With start-up kits for textile printers, as the publisher of the magazine PRomotion and as an exhibition organiser, Tore Lindfors has co-shaped the Swedish promotional products industry for decades. He took a look back for eppi magazine.
Mr. Lindfors, how did you end up in the promotional products industry?
Tore Lindfors: With a business idea: At the beginning of the 1980s, I started selling start-up kits for printers together with a business partner from the textile industry. The kits made it possible to produce simple uni-coloured textile prints using very little means like a small oven for instance. We sold loads of them. I guess seven out of ten of the Swedish textile companies used our kits to get a foothold on the market. Torsten Jansson, who later built up a concern that turns over hundreds of millions, the New Wave Group, was one of our most famous customers.
How did it come about that you later organised a promotional products show, the PRomotion Expo in Jönköping?
Tore Lindfors: In the 1990s there was no event at which the Swedish suppliers and distributors could network. At some point in time I asked myself: Why don’t you stage a trade show yourself? After all I had contacts within the market, albeit not enough at the time. In order to expand my address pool and publicise my idea, I founded a magazine – today the PRomotion magazine. After initial scepticism, I was able to inspire a host of companies for my vision and finally in 2002 the first PRomotion Expo was held. In total I have organised 23 editions – partly with great success. The trade show grew to the largest of its kind in Scandinavian, up until 2013, when it took place for the last time. Many big players, who avoided the show at first, eventually joined our ranks, as well as numerous suppliers from abroad and a number of small companies wouldn’t have survived without us. When a market has a trade fair that functions well, it changes the market significantly.
How has the Swedish industry changed over the past 20 years?
Tore Lindfors: It has become more differentiated, which is why it is more important today to offer good products and good service. Whereas for a long time there were a lot of goods of inferior quality on the market, the quality awareness has increased strongly in the meantime. Many users, particularly of the younger generation, also understand much better how promotional products can be implemented in a targeted and effective way. At the same time, the brand guidelines of many customers are very strict today, but this doesn’t change the fact that many companies like implementing promotional products indeed in high numbers. The mood on the market is correspondingly positive at the moment. In recent years many foreign investors have purchased Swedish promotional products companies, which shows how high the interest in our sector is. The online market is growing, but personal contacts still play a significant role. Last, but not least more women work in our industry today, the sexes are equally distributed – that is very positive.
What do European promotional products suppliers need to succeed on the Swedish market?
Tore Lindfors: In addition to good products and good service above all one thing: Patience. Those who have taken years to build up a company in their own country, can’t expect to be successful in Sweden immediately – especially since many Swedish business people initially react in a reserved manner towards foreign suppliers. During my time as an exhibition organiser, I always advised potential international exhibitors to book at least three times or not to participate at all. One has to be on-site, make oneself known, approach the people again and again. At the start it might be a tough task that puts some people off, but persistence pays off.
// Till Barth spoke to Tore Lindfors.