Bringing gifts from the Orient

Seamus Greaney has moved over three million individual promotional items through his company, Universal Sourcing Services, www.usssite.com
Seamus Greaney has moved over three million individual promotional items through his company, Universal Sourcing Services, www.usssite.com

Ten years ago ShelfLife interviewed Seamus Greaney just as he started his new promotional sourcing company, Universal Sourcing Services Int. Recently we caught up with him to see how he has fared on the other side of the world

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12 September 2008 | 0

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Seamus Greaney has moved over three million individual promotional items through his company, Universal Sourcing Services, www.usssite.com

The last decade has been a busy time for Seamus Greaney. Originally from Swinford, Co. Mayo, Seamus spent 15 years running the family supermarket. In 1998 he sought a career change and set up Universal Sourcing Services. Its aim, to source innovative and quirky items for use in promotional campaigns by FMCG companies.

Kids are suckers for gadgets

Having moved over three million individual promotional items through his company we wondered what has been the biggest ‘hit’ so far? “In volume terms it was an item called a ‘Woosher Straw’, we supplied over 400,000 units to Coca-Cola in 2003. A friend of mine from Dublin invented this; in fact he even made it to the final of the ‘Big Idea’ on Sky TV.

Basically it’s a straw that spins when you suck it. So the logo interacts and does something. It also attracts attention as other kids see it and want it. But more importantly for soft drink companies, the quicker you suck the quicker it spins …ultimately it drives sales” he says proudly.

On-pack promotions in the past were generally of the mug, key-ring and baseball cap brigade but with the advent of the ipod and MP3 player came a whole new raft of promotional items. “Technology has had a huge impact on what kind of promotions float consumers boats these days” says Greaney.

“We find that by travelling to the Far East on average three times a year, we are keeping abreast of all that is new and innovative. We recently came across an item called a ‘Penphlet’. This is a standard sized pen but it also holds six pages of information in full colour…new product info or whatever the client wants.”

Something for everyone

Whilst a lot of what USS sources is in the under E1 category for promotional purposes, Greaney says that they are constantly on the lookout for innovative products that could go on general sale. “I recently came across an item for weighing luggage. It is a mini-digital scale that can weigh up to 50kg accurately. With everybody travelling nowadays and getting fleeced at the airports for extra weight on their luggage I think this is a real winner and would have mass-market appeal for promotion or general retail” he says.

In addition, Greaney has found other diverse items, including a two-in-one drink holder and horn (for concerts or football matches), are is also looking at ranges of ‘green’ products, such as a pocket ashtray that can be used for disposing of chewing gum and cigarettes. “We are currently in negotiataions with numerous county councils on this,” he says.

Downturn means opportunity

Greaney says that in these recessionary times, companies will use on-pack promotions
 even more to keep their brands to the fore. “I think premium gifts will have a huge role to play in future especially as more and more brands get dragged into a price war. As the consumer tends to just look for extra value…they do not necessarily see the brand, just the price. I fully understand that with increased pressure from retail chains that a certain amount of this must happen. I still think companies should mix it up.

“Take for example a toilet tissue company. On occasion it would be a real advantage to offer some type of bathroom aid with subtle branding, such as a toilet brush/holder, as a free offer that say costs 60c but has a perceived value of E2. In this instance at least the brand is getting more recognition and is saving money, whilst the customer is still rewarded and the retailer is still happy.”

A recent USS find, the ‘Penphlet’ is a standard sized pen that also holds six pages of information in full colour, which could include new product info and other promotional material

A recent USS find, the ‘Penphlet’ is a standard sized pen that also holds six pages of information in full colour, which could include new product info and other promotional material

Small is beautiful

USS is run very much on a one to one basis with personal service being the key to its success. “We have made a deliberate decision to keep the company small which keeps our overheads down and as a result we can pass on significant savings to our clients” he says.

In years gone by there might have been a question mark over the quality of products coming in from China but Greaney says this is no longer the case. “I believe that over the last ten years we have built up a list of the most efficient suppliers in China. Like all markets there are good and bad suppliers but I am happy that we only deal with the best.

We also use the same logistics company Conway Shipping as our main importers, we find the expertise of Pat Grainger and his team invaluable especially on tight deadlines. “Recently we recruited Cathy Geng. Cathy holds a masters degree in marketing but if there are any language problems she can quickly revert to her native tongue and sort them out which is an added bonus!”                        

 

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