low cost, high volume products are going to have a low perceived value and may end up in landfill.  A lot of promotional products are made from plastic and if they are low value will end up in landfill.


Think about your marketing strategy carefully. Why is there a need to give away 20000 plastic whistles? Are you better off getting 5000 reusable bamboo straws to give out at the music festival? The promotional merchandise industry has grasped the fact that promotional products should be eco friendly and reusable so ask to see a sustainable option instead. Great suppliers will also be able to prove where all products are manufactured, under what conditions.

Damaged Goods.

So your box of mugs got chucked over the fence by the courier? Or your print has come off or looks distorted in parts. Like any goods you shouldn’t have to pay for any damaged goods. Damage can happen in production or in transit! It really shouldn’t happen in production as suppliers will have a quality control department who will spot check before dispatch. If you ask, they will send you photos of your goods before they leave the factory floor.


Ask your supplier about packaging. If you do receive any damaged goods, tell your supplier straight aways and send photos. The quicker your response the quicker your supplier can help resolve the problem.

Boring products.

Yes a lot of suppliers supply the same sort of thing, so shop around for innovative promotional products. It is important your promotional products stand out from the crowd of boring merchandise.


Ask your supplier to help you with ideas around a campaign theme. A branded rubber duck might be more memorable than a branded mouse mat so ask for help from your supplier.


Scale is where it can go wrong, so you imagined 50 x 20mm would be loads bigger! Or an A5 Notebook is not quite pocket size. Use a ruler or measuring tape and physically draw out the size, guaranteed it will be bigger or smaller than what you expected.


Ask for branding areas and draw this out so you know what to expect.

Poor customer service.

Like any industry customer service can make or break the whole experience.  The trick here is to pick up the phone, email your supplier, test them out first and see how they perform. If they aren’t speedy or efficient with answering all of your simple questions then alarm bells should be ringing. All the little things matter so make sure they answer the phone first. Many promotional merchandise suppliers have several departments and usually the sales team will be the most receptive as they want your sale. It may go down hill after that as the job may be passed onto an order processing team.


Check out Google and TrustPilot reviews to see what others have said about the entire sales and delivery process.

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Not what I expected.

You should always ask for real life photos, product spec sheets, visuals with your logo on and samples before placing your order. Ask for product measurements, print areas and material data sheets.

Paying upfront.

Ask for credit terms if you wish to build up a long term relationship with your supplier, a good supplier will be just as keen to put you on payment terms.

Impartial advice.

A good supplier is pro- active, impartial and a fantastic problem solver. They will want to make sure you choose the right product. They will share what has worked for others too. Everyone wants a “seller - free” sales experience, if your supplier is salesy then they might not be the company for you.


Speak to the designer in the company - they are usually creative, helpful and impartial so will give you some good advice.

Last Minute Orders.

There are so many things to think about especially when your to-do list is long and stressy! If you don’t keep an eye on your merchandise order it could go wrong easily. Make sure your supplier holds themselves responsible to guide you properly.


Your supplier will ask for a Purchase Order, Delivery Address, Event Date, Delivery Date, Packaging Information,  Courier Tracking Details, Delivery Contact details. They will ask you for brand guidelines, pantone references, and will provide visuals, proofs, samples and photos of similar jobs. If you want a partner in promotional merchandise who will look out for the pitfalls (another pair of eyes) and advise you properly then it’s worth getting a ‘feel; for your supplier first.


I ordered too much and it’s gathering dust.

In reality it may be the opposite, if it’s a good promo campaign it will probably go quickly and you will run out of merchandise. It’s important to have a robust implementation plan of how the merchandise will be distributed, to who, the time frame and the follow up plan.


Follow up Follow up, try not give anything away until you have got your recipient subscribed to your email list.

My first order and I’m scared it will all go wrong!

This is completely understandable. Ask questions and let your supplier know that you would appreciate some extra help. All UK suppliers will advise, even if you haven’t got an artwork ready logo, many suppliers will help you to create one (usually free of charge).


Make your promo supplier part of your winning print team, they will be able to help you with lots of extra bits and bobs that an agency or printer may charge for.

Contact us.

If you have any queries or would like more advice for any concerns about problems with buying merchandise you can contact us at sales@extravaganza.uk.com or give us a call at 0116 285 2417 and the team can advise you on best practices and help you with any enquiry you may have. We want to help you as much as we can so if you have any questions about the pitfalls of promotional merchandise please speak to us straight away so that we can help you.