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IRR Business So Far Defies Recession Concerns: John Costelli of Castle Merchandising

The year 2023 looked like a good year for many in the Incentive, Rewards, and Recognition (IRR) field to buckle down after several unexpectedly strong years during the pandemic. Instead, growth continues.
After a good run over the last few years in terms of sales, John Costelli, CEO of 26-year-old suburban NYC-based Castle Merchandising Inc., believed the warnings from economists for 2023 and focused on taking steps to run the business more efficiently to prepare for a downturn. It hasn’t hurt that the company has focused on operational efficiencies, he says, but business keeps coming, despite the warnings.
Adding new brands like Blend Jet, a popular new portable blender line, also helps, he adds. It’s difficult to get exclusives from brands these days, so it’s beneficial to land a new hot brand first.
Of the continued growth, Robert Hoffman, National Sales Manager, explains, “There are just lots of requests coming in every day, a lot of promotional products requests from ESP and Sage, some of them small, some of them large, and everyone is trying to get into the casino business.” Some of the growth, Costelli adds, is coming from the new players entering the online recognition and gifting marketplace, and he sees continued demand for customization.
With its own inhouse fulfillment, Costelli adds, Castle Merchandising can customize and personalize boxes, messaging, and, depending on the gift, provide different types of customization on the product itself. The company can pad print in multiple colors on many items based on brand approval and can offer the ability to customize sunglass and other cases.
Having 8,500 square feet in warehouse space on Long Island near New York City is a valuable commodity, so the focus Costelli says is on finding new ways to use the space efficiently and to focus on stocking the most in-demand models among its 120 or so brands, up from 70 just a few years ago.
So while Costelli hopes to continue to enjoy the brisk flow of inquiries and opportunities, and anticipated growth in the casino market as a result of a return to travel, the plan, he says, remains to focus on efficiency and service.

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