| May 11, 2021
It is virtually certain that everyone in the United States — and, let’s be real, the world — would agree that 2020 was a year like no other. But it’s easy to forget that in the United States, the beginning of 2020 wasn’t actually all that different from 2019. In fact, there was a sort of slow march toward the COVID-19 pandemic — Hemingway might say we got there “gradually,” with a drip-drip-drip of news stories about the novel coronavirus and its spread elsewhere in the world, “and then suddenly,” as the country abruptly shut down in mid-March. By April, daily life and business routines had changed drastically across the globe.
Three companies — Suncoast Marketing, All Barcode Systems, and Tabco — granted PSDA access to their business triumphs and tragedies amid the hectic days of April 2020. In the PS Magazine feature titled “The Month Everything Changed,” the companies and their leaders gave PSDA a detailed look at a tense month filled with new accounts, lost vendors, urgent funding and galvanized teams.
April 2020 was jam-packed with milestones and memorable events for both the United States as a whole and for the companies. Later in the year, the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines turned the tide against the coronavirus, making it possible for business to rebound in 2021.
If April 2020 was “the month everything changed,” then 2021 has been “the year things started to change back.” Thanks to a successful vaccination rollout, the United States has started to reopen and walk the path back to normalcy. Now that the situation has changed so much, PSDA caught up with two of the companies featured in last year’s article, Suncoast Marketing and Tabco.
Eyes on July: Suncoast Marketing Hopes for a More Normal Summer
Randy Eubanks, Suncoast Marketing's senior vice president of sales, says the company has weathered the pandemic fairly well. He’s hopeful that business will continue to rebound as Florida reopens and tourism dollars start flowing again.
Last spring, you said PPE was driving the show. Is that still the case now?
Not at all. I believe we talked about my example of the traditional business dropping off and the PPE coming up very rapidly. They actually offset each other for a while — from late March through probably early September. Then the PPE started dropping down fairly rapidly, while traditional business only ticked up quite slowly. By the end of August, we were substantially ahead of 2019, which was amazing given the circumstances. But October, November and December proved to be a lot slower, and as a result, we ended up slightly ahead of 2019 for 2020.
Your facility lent itself well to social distancing and having people in the office. What did your remote work/in-person work balance end up looking like?
We were very fortunate. We were labeled essential because we do a lot of food processing labels and payroll checks and services. We only kept a skeleton crew here in the office, though the full warehouse and driver crew was in every day. I was in three or four days a week. We had maybe five people on a regular basis in the office, and other than that we prohibited any supplier meetings onsite. We did have customers who would show up and pick up things or drop off things, so we had a face mask rule.
How has 2021 been so far, and how do you envision the rest of the year going?
January and February were a terribly slow start. March was good but not great. The jury’s still out on April [at the time of this interview]. I think we’re on an incline; we’re coming back. The spring break tourism was back, and it was a needed financial boost for the restaurant, hospitality and hotel industries. I’m targeting July 1; it’s the date when a lot of my clients will go back. Very few clients have gone back into the office; most are still working remotely, and some are working staggered shifts back in the office. Barring any problems, that’s the target that most people have for returning to some sort of normalcy.
For Tabco, Optimism After an Inconsistent Year
Kris Bilyeu, Tabco’s chief operating officer, is hopeful that 2021 will be better than 2020. The company’s salespeople adjusted their practices in 2020 to ensure compliance with social distancing guidelines and mask rules, but now that vaccines are being distributed they are more comfortable with in-person sales calls again.
Last April, you had several projects with Vigo County Schools. Did you continue that partnership?
We did through the end of the school year. But they went to a hybrid system for a while, so they had kids in class. They didn’t need to continue shipping schoolwork to students’ homes for very long. They got the kids back in class, and then once they got them back in school, they got all their Chromebooks. So we helped them through the end of the 2019/2020 school year. But they have had other opportunities for us, as have other school corporations, related to COVID-19.
Did you end up expanding your offerings for virtual experiences?
Our direct mail did expand. We have projects that are still going on for different accounts. These fulfillment projects get mailed out to the customers’ clients. We have a few of those programs, and we’ve shipped 600 pieces throughout the nation to multiple locations. That’s individual pieces to 600 people. There’s a lot more of that fulfillment-type work. We ramped up for it and dedicated part of our building to supporting fulfillment programs, so it has been a growth area for us this past year.
How are you feeling about 2021 and beyond?
This has been a very inconsistent year. We’ll have a couple of good months and a couple of bad months. Right now, I feel like everything is optimistic and some of the bigger orders are coming back in. I think people are realizing they need the things they had before the pandemic, and they’re opening up again.
In-person trade shows are happening again, so I see that in a lot of places, a lot of our customers are fine. They’re getting reloaded so they can go at it later this year and try to make up for lost time. We’re doing the same thing. Indiana has dropped the mask mandate.
With the mask mandate being lifted, places are opening up and people are accepting sales reps again. Our crew goes in and does whatever is required at that location. Many of our people are vaccinated, and as long as they’re comfortable and the customer is comfortable, they’re going out a little bit more. The overall atmosphere is positive and starting to feel a little bit better again.
Refresh your memory on "The Month Everything Changed" by checking out the original story from the June/July 2020 issue of PS Magazine. Read the article online here.
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