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With the Times

Niels Norby, NetSoft Studio, LLC
President, APA - Where Personalization Pros Connect


(September/October 2023) The personalization industry is always changing, and you’ve had to make sure your business evolves with it to guarantee success and longevity.

APA’s leadership—which comprises industry professionals—is tasked with ensuring our association evolves, too. Ideally, we keep APA on pace with the member companies known for innovation! Sometimes, we just need to bring the right ideas to the table. Other times, we need to make tough decisions to boldly move forward. We have to explore and take risks so the association’s membership can reap the rewards.

It’s impossible to separate the evolution of the industry, our association and our member companies. When trophy shops were opening as separate stores instead of departments in sporting goods shops, Stan Seaman brought together 12 awards retailers and one supplier as the Northern California Trophy Dealers Association (NCTDA) in 1964—the origin of our association.

As the pantograph gave way to the Automark, computerized engravers and (eventually) the laser, our association changed with the times. We changed our name and makeup to reflect our members’ changing products and processes.

Today, we’re personalizing everything: signage, gifts, apparel, equipment markers and much more. That’s why, in 2015, our leaders wanted to move forward with a bolder name change, dropping the “Awards” moniker. But our membership wasn’t ready for that and instead voted to change to our current name, the Awards and Personalization Association.

Over the years, as you’ve added innovative processes, learned new skills and found products that resonate with your customers, APA has been evolving on two fronts:

  • Ensuring that the resources we provide to our membership reflect the changing industry and teaching the new skills that our retailers need to succeed. When we release the education schedule and exhibitor info for the 2024 International Personalization Expo soon, you’ll see a focus on the technologies and skills you need now and the products your customers are looking for. What we offer evolves as your product line and processes do.

  • Delivering those resources in faster, more relevant ways. Need a product source fast? The M2M Forum can get you an answer quickly. (Years earlier, you’d have to call our product locator hotline or mail your request to one of Insights’ predecessors, like The Trophy Dealer.)

Many of our resources, like our supplier directory and coupon book, are now digital for easy access. The emphasis on virtual resources became extremely important during the pandemic, as we all learned which business pivots were most successful.

We still value face-to-face communication and hands-on experience, which is one more reason the Expo is so important. But our Expo education recordings sell well, too, proving that our membership is ready to learn from us on their own time. We’ve come a long way from the world of our founding members.

What does our future look like? We can guess that AI, additive manufacturing (3D printing) and online sales (even from our brick-and-mortar shops) will play a bigger role. What innovations are coming next? We’ll have to wait and see—but know that APA will always help you stay updated and educated.

Please let us know if you have ideas to inspire the next steps of our association’s evolution. Contact association staff or leaders through the contact information on page 4. Volunteer, and be part of the evolution and innovation!

APA - Where Personalization Pros Connect.

The APA is the organization for retailers and suppliers of personalized and customized items. By providing education, meetings, and access to a vibrant network of professionals, the APA is the one place to ensure the growth of your talent, your business, and your professional community.

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