growing niche profits

Get It and Grow

Have you made your resolutions for 2016? You may be determined to improve your health, beat personal bests as a weekend warrior in your sport of choice, or expand your horizons by acquiring a new skill– but don’t forget to add business goals to your to-do list. Here’s a look at some potential growth opportunities for you to consider as you craft your plan for success in the months to come.


As a whole, safety is a hot category. Businesses of all types will grow their safety expenditures in 2016, as employers put more emphasis on workplace safety, most if not all industries experience growth in safety compliance regulations, and ongoing education and awareness efforts make their mark on both the business-to-business and the business-to-consumer landscape.

First aid kits and supplies are a critical component of the opportunity in safety. The International Safety Equipment Association (ISEA) recently released guidelines setting forth specifications for two classes of first aid kits, based on the assortment and quantity of first aid supplies. Class A kits are designed to deal with most common workplace injuries, such as minor cuts, abrasions and sprains; while Class B kits include a broader range and quantity of supplies to deal with injuries in more complex or high-risk environments.

Additionally, the new ISEA guidelines designate kits by Type (I, II, III or IV) depending on the work environment in which they are to be used. For example, Type 1 identifies kits that are suitable for outdoor use and must pass tests for corrosion, moisture and impact resistance. A thorough knowledge of your customer base as well as of these standards and regulations can assist you in creating opportunities to replace first aid kits currently in place, as well as in retrofitting existing kits, and refreshing supplies.

Speaking of refreshing, rental Members: Offer an automatic stocking program – this takes the burden of keeping up with standards and compliance practices off your clients’ plates, and enlists your company as a valued partner in minimizing compliance violations. Naturally, this tactic also creates important recurring revenue for your bottom line. Additionally, Promotional Products Members report that mini first aid kits remain popular, but they also receive requests for full size, compliant kits. To promote their safety program, some companies are sending first aid kits to employees’ homes in “Safety Starts at Home” campaigns.

Several end-of-the-year foodborne illness scares mean that products relating to the safety of food storage, production and service will continue to be top of mind as 2016 gets rolling. This category includes wearables like gloves, as well as a wide variety of products such as smocks, aprons, hair nets,, etc. Additional safety categories that will be important in the coming year include fall protection, protective apparel and wearables (i.e., goggles, shoe covers, hi vis, FR, masks, hydration products, etc.).
For a complete list of First Aid and Safety Preferred Suppliers, refer to the Member site.


Now morphing to “Cleaning and Breakroom” or “Facilities Service,” this market will undergo rapid expansion in the coming year. A recent study pegged distributor sales to rise sharply from their 2014 total of $24.6 billion, with the majority of distributors selling within a 60-mile radius. Education concerns, health care companies, and contract cleaners are among the most aggressive consumers. Towels, facial tissue, and toilet tissue will continue to be the product category that sells the most by dollar volume.

Looking to up your revenue in this area? Eco-friendly is the word to watch. Paper product growth is focused in the recycled and environmentally friendly areas, while more companies are asking for environmentally friendly cleaning supplies as well. It’s not only supplies that are getting a “green” makeover, but delivery systems as well, such as hands-free paper towel, soap, and sanitizer dispensers that minimize waste.

Cross selling is another key to maximizing your revenues in this sector. Make your customers aware of products that can be used at a variety of locations in a facility, such as soap and paper products that can be stocked in the employee break room and/or cafeteria, as well as in bathrooms. Additionally, promote related products, such as signage, message mats and fall prevention products, to boost your bottom line.

Niche Markets

While the health care, education and financial industries may be perennially at the forefront of your radar screen, drilling down to offer product selections that cater to niche markets can be a great way to boost revenues. If you target three to five fast-growing categories in your geographic area of service, then pull together a specialized set of products curated to meet their needs, and pitch them using industry-sensitive language geared at demonstrating your understanding of their business, you’ll become a valued partner.

Nationally, niche markets created by the “gray tsunami” of baby boomers hitting retirement age and above are a fertile field for growth – for example, within the health care market, booming niche markets include medical devices, medical supplies, and home health. Businesses in these categories need custom and specialty products designed to fit their needs such as higher-end apparel (promotional polos and soft-shell jackets), uniforms, name badges and promotional products including notepads, folios, bags, mobile device storage products, mobile accessories, and pens. Put together a sales sheet or page on your website that showcases all these products together for easy reference, and you’ll be able to take advantage of these niche players’ booming businesses.


The nonprofit sector is growing at nothing less than a “breakneck pace,” according to the New York Times, having expanded by 25% since 2011. Granted, these clients are generally on the thrifty side, as they are run tighter than for-profit companies. However, nonprofit clients can offer you a terrific way to showcase your creativity and service, and are valuable for providing a point of entry into other companies.

Additionally, nonprofits may offer the opportunity to sell in a full scope of supplies, advertising specialty, and promotional products, and often look to consolidate their purchases into the hands of just a few suppliers in order to recognize volume discounts and preferential service. For example, Salvation Army reports routinely ordering supplies typical to the foodservice industry including not only food safety products like gloves and masks but also logoed aprons; janitorial and sanitation supplies; health care-related supplies including logoed hand sanitizers, toothbrushes, slippers, and slipper socks; plus wearables for office workers and/or volunteers. In this respect, demonstrating a command of your clients’ areas of service can assist you in becoming one of only a few preferred suppliers they select – an opportunity that can offer important recurring revenue.

Small Business

Small business is another area of continued growth for 2016. According to the Small Business Association (SBA) Office of Advocacy, small firms accounted for more than 60% of the net new job growth between 1995 and mid-2015, and that trend is projected to continue for the coming year. Keep in mind that innovation and scalability of services are key components of what many small businesses bring to the marketplace, meaning your company will need to offer products that break through the clutter, and tailor turnaround times and other responsiveness metrics to correspond to the agility of their marketplace.

Hot small business categories include information technology, temporary staffing, and property management. Information technology companies are moving beyond the standard mousepads and USB drives to customized storage devices and logoed mobile accessories. Property management companies, meanwhile, spurred by growth in the rental market as consumers rent longer before purchasing a home, and as baby boomers return to the rental marketplace after downsizing, look for unique promotional products to help increase recall among their target audiences, including mobile accessories, unique writing instruments, and drinkware, as well as midrange logoed apparel for employees. Temporary staffing companies, on the other hand, find that time-management products such as calendars and day planners, as well as notepads, pens, bags, and private-label water bottles are successful among their client base in generating goodwill and building brand profile.

With all of these opportunities for growth, 2016 looks like a banner year. Rely on customer and market knowledge to lead you as you leverage these trends to realize growth.

Julie Peck is a marketing consultant.