Promotional products have moved on from the classic pens of the past. Although pens are still a staple giveaway, today’s businesses want the items distributed with their logo to reflect their brands, corporate personalities and values.
Caliendo-Savio Enterprises (CSE) Inc., headquartered in New Berlin, Wis., knows that keeping up with trends in technology, fabrics and style is vital to its business. For 33 years, CSE has provided its customers with unique, high-quality promotional items and uniform solutions tailored to satisfy each individual client.
CSE was started in 1979 with a partnership between Jerry Savio and Chuck Caliendo, who ran the business out of their home. Today, the company has 89 employees with an average tenure of 12.5 years, a manufacturing and distribution facility of more than 100,000 square feet, and almost 200,000 orders a year via the Internet.
The company has been able to grow and thrive with a very direct and focused marketing philosophy. “The biggest challenge that we find in our industry is that it is highly commoditized,” COO Mark Ziskind explains. “There are over 22,000 promotional product distributors in the United States, so there is not a single company that we call that is not already working with someone else. The challenge is outselling our competitors, being more creative and making the client’s life easier.”
The creative team at CSE draws inspiration from a variety of sources, such as retail clothing stores and even the skateboard and skiing industries. “We also try to understand the target audience,” Ziskind explains. “The desired result is that when you have a promotional item, someone will ask, ‘Where did you get that?’ Our job is to create ideas that will generate that excitement and initiate the engagement between our client’s brand and its customers.”
The other important quality CSE bring to its clients is its commitment to customer service. “I always tell our employees, ‘Treat every order like it’s for your mother,’” Ziskind explains.
One of the company’s rules to ensure high-quality service is its 90-minute rule. “If you call our company, somebody will call you back within 90 minutes, and if you email us, we’ll respond within the same timeframe,” Ziskind says. The company also has an “in by four, out the door” shipping policy, where orders for items in stock received before 4 p.m. Central Time are shipped out the same day.
But it is CSE’s “can-do” attitude that really stands out. Ziskind recounts the story of a company that recently called at 1 in the afternoon with a serious problem. “The client called and told me that another supplier had let them down. They needed 700 promotional items in New York by the next day,” Ziskind recalls. “We had some sweatshirts that didn’t need to be run for a week, so we took them, converted our embroidery shop over to that client, and had the products out to that client the same day, saving their event.”
That level of service is possible because the company is designed to be nimble. “We have in-house embroidery, laser engraving, and just added large-format digital printing,” Ziskind explains. “We are also part of the Legacy Buying Group, which allows us to leverage our buying power for quick turnaround times on orders manufactured by our supply partners.”
CSE was a founding member of the Legacy Buying Group, which is comprised of seven members from Los Angeles to Baltimore to Toronto. Combined, the group is the eighth-largest purchaser of branded merchandise in North America. “By establishing strong relationships with our suppliers, we ensure great pricing for our customers and quick turnaround service from our suppliers,” Ziskind says.
The distribution center is also organized for maximum efficiency. “We wrote a proprietary forecasting model,” Ziskind says. “We look at every SKU every day, and currently stock over 10,000 SKUs. We can tell you how many days of inventory are on the floor for every item. Our replenishment times range from three days to 120 days, so each item has to be managed individually.”
CSE has a 97.4 percent ship complete rate with an average time to fill a backorder of 5.2 days.
Technology at Work
Another growing area for CSE is e-commerce. The company processed 185,000 orders over the Internet last year, with orders shipping inside and out of the United States.
CSE’s internal IT department is also in charge of setting up e-stores for the company’s clients. “We design, develop, host and maintain websites for our clients and we help design and develop the product mix they offer in their sites,” Ziskind explains.
The products offered by CSE range from Polo shirts to engraved awards and uniforms. The selection available changes following color, material, fashion and technology trends. “The hot products right now are power sticks,” Ziskind says. “They allow you to recharge your phone anywhere without a power source.”
He notes CSE owes its success to its employees, so the company is committed to its team members’ well-being. This has earned CSE numerous awards as one of the “best places to work” from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Counselor Magazine, which is the leading publication of the ad specialty industry. mt