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by Matt Alderton | September 07, 2016
Merchandise incentives such as apparel, food and beverage, and electronics can be an effective way for small businesses to recognize and reward employees, partners, and customers, suggests a new survey published today by the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) and the Incentive Manufacturers and Representatives Alliance (IMRA).

According to the "IMRA Small Business Merchandise Study," small businesses say merchandise incentives are a good way to improve morale (82 percent), are an effective motivator (80 percent), and are more memorable than cash rewards (61 percent).

Other key findings from the survey:

• Most small businesses report using merchandise for reward/recognition of employees (89 percent), salespeople (87 percent), distributors (83 percent), and customers (80 percent).

• Small businesses use merchandise rewards for customer gifts (60 percent), to reward top performers (59 percent), and to recognize met sales quotas (53 percent).

• Small businesses that use merchandise to motivate key partners tend to be in good health, with 72 percent reporting growth in the past year.

• Nearly half (47 percent) of small businesses using merchandise have budgets of $10,000 or more, and many report their budgets are increasing.

• The top types of merchandise used by small businesses are apparel (76 percent), food and beverage (70 percent), electronics (58 percent), writing instruments (57 percent), and sporting goods (53 percent).

Small businesses' preferred way to present merchandise rewards is in person at company meetings/functions or on the spot (70 percent).

• Most small businesses source the merchandise they use for rewards online (76 percent) and/or from retailers (61 percent).

• Small business owners are generally unfamiliar with the services and advantages a merchandise representative can provide, such as below MSRP pricing.

Concluded IRF President Melissa Van Dyke: "The research demonstrates that merchandise incentive programs are an effective business practice for small businesses."