While kids are currently counting down to the first day of summer vacation, retailers are already merchandising for the new school year, filling their stockrooms with the essentials and the forecasted must-haves. Wholesalers and liquidators, however, have been building their product categories, revamping and cleaning up their ecommerce sites, and preparing for back-to-school buyers since the start of the year. Targeting a market that serves school children, teachers and even those home schooling do-it-yourselfers, suppliers are looking to win over buyers with low prices, quality products, extensive selection and customer service.
Eros Wholesale, also known as Eros Hosiery, is a veteran in the industry. Launched in 1954, Eros is among those suppliers working to provide a one-stop shop for all things school-related. From its strongest product categories in socks, underwear and footwear, to backpacks, arts and crafts and seasonal decorations, Eros Wholesale has items for the first day, year round, as well as inside and outside school necessities. Backpacks and school supplies, including pens, pencils, paper, chalk and more, are offered at a low wholesale price of under $15 (backpacks) to under $1 (school supplies). With a low minimum and an opportunity for a decent profit margin without going over big box store prices, even the little guy can make a sale during the back-to-school season.
And while supplies are at the top of most parents' lists when it comes time to prepare for a new year, Brad Seiver, president of Eros Wholesale, reminds retailers that parents have other items on their list that retailers will not want to do without. "Everyone is purchasing a new ensemble, adding items to their wardrobe," says Seiver. "Socks and underwear are a part of apparel purchasing." Carrying sizes from baby to adult, Eros Wholesale offers basic athletic socks for gym and recess, dress socks for teachers and principals, and pattern socks for those students looking to add a little flare to this year's style. Underwear is also a must have, and offering a full line of Hanes products, generic brands and even low priced irregulars, Eros Wholesale can accommodate a market looking for a complete wardrobe makeover. "Another apparel category we are expecting to take off is our full line of uniform polo-type shirts," notes Seiver. "They will be available with short or long sleeves, and come in nine different colors. More schools are requiring uniforms than you would think."
How does Eros organize all the items in its one-stop shop for customer convenience? "Through a custom-made website," says Seiver. "Our first website was launched around 2000 and it suited our needs at the time, but became outdated. From there, working closely with a programmer for about a year and a half, I came up with a website design that would give my customers what they were looking for in an organized fashion, with as few clicks as possible to purchase." Receiving great reviews from current and new customers, ErosWholesale.com provides an easy to navigate product category side bar, and lists items along with all product details without any extra clicks. Retailers can review the product and Add to Cart all in one step. "We also offer immediate shipping prices so retailers know their cost before checking out," notes Seiver. "The website is always up to date, and if a product says its out of stock, retailers need not worry as that just means it is coming back soon."
Relatively new to the scene, Closeout Explosion has managed to expand its business domestically and internationally. "We started six years ago, offering only wholesale items," says Donny Lowy, CEO. "Today, we have expanded into overstock, return and liquidated items, carrying name brands from department stores. We not only work within the U.S., but also do a lot of exporting to Africa, South America, the Middle East, and have just begun in parts of Asia and the Caribbean." Lowy sees great turnover during the school year for all of his kids' apparel, sizes 0 to 14, for both boys and girls, as well as women's suits, perhaps for those teachers adding to their new year wardrobe. "Many of these suits retail at Macy's anywhere between $200 to $450. I sell each for $39, and depending on the market, this leaves plenty of room for markup," notes Lowy. "Our dresses also retail for $80 to $350 in department stores, and I offer them at $19.99." The catch, however, is that unless a trip can be made to the company's warehouse in New York, buyers must realize that their order is going to include an assortment or variety. "Since inventory has a fast turnover, at such low prices, our website only offers sample pictures," says Lowy. "This is why I encourage a trip to the warehouse."
Lowy knows an onsite visit is not always possible, and that is why he utilizes other features on his website to position himself as a legitimate business and help customers get a feel for who they are dealing with. "I write a lot of subject matter expert eZine articles on the industry, and I post these to the website for my customers," he explains. Lowy also finds it is beneficial to be a part of a large, well-known directory like WholesaleCentral.com. "Being part of such a large directory also legitimizes your business," he says. "Also, I pick up more traffic that I would not have otherwise gotten because people are doing product searches and my business comes up in the listing." All in all, Closeout Explosion's online presence is a useful tool in initiating buyers' interest, whether they are shopping for back-to-school or other merchandising needs. With no minimum for domestic buyers, purchasing a little or a lot is no problem.
Noah's Ark Distribution also provides an online or warehouse shopping experience, selling merchandise not only for school teachers, but home schooling parents. Setting sail in 1987, Noah's Ark sold Christian products through bookstores in Bonsall and Oceanside, CA, near San Diego. In 1988 the company's vision grew as it began designing and distributing t-shirts and caps, used by several organizations, including Operation Rescue and Promise Keepers. In 1995 Noah's Ark expanded its market with positive family videos and continued to grow into various areas of distribution, supplying a wide variety of DVDs, books, clothing, gifts, and other items, many of which are now popular during the back-to-school season.
Among some of the top selling items are the company's DVDs on topics of science, the Bible and American history and founders. "The American Heritage series is by far one of our most popular DVD sets that can be used at home or in the classroom," says Scott Vanyo, president of Noah's Ark. "Narrated by David Barton, an author of numerous best selling works and a national award-winning historian, the series brings a fresh and accurate perspective to history." This informative collection of ten DVDs contains 26 episodes for a total of 12-1/2 hours of viewing information, and wholesales for $47.99 "It will be a hit among retail customers looking to discover the forgotten story of our nation's founding in this informative interactive DVD series," notes Vanyo. But Noah's Ark is not solely about studying, as it also supports back-to-school accessorizing with its glory bands, customizable and great for fundraisers, as well as its line of backpack buddies. "These assorted animal plushies come with a zippered ?backpack' coin purse on their back," explains Vanyo. "Most everyone will offer backpacks, but we offer backpacks and the accompaniments."
While Noah's Ark does offer an open warehouse for the public to view product samples, and even runs the occasional book fair, the company is looking to increase its online traffic and purchasing. With an easy-to-navigate product category sidebar and detailed product descriptions with wholesale discounts included, buyers can feel comfortable with their purchases. But there are other added online benefits, Vanyo points out, including weekly specials, freebies of the day and even product coupons. But the biggest online highlights are package specials, with assorted merchandise in nearly every genre made available to buyers for prices as low as $99 to $199 wholesale, with a retail value of $600. "We are happy to make these packages available to more online customers, as our listing on WholesaleCentral.com has helped drive traffic our way," says Vanyo. "We have a niche in the industry and I think that stands out on WholesaleCentral.com"
For Banian Trading, its niche in the back-to-school market is its extensive line of school uniforms for boys and girls. "It is one of the biggest in the country," says Al Banian, owner. "We carry uniforms that start from size 2T up to men's sizes in 3 or 4XL. We stock these items all year round, but see purchases increase in time for back-to-school." Much like Eros Wholesale, Banian does not miss out on the entire wardrobe needs of back-to-school children, carrying socks and underwear to go with school uniforms. "We also carry dress shoes and neckties," adds Banian.
With close to 300 back-to-school items, Banian admits it is the school uniforms line that performs best. "We do extremely well with the 2T sizes because most suppliers do not sell a size that small, something that would be worn by kindergarteners," he explains. "In fact, we carry one of the largest selections of polo shirts in the industry, both short and long sleeves, in 18 different colors." Everything is sold with a 100-percent-money-back guarantee, at great prices. "Depending on the product and the market, retailers can markup the items anywhere from 50 to 300 percent," says Banian. "We are about selling quality merchandise, keeping away from irregulars and store returns."
Banian Trading's website is about expressing that quality image, explains Banian. Hosted on WholesaleCentral.com, buyers are presented with an easy-to-navigate product category sidebar, which is updated two to three times a week. "We stand 100 percent behind what we do, we are a family run business, and we treat our customers like they are part of the family," says Banian. "We work with them and use tools like our website to guide them, so they come back year after year."
Families with children in grades K-12 spend an average of $600 plus on apparel, school supplies and electronics, according to National Retail Federation research, prompting retailers to view back-to-school as another holiday shopping season. With the right wholesale suppliers, supporting top of the line customer service and easy to use ecommerce sites, any size retailer can acquire back-to-school sales and make a name for itself in the market. Suppliers like the ones mentioned here are among some of the market leaders looking to prepare retailers while there is still time, so that when parents come to the store with their shopping list, all the right merchandise is in place.
For more information:
Eros Hosiery Company
6909 Rising Sun Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19111
276 Greenpoint Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11222
Tel.: 718-389-5502, 917-913-6093
Noah's Ark Distribution, Inc.
28545 Felix Valdez Rd., #B-4
Temecula, CA 92590
Tel.: 951-693-0306, 951-691-0502
Banian Trading Co.
775 Anita St., Suite D
Chula Vista, CA 91911
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