Posted on Leave a comment

Visual Marketing – Manage In-house or Outsource?

Custom store fixtures

As your company grows and evolves, it’s important to have guidelines around where you apply your time, money, and company resources. Case in point – in-store visual marketing (the visual elements in a brick and mortar store that encourage purchase of products). When should you outsource it vs. take on in house? Then, once you’ve made the decision, how do you split the tasks and why? All good questions that we’ll tackle step by step here to help you find some clarity.

This is intended to specifically address visual marketing, however some points can be carried over to apply in other areas of marketing, or general business.

What is Visual Marketing?

First, a simple list of general tasks and definitions surrounding visual marketing:

  1. Design – where is the brand now, where is it headed, and how is that communicated consistently to each element?
  2. Asset Creation – making the actual artwork, taking photographs, etc. to be reproduced at quantity
  3. Testing (aka prototyping) – testing different materials, techniques, visual mockups to see the design idea in person and make tweaks to get just right
  4. Production at scale – optimizing production at scale
  5. Project management – managing cost, timeline, distribution list, shipping and freight logistics, storage, coordination between departments, replacements
  6. Feedback and improvement – revisions, fixes, closeout

It’s all about the people

Whether you produce one or one million items, these general items need to be addressed in order to have a successful outcome. Does your company have the people and technology in place to perform at an acceptable level at these milestones? If so, keep things in-house for better control, consistency, and build it into a process that increases the company’s overall value.

Another way to get at the answer is to ask where your in-house experience ends? Often, when a new product comes to market, marketing typically ends with product packaging. This would draw the line at #2 above: asset creation. Making a great product and creating a recognizable brand is one thing – optimizing and supporting the product in-store to increase sell-through is another. So in this case, it may be better to keep the design and asset creation process in house, then partner with another company to execute from there. This is what we usually see across brands and retailers and it makes total sense. The most important thing in any marketing effort is to protect the brand, and keeping things in-house gives the best chance of doing that.

Quantity and complexity – the main drivers

Quantity typically drives the next factor when considering outsourcing your visual marketing – in a few ways. Are you making five graphics, or five thousand? How many art versions are there? How many final locations will be receiving them? Are the locations owned by the company, or wholesale at a third party location? Is any special kitting involved? Does thinking about it make your head spin, or are you rearing to tackle it head on?

Generally, if your marketing can all be produced in bulk and shipped to a single location, you’re probably best managing it in house. You’d be able to choose the supplier with the best price, and likely won’t need much customer service. A recent example we had was a laminated floor graphic with adhesive for a client tradeshow. Our client needed two with the same art version, which they provided. Our price was 10x more than an online printer. Both could hit the timeline, and it just had to last for two days. Makes total sense to go with an online printer, as in the worst case scenario the graphic just needs to be reprinted.

On the flip side, if you have multiple art versions, graphic sizes, locations, and different footprints that require special kitting – it’s time to engage with an outside company that does this sort of thing everyday. Note that not all printers are created equal. Direct mail is different from large format, vinyl is not the same as fabric, and typically supporting services are also quite different. While graphics are more straightforward, it’s a little different when it comes to store fixtures.

Printing and store fixtures – the core of Visual Merchandising

Renderings, shop drawings, materials, and techniques are quite different from printing – software, education, and general career path to name a few. Compared to printing, these specialized skills are more involved in the design process, and it makes more sense to rely on outside fabricators to manage and develop these assets vs. coming up with your own design only to find that it doesn’t scale due to material availability, special machines required, or time. So, if you have architects on staff, you’d be fine to tackle in-house. If not, best to collaborate and lean on outside suppliers to create the final product.

Cross departmental functions matter

Taking a step back, how often are deliverables for each of these areas produced? Do they integrate with a separate department (purchasing, store development / operations), and is it managed by the parent department? With one to ten stores, a small team could conceivably manage all the details. Beyond that, it’s probably best to split out the team creating the new store locations vs. those optimizing it from there onward. Fortunately, this more or less follows our previous print / fixture guidelines of where to delineate tasks. Something to think about – when you’re at this point, you’ll start to think about additional supporting suppliers: software, warehousing, freight, overseas production, etc. to find the sweet spot for what the company will need for years to come.

In the end, when to manage in-house vs. outsource is relatively simple – manage it until you can’t!


Jeff Lo is owner of TGS Elevate, a visual marketing / merchandising company that provides printing, point of purchase displays, and store fixture manufacturing, and in-store build outs for companies that have 50-500 locations nationwide.

Want to chat?

Get help from one of our professionals

Posted on Leave a comment

Good, Better, Best

holiday tree with gifts, graphic illustration

Life is all about options. In order to find the sweet spot for each project, our team provides good, better, and best options for you to choose from, as well as a recommendation based on our extensive experience. Let’s say you’re looking to integrate the clean aesthetic of white oak into your space. A good option would be to print a white oak pattern onto an inexpensive material like paper or sintra. This gives you the look, without breaking the bank. A better option would be to use a wood laminate, then mount it to a less expensive material, like MDF or styrene. The best option then would be to produce out of actual white oak.What other supplier in your arsenal can move fluidly between graphics, design, materials, wood, and metal? When you work with TGS Elevate, all options are on the table. That’s what we mean by materials agnostic, and you’re supported with white glove service every step of the way.Are you ready to up your game?

Posted on Leave a comment

Meet Jeff Lo, COO of TGS Elevate

Jeff Lo Photo Mockup on blue background

If you have ever spoken with Jeff Lo you know how passionate he is about TGS Elevate. He provides a the overall company vision and still pays attention to the details that help TGSE outshine their competition. How did Jeff get to where he is today? Here is his professional bio with a little background…

Jeff is the owner and COO of TGS Elevate, the premier provider of print, store fixture manufacturing, promotional products, and global sourcing solutions to the retail industry. As leader of a mature company founded in 1996 that supports Fortune 500 companies, Jeff’s daily focus is business development, while he also leads the sales, production, and administrative departments.

Self-described as a hammer looking for a nail, Jeff’s diverse background has provided all the know-how to run a small business. Initially attending UC Davis on the electrical engineering track, Jeff later switched to pre-law before ultimately graduating with a pre-med Bachelor’s degree in Biological Science. Out of school, Jeff pivoted away from medicine and worked for a registered investment advisor before transitioning to a professional services company in Marin County where he soon led an eight-person accounting team.

Hired by TGS Elevate in 2012 to prepare the company for sale, Jeff developed and implemented best practices for hiring, managing, accounting, payroll, finance, sales, and marketing. Along the way, Jeff led all day-to-day functions of the company, and realized an average of 20% year over year gross revenue growth and 15% bottom line profitability growth for three consecutive years before purchasing the company outright in 2015. Jeff lives in San Anselmo, California with his wife and two kids and enjoys golf, photography, traveling, and motorsports.

Five Fun Facts about Jeff:

  1. He has three sisters, no brothers
  2. Has impeccable handwriting
  3. He is an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America
  4. Has extensive high performance driving experience
  5. Willing to talk about food, any time, anywhere


Posted on Leave a comment

Technology Alert! The Online Store + Client Portal of your Dreams

We all want to work smarter not harder. That’s why TGS Elevate provides business automation and advanced technology that help our clients get more done in less time.

We give you the inside scoop on our proprietary client database, accounting portal and an online store that will allow you to manage logistics, track assets, place orders and much more.


TGS Elevate provides 24-hour access to REAL TIME data so you can track your project from start to finish. Here’s a snapshot of what we offer. For the full story, schedule a demo.

Project Management
  • Purpose: Support regular check in meetings, review past details and future project milestones, tracking repository.
  • Features: Web browser, iOS, and Android accessible, updated in real time, export to PDF or Excel, calendar tool, all project details, maintained for free, document storage, Google Drive integration, map function, web hooks, and open API, image viewer.
  • Cost: Free, unlimited users
  • Timeline: 1-2 weeks from on-boarding
Information Databases
  • Purpose: Track details from store locations, track asset inventory, manage incoming store requests, generate pivot reports.
  • Features: Fully customizable, fields, public forms, customer portal, web browser, iOS, and Android accessible, automated workflows, maps, document viewing, exports, reports, dashboards, secure access.
  • Cost: $1-5K to scope and build, annual license: $900 unlimited users
  • Timeline: 2-3 weeks from start to finish
Zoho Accounting Portal
  • Purpose: All accounting documents in one place for cross departmental teams, communicate directly with our team for billing questions, online payment portal for direct deposit if your system doesn’t have one
  • Cost: Free, unlimited users
  • Features: Share documents, communicate with comments, payment history, banking information, view Estimates, Sales Orders and Invoices
  • Timeline: 1-3 days
Online Store
  • Purpose: to manage incoming store requests in one place, full and sub assemblies and gang up orders for maximum efficiency, any product can be added to have all items in one place to manage
  • Features: Any product, real-time pricing for promotional items, quote inquiries, cart function, PO, cost center GL, and credit card payments, categorize products, password protected
  • Cost: $500-1,000 depending on scope
  • Timeline: 1-2 weeks

Schedule a demo today!

Posted on Leave a comment

One Email to Rule Them All. Easy Printing, Fixtures + Installation

TGS Elevate makes it easy for clients to create outstanding marketing and engaging store fronts. Not only are they experts in commercial printing, building custom displays and installing bespoke fixtures, they also have simplified the entire process down to a single email!

Whether you know exactly what you want to order or if you need help with the initial design, TGS Elevate has you covered. Here’s what you need to do:

Here’s what TGS Elevate will do:

  • Everything else!!

Our team of experts will work with you throughout the entire process. Here are the services we offer.

  1. Design
  2. Printing
  3. Manufacture
  4. Promote
  5. Launch
  6.  Fulfill
  7. Manage
  8. Give you all the credit!

Give us a call at 415-482-9000 or schedule a call through our online calendar. We look forward to hearing from you,

Posted on Leave a comment

Summer is the Time for Holiday Marketing


The industry has changed in just about every possible way this year. Supply shortages, pent-up demand, and revenge spending all add up to a more expensive, and much longer timeline for fixture production than before. The road ahead seems equally challenging to predict, and keeping current is a time-consuming, low return, and weekly exercise. Read more about how you might be affected.

Planning is Everything

Recently, a client asked us to re-quote a metal fixture domestically that had been put on hold six months prior. Due to material cost increases alone (which we received 45+ weekly consecutive increases as of this writing), the cost increased by a multiple of 6x! After we picked each other off the floor, we decided to see how lead times and pricing looked to produce overseas – and were pleasantly surprised to provide the same product at one-third the price. This is an amazing savings!

The best way to give yourself the most options for your project and annual budget is to start the planning process early (i.e. now) for a fall delivery. Lead and transportation times are much longer than before, and the good news is that there’s still a sweet spot to hit…if you know where to look. We will do all the heavy lifting; all you have to do is contact us.

Directly schedule a call to start planning.

Material Shortages

According to an article by Reuters in February 2021, raw metal costs are at 13-year highs. What’s worse, the trend has since continued, and even after you take the hit in the wallet there’s no guarantee when you’ll actually receive it. Our solution – we have production facilities both domestic (Minneapolis, MN) and overseas (Dongguan and Ningbo, China). It’s difficult to change vendors mid-stride when you have an urgent need, so pairing up with a vendor with many options is key to help you navigate the markets.

Shipping Delays

In December 2020, we experienced increased shipping issues in both parcel (UPS/FedEx) and freight lines. On a recent project, we sent an all paper-based fixture on a pallet via LTL, and a medicine cabinet arrived at the store. Our high-priority holiday window project was lost for a week without any information from the freight forwarder until it was delivered unexpectedly a week after the guaranteed date. And all this was before the container and chassis shortages caused by the difference in imports/exports between the US and China (more inbound than outbound), as well as the severe weather in the US that left Texas without power. Version 3 of the transportation issue is how the port backup off the coast of Los Angeles. So, while planning is essential, always add more time for the unexpected.

Here’s an excerpt from INSIDER about the backlog of ship containers:

Ports in Southern California are experiencing a record level of ship congestion, with dozens of container vessels waiting in the ocean to deliver US imports.

The Marine Exchange tweeted a shipping report on Jan 28: 110 ships in port, 7 more than yesterday. 38 container ships at anchor awaiting berth, 5 more than yesterday and another record; 50 at berth. 60 total ships at anchor, 5 more than yesterday’s record. 60 include 3 ships in drift boxes (underway at slow speed in a defined area), the first time we had to use them since 2004. All 10 contingency anchorages in Huntington are filled. We’ll move ships from drift to anchor in the order they arrive if open anchorage is suitable for their length and draft.”

Read the full article for more information here.

The End Result – Longer Lead Times

Pre-COVID, overseas lead times usually ranged from 10-12 weeks from approval to in-store delivery. Our domestic production lead times were the fastest in the industry, with rollout typically completed in 2-3 weeks. Now, we are seeing competitor overseas lead times as long as 18-22 weeks, and domestic from 8-10 weeks. That being said, at the time of this writing we are doing an overseas project landing in the 12-week window, so there are still ways through the system.

It all comes down to the basics – speed, quality, and price. With our capabilities, you’ll always have options so you pull the levers that make the most sense for you.

It’s never too early to talk about the holidays. Call us early and we’ll take care of the rest!

Posted on Leave a comment

You Might Be Eligible for a Tax Credit When You Hire TGS Elevate

TGS Elevate started as a certified Woman-Owned Enterprise (WBE) in 1996, and in 2016 also became a certified Minority-Owned Enterprise (MBE). When you work with us, you satisfy supplier diversity requirements, which entitles you to receive federal and/or state tax credits. On top of that, our design and prototyping work is considered as R&D, which qualifies your company for additional tax credits! Read on for more details.

What is a Minority-Owned Business?

According to the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), in the U.S., a minority business enterprise is defined as a company that is at least 51% owned and operated by an individual U.S. citizen that is at least 25% African American, Asian, Hispanic, or Native American, or in the case of a publicly owned business, at least 51% of the stock is owned by one or more such individuals. Companies must go through a long and rigorous process to become a certified MBE member. This leaves out any guessing when choosing a business to hire. A business with a MBE certificate has been well vetted, is trustworthy, and is highly skilled and valued.

Tax Credits

Working with a minority owned business allows you to claim tax credits with federal and state agencies. In addition, design and prototyping is considered research and development, which qualifies entitled parties for an additional tax credit. Federal and state laws differ, so contacting your tax professional is the best way to see what you qualify for.

To learn more, read this article.

Why These are Seldom Used

Larger companies, who are eligible for these tax credits but seldom ever redeem them, commonly have different departments between new vendor intake, budget approval, and tax preparation. This leads to a lot of opportunities to lose the message in translation. It’s also common that any savings that could come from a tax credit are provided under a separate GL or cost center from the person making the purchase, so there is no direct incentive to pass the word along and take the free money.

For example, let’s say marketing approves a new fixture rollout. After going through design iterations, prototypes, shipping and creative time, directly with the supplier, the final invoice passed to the accounting department does not have the R&D cost itemized separately. In turn, accounting does not have enough specific information to pass along to the tax department. So, the cycle breaks.

Why Does it Matter?

Diversity is better for communities and corporations alike. In today’s changing world, being a company that is aware and proactive about inclusivity is the next step. If you don’t have an internal supplier diversity program, here are some reasons from the Harvard Business Review of why you should consider it.

Hop to It!

When you work with us, not only are you satisfying those requirements but also you are contributing to a social initiative that promotes equality and diversity. Reach out to us today about your next project!


Posted on Leave a comment

TGS Elevate Launches Newsletter and gives Subscribers a 10% Discount

Did you know you could get up to $1000 off your next purchase with TGS Elevate? As a celebration of their new brand and newsletter, TGSE is giving all of their newsletter subscribers 10% off their next order.

There are many reasons to join the TGSE mailing list. Jeff Lo, Owner and + VP, shares how to get the best results for the lowest cost on commercial printing, fixtures, installations and manufacturing. Learn the best times of the year to make big purchases, how to leverage overseas productions and why Summer is the best time to plan your holiday marketing. If you haven’t already, subscribe to the TGSE Newsletter. You save 10% when you sign up and will continue to benefit from the expert advice in each email.

As always, we would love to hear from you. Let us know if there are specific topics you would like Jeff to address in the next newsletter. We are here to help make your marketing dreams come true. Send Jeff an email.

To receive 10% off your next order, sign up for the TGSE Newsletter and mention the promo code that you will receive upon subscription to our newsletter at time of placing order. Single use only. Offer valid to new and returning clients. Maximum discount value of $1,000. Credit applied on final invoice, excludes taxes. Valid through 9/30/21. Client must remain on our email list to qualify. Valid through 9/30/21.

Posted on Leave a comment

A Three-Week Challenge from Birkenstock

Birkenstock store wall display

Birkenstock partnered with TGS Elevate to create a visual program to commemorate the achievement of an important internal milestone. The challenge: we only had three weeks to develop, test, and deliver the project soup to nuts. The drop-dead date was a high-profile open house at their new corporate office, which was currently under construction, with hundreds of confirmed attendees!

The marketing team at Birkenstock had to fully outfit their new West Coast office and develop a program to thank their retail partners, while also doing all their “normal” marketing duties. As their strategic partner, TGS Elevate rose to the challenge to help.

We created each component of the marketing plan in a synergistic environment to remain cohesive and on brand. We wanted Birkenstock to feel the WOW factor and create a memorable experience for their employees.

Birkenstock’s marketing team wasn’t exactly sure what they wanted, but they did know that the grand opening was coming up in 2 weeks, so whatever it was, it better look great, and get there fast.

The new Birkenstock space highlighted the brand’s distinctive style. They wanted to showcase the lobby, kitchen and employee workspaces. We surveyed their stores and came up with a plan that would be on-brand, and tell the story of their evolution.

Read the full Case Story to learn more about this significant project…

Posted on Leave a comment

Holiday Displays Consumers will love All Year Long

One of the biggest challenges for a retailer who wants to market their store for the holidays is the budget. Spending a lot of money on a seasonal display can happen quickly, almost as quickly as the display will be taken down. How can you maximize your budget and will create a magical experience for consumers over the holidays?

TGS Elevate loves a challenge. Bring us your problems, we will bring you solutions. Facing this very issue, we helped Williams Sonoma create a seasonal stand they love so much, they use it all year round.

Take a look at this wood-modular structure. It resembles a Christmas tree with the wide base and tiers of circular displays. When filled with the bright red and white peppermint candy collection, it looks even more festive.

More than fun, this fixture is incredibly functional. It can be built to any size or height to fit any store or space. Williams Sonoma can transform a full tree into a multitier installation as the seasons and their needs for space change.

This functional solution from TGS Elevate allowed Williams Sonoma to dramatically extend their holiday budget.