Based in Mount Pleasant, Wis., Promotions Unlimited supports grocery, hardware, craft, variety, dollar and drug stores with name brand, seasonal, everyday and craft products, as well as advertising through in-store signage, circulars and email marketing. Phelps’ parents, founder Ira Greenberg and President and owner Lorraine Greenberg, started the company in 1973.
Previously, Ira Greenberg operated a drug wholesale company with his family in Chicago. When the couple had the vision of helping retailers move their products, they formed Promotions Unlimited. “We started by just selling product,” he recalls, noting that it eventually moved into producing newspaper ads for the Little Bucky Saving Centers chain.
When Promotions Unlimited’s clients saw diminishing results from newspaper ads, it produced circulars that could be inserted into newspapers and sent through direct mail. The circulars’ resulting success “gave us an opportunity to go across the country,” Greenberg recalls.
The company also expanded its reach in retail. When it purchased the Ben Franklin discount stores franchise, it gained “entry into the flowers and craft area,” he says, noting that Promotions Unlimited also moved into drug stores.
Today, the company sells to more than 8,000 stores nationwide, as well as stores in Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. “Not only do we provide 4,000+ products for immediate shipment, we have a monthly prebook program that we do,” Phelps says. “We come up with 3,000 to 5,000 different items every month.
“They can buy anything from us from toothpaste to Christmas trees,” she says, noting that Promotions Unlimited also provides coupon books, which have been its strongest promotional vehicles.
“We’re a believer in direct mail to the consumer in their area,” Greenberg says. “[It gives the client] better penetration around their store. By going with direct mail, you’re going to get it to the customer directly.”
Ready to Evolve
Promotions Unlimited is not afraid of change in its market, Phelps says. “We know that for retailers to survive, they have to offer new things to their customers all the time,” she says.
Greenberg agrees. “We’ve always gone with the concept that it has to work for the customer, the store, the wholesaler and the manufacturer, and then it will work for us,” he explains, noting that the company recently added a new website.
Called CmainStreet, the site acts as a web store for each of its independent retailers. “In 2014, the Internet [had] $329 billion in sales, and 77 percent of teenagers and 66 percent of adults shop on the Internet,” he says. “Our stores will be able to reach out wider with more products.”
Promotions Unlimited also fulfills and ships orders under its clients’ names, Greenberg says.
“We’re giving our stores the opportunity to compete with mass merchandisers and anyone else that’s on the Internet,” he says.
The future is unlimited for Promotions Unlimited, particularly for the Greenberg family, Lorraine Greenberg says. “My children grew up in the business,” she says. “I now have grandchildren that are coming into the business.”
Phelps adds that the company will continue its success, thanks to its relationships with its stores. Biannually, its clients visit its 60,000-square-foot learning center showroom to view merchandise and learn tools that will improve their business. “We fly stores in, we pay for their airfare, hotel and their food,” she says.
But the experience brings both Promotions Unlimited and its client closer, Ira Greenberg asserts. “It helps us to better understand them, and it helps them to better understand us,” he says, noting that the company will continue changing for its clients.
“The only thing constant in this world is change,” he says. “You’ve got to make it work for everybody, not just for yourself. We’ve always been able to create a rapport with our stores.
“We have a lot of plans,” he continues, noting that Promotions Unlimited plans to grow its cosmetics line. “We are going to carry more and more products as we go along. We’re also going to get more and more people going with us and shipping to the consumer.”