Business Information Factsheet

Become A Promotional Merchandise  Retailer


  • Introduction
  • Trading issues
  • Sources of further information


A promotional merchandise retailer supplies items customised with business names, logos or messages for promotional use. Typical promotional merchandise (also referred to as business incentive gifts) includes desk accessories, mugs, clothing, smartphone cases and chargers, toys, stationery and confectionery. Items are customised using a range of methods including laser engraving, transfer printing and screen printing. In addition to stocking a wide range of promotional merchandise, some retailers also source specific items on request.

Key customer groups include private-sector firms, local authorities, the NHS, schools, charities and universities. Many promotional merchandise retailers operate exclusively online.

Trading issues

  • According to a ‘Promotional Merchandise Industry Market Report’ published by Sourcing City, the value of the promotional merchandise market in the UK and Ireland was over £966 million in 2016, which was the seventh consecutive year of growth (
  • A survey published by the British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) in October 2017 found that good service was the most important consideration influencing survey respondents’ choice of promotional merchandise supplier, followed by a good relationship, product quality and communication. When choosing which products to buy, usefulness was the most important consideration, followed by price, relevance to marketing campaigns, durability and uniqueness. Go to for more details.
  • The same BPMA survey also found that promotional merchandise is used for trade show give-aways (66% of respondents), ‘customer recognition’ (52%), sales incentives (37%) and employee engagement (27%).
  • Technology-related items, such as portable chargers, earphones and smartphone stands, are the fastest-growing category of promotional merchandise, according to Steel City Branded Merchandise, one of the largest promotional merchandise distributors in the UK. Health and well-being products, such as water bottles and pedometers, are also increasingly popular (
  • Promotional merchandise retailers typically provide a set of standard products that their customers can choose from and have personalised with graphics, logos and text, often via an online order form. Once the customer has submitted the order form, the retailer will produce a sample to send to the customer for approval. The customer will return the sample with a deposit if they are satisfied and prepared to place an order. The initial sample stage is often free, although some retailers charge a deposit in advance. The deposit is typically 50% of the full price, with the final 50% payable on delivery of the order.
  • Promotional merchandise retailers require reliable suppliers of customisable giftware, such as wholesalers that specialise in supplying ‘blank’ items that are suitable for printing on. For examples, go to:
  • Techniques used to personalise promotional merchandise with graphics, logos and text include:
  • The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (and equivalent legislation in Northern Ireland) set out requirements regarding the use and maintenance of work equipment and protective clothing. Promotional merchandise retailers should ensure that they and their employees wear protective clothing such as overalls, masks and gloves when appropriate. They should also ensure that the correct guards are fitted on printing and engraving machines. Guidance from the Health & Safety Executive about the safe use of printing machinery is available at
  • Under the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989, promotional merchandise retailers must assess and manage potential risks of electrical equipment that they use in the course of their business, such as printers and computers, and regularly assess their safety, for example by carrying out a visual check or a formal PAT (portable appliance testing) inspection (
  • Under the Sale of Goods Act 1979 and the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982, products sold by promotional merchandise retailers must be of satisfactory quality, as described and fit for purpose. Any services provided (such as advising clients about the size, colour and other technical specifications of graphics used on promotional merchandise) must be carried out with reasonable care and skill.
  • The Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations 2008 make it a criminal offence for promotional merchandise retailers to mislead their customers (for example by claiming knowledge and experience that they do not have). The Regulations also make it an offence for retailers to promote their business by making unfair comparisons between their own services and those of other retailers of promotional merchandise or similar marketing products.
  • Under the General Product Safety Regulations 2005, promotional merchandise retailers must ensure that items intended for, or likely to be used by, consumers (meaning anyone acting for purposes unconnected with their business or profession) are safe before offering them for sale. The Regulations define a ‘safe’ product as one that, under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use, presents no risk to the user. Retailers must provide warnings if necessary, and adequate information about the safe use of the item.
  • The BPMA runs a range of courses for people who already have some experience in the sector. These include the Trained in Promotional Merchandise qualification, which is aimed at individuals who have up to three years’ experience in the promotional merchandise sector and costs £175 (excluding VAT). For details, go to
  • Start-up promotional merchandise retailers face competition from online gift wholesalers, many of which offer customers the opportunity to personalise the items that they purchase. They also face competition from established promotional merchandise retailers. Go to the BPMA member directory ( to view a list of established promotional retailers and distributors.
  • Participating in Promotional Products Week (PPW,, which is a series of events run around the UK each September by the BPMA.
  • Attending local business networking events. Organisations such as local Chambers of Commerce ( provide networking opportunities for their members. A useful directory of local networking events is available at
  • Supporting local charities and sports teams by providing discounted or free promotional merchandise for their campaigns and events.

Sources of further information

The British Promotional Merchandise Association (BPMA) is a trade body representing promotional merchandise distributors and suppliers in the UK and Ireland.

The Promotional Merchandise Trade Association (PROMOTA) is a membership organisation, representing the promotional merchandise industry in the UK.

‘Promotional Product Distributor (PPD) is a trade magazine and online resource featuring the latest sector news, product updates and details of forthcoming events. The print edition is published six times per year.

‘eppi’ is a trade magazine and online resource for the European promotional products industry. It provides news and features about new products and trends, profiles of key companies and individuals, and reports of trade events. The print edition is published six times per year.

DISCLAIMER While all reasonable efforts have been made, the publisher makes no warranties that this information is accurate and up-to-date and will not be responsible for any errors or omissions in the information nor any consequences of any errors or omissions. Professional advice should be sought where appropriate.