Just being there is not enough for kiosk and cart operators. No matter how well located or how much attention they get on their opening days, they can quickly fade into the landscape if they don't keep giving passersbys reasons to stop, look, and ultimately buy.
Meeting that challenge calls for having a mix of products shoppers don't see anywhere else. It's even better if there are products in the mix that are appealing and affordable enough for consumers to buy on impulse.
People are often more generous in buying gifts for someone else on impulse than they are in parting with dollars on a whim to buy something for themselves. Three suppliers of unique products don't mind having their items merchandised alongside complementary goods in a kiosk or cart. Two of the three genuinely welcome being paired with other items.
Tooks International in Louisville, CO, taps into the trend to be plugged in to music. It offers its exclusive line of beanies and headbands that have built in, removable headphones.
SignStore.com in Sacramento, CA, and ShopSubRosa.com Inc. in Reno, NV both capitalize on sayings that connect with consumers. They do so in entirely different ways.
As its name implies, SignStore.com does it with a series of metal signs in two different sizes that feature silly, nostalgic and other attention grabbing messages. ShopSubRosa.com has four T-shirts lines, each directed to a different market. All carry original, hip, sometimes startling, and always attention getting unique slogans.
The most popular of Shop Sub Rosa's lines is Twisted Toddler, a collection of T-shirts and hoodies for kids and infants that breaks away from the tried and true, pink and blue. Suzanne Cross, VP of consumer products for the company, says, "It meets demand for some funny, somewhat sophisticated T-shirts for kids."
She says that Twisted Toddlers are printed primarily on a black background, "A color totally absent in most kids' clothing." There are approximately 40 different sayings in the line, and new ones are added every other week.
Among them are, "Don't Make Me Bite You," "Today I Drool; Tomorrow I Rule," "Yes, I'm Cute, So Call My Agent," "Dinner's On Me," and, "I'm Glad I'm Not Britney's Baby." There's also one of a Teddy Bear pushing a No Smoking sign. Some make a statement and most are meant to be edgy. That's what makes them stand out in a crowd; just what most Moms, Dads and grandparents want their toddlers to do.
The writers of the slogans are based in Hollywood, and have been creating the company's other three lines with much success for about five years. Twisted Toddler is the newest direction. "This is our most family friendly collection," Cross says, "And it's doing especially well in the kiosk environment." The smaller kids' units fit more compactly into a kiosk, she points out.
Nevertheless, some kiosk vendors have opened complementary units, playing off Twisted Toddler and carrying selections from one or more of the adult lines. There are more than 340 unique, exclusive sayings in these three collections.
The Sick Family collection features sayings that are funny, cynical, occasionally rude and offensive, but not profane. Sayings include, "Bad to the Bone," "Born to be Famous," and, "Does the Internet work when I turn my computer off?"
The Sick Idiots line goes just a little closer to the edge with sayings that are a little more risqué. "Too Much is Never Enough," is among the more popular sayings. Another reads, "When I said 'till death do us part,' I thought I only had six months to live."
The specifically targeted Sick Metal line was actually the company's first. It is especially targeted to heavy metal music enthusiasts, makes rich use of skulls and bones, and features names of heavy metal icons. One declares, "Certified Metalhead," while another touts, "Metal Warrior."
The company produces custom apparel featuring school teams, and other local or corporate logos. All of the collections are printed on high quality fabric, and the shirts are made in America.
ShopSubRosa.com requires an order of $100, and it can include an assortment of product. "I prefer to work with vendors individually in configuring a package that will work best for them and their specific location," Cross says. The company will help in providing signs and logos.
The adult heavy weight Ts wholesale for $8, and suggested retail is between $14.95 and $24.95. Twisted Toddler units typically wholesale for about $10 each, and as for the suggested retail price, Cross says, "Retailers know their market. They can set a price that strikes the best balance of volume and profit."
SignStore.com capitalizes on slogans for walls in homes, offices, workshops and elsewhere. Bill Wickett, owner, says his company's products are designed to pay the rent. The collection of rent payers gives kiosk and cart vendors, "That little, appealing product that costs about $5 and sells for about $10," he reasons.
With a few exceptions, there are two sizes of signs. Some are eight by ten inches and the others are half scale replicas of actual street signs, and they measure three inches high and 18 inches wide. There are more than 200 of the former and approximately 550 different street signs.
The signs are separated into categories. The Road Signs line includes historic route signs, each carrying the name of a state through which the route runs. This allows consumers to buy one that is uniquely appropriate for a certain geographic area. Within the Road Signs group there are a variety of different speed limit signs, such as 10 mph and 100 mph.
In the nearly 100 Silly Signs group are such slogans as, "I fish, therefore I lie," "Cow Country: watch your step," "24 hours in a day; 24 beers in a case. Coincidence? I think not," and "Danger, men cooking."
Within Street Signs are popular real streets and others that are fictional and funny. "Another Long Day," is one example. Others say, "Antique Way," and, "Bates Hotel: No Vacancy."
Two additional groups are Sport Team Signs and Silly Signs-Golf. The latter features a sign that reads, "A wife and a steady job have ruined many a good golfer." Among the sports signs are references to popular teams, such as, "Bronco's Way" and, "49'ers Place."
Wickett says his best deal is a wholesale buy of 100 pieces. "Retailers can mix and match a selection, and we pay the freight," he says. On such an order, the street sign size wholesales for $2.99 a unit, and the other size wholesales for $3.99 each. Even at retail pricing of about $8.49, these deliver a handsome profit to the vendor and move quickly on impulse by hitting below the $10 mark.
All of the signs are in color, and come with a protective coating. SignStore.com offers a complete buy back guarantee. "If any unit does not sell within the first 90 days," Wickett says, "and it's still in the protective coating, we'll take it back either as a trade or for a refund of the wholesale price."
Incidentally, he adds, no one has yet taken advantage, or apparently needed to use the buyback offer.
Wickett will help a vendor choose a selection, "I can tell which are our best sellers." But, he adds, "I like to think the vendor knows his or her market better than I do. I always also tell them, 'your 100 piece selections are not going to be like anyone else's'." That unique combination is an important part of each vendor's appeal.
Wickett sees his products as a complement to other products. They go well with home décor items, sports apparel kiosks and many others, he reports.
Orders are fulfilled and shipped the same day. Retailers can buy over the web. The company has a system that Wickett says, "Is pretty fool proof." Orders are configured into a numerical sequence that coincides with bins in the warehouse, and it includes a small picture of the sign that is ordered, to guard against pulling the wrong sign.
A quick look along any street, road or public park in the country offers evidence that the vast majority of Americans do not step out of the door without their music. Tooks International capitalizes and expands on that trend with cool beanies, called the Tooks Classic, and a newer Tooks headband. They are pronounced "twok." The name comes from the French Canadian word for beanie, which is toque or touque.
Both feature built in modular headphones to combine fashion with music. The headphones are, "Especially engineered for superior sound quality," says the company's director of marketing and sales.
The initial Classic was originally designed for use in winter sports, but has proven popular for those who do all kinds of activities, including jogging, biking, hiking, skiing, working out or walking. It's made of 100 percent bulk acrylic and is offered in a choice of six colors: black, gray, navy blue, brown, red and pink.
The headphones are inserted into the inner layers of fabric, so they are hidden and can be adjusted for placement directly over the wearer's ears. A small piece of Velcro keeps them secure.
Unlike earplug units, which block the ear completely, the Tooks headphones allow some ambient sound to be heard, making them safe while skiing or attending a football or other sports game. They are removable, so the beanie can be machine washed.
The Tooks headband followed the Tooks Classic by popular demand. It is made of 100 percent polyester. It is available only in black, but additional colors are on the way.
The spokesman for Tooks International says an expanded line is on the drawing board. It will include a visor beanie, an ear flap style, units in a camouflage print, and another of a lighter, wicking polyester fabric.
The full line comes with a standard Tooks logo on the back. Custom logos, for local teams and organizations, are available in minimum quantities of 50 pieces. The embroidery charge for custom is between $2 and $3 a unit, depending on the intricacy of the design. This custom capability can be a boon to kiosk vendors, allowing them to form agreements with schools, clubs and community groups.
The wholesale price for standard beanies begins at $12.50 a unit in a case of 25, and it can include a mix of colors. The typical retail price is about $19.99 for a headband and $24.99 for a beanie, but many vendors do well selling them for just under $30, the director of marketing and sales reports.
Tooks not only does not insist that a vendor carry only Tooks' merchandise, but actually encourages combining Tooks with other products in the same cart or kiosk. "These are a natural complement to vendors that sell iPods and other electronic music accessories," he says. "They also do very well among apparel vendors," he adds.
All three of these suppliers recognize the unique challenges of selling in carts and kiosks. They include quick delivery, because these resellers don't have a lot of space to maintain inventory themselves, and a high profit margin that enables them to pay the rent and still end the day with a profit.
Most of all, they understand that offering something that is fresh, new and not available anywhere else is the key to grabbing busy shoppers' attention. This also provides those important referrals by shoppers, who tell their friends to be on the lookout for this kiosk the next time they visit the mall.
The following people at these companies were interviewed for this article:
Bill Wickett, owner
3084 Yellowstone Lane
Sacramento, CA 95821
Tel.: 916-398-1637 and 916-488-1637
Suzanne Cross, vice president of consumer products
Shop Sub Rosa.com Inc.
5190 Neil Road
Reno, NV 89502
Toll Free: 877-720-2100
Director of marketing and sales
P.O. Box 270055
Louisville, CO 80027
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