Kiosk and cart vendors often find themselves in a Catch 22 situation. They need a prime location in order to draw the traffic that maximizes sales. Yet rents in prime locations are often so costly that, no matter how many sales transactions they close, there is little money left after overhead expenses.
Margin is critical, experts say. Keep your eye on profits, not just sales, when selecting merchandise, they advise. Designer look a like sunglasses is one category that can deliver both high turnover and high margins, according to Julia Lemke, marketing director for Kachina LLC. The company is based in Santa Ana, CA and develops programs for kiosk and cart vendors.
Kachina supplies sunglasses that closely replicate expensive designer lines at a wholesale cost of as little as $2 per pair. Kachina's units typically retail for $14.99 a pair. The company's entire line provides a mark up between 300 and 400 percent on every pair, and still represents a huge savings to fashion conscious consumers, who know that the real designer lines sell for hundreds of dollars a pair.
With this kind of mark up, Kachina's retail kiosk vendors always end the day with profits in their pocket. However, Lemke does not dismiss the importance of being in a prime location. "Ideally, the kiosk carrying our lines should be within eyeshot of a high end optical shop," she says.
"Then the fashion conscious customer can see, at a glance, the quality and style of our lines, versus the higher priced designer lines," she reasons. "The kiosk represents huge savings, and this kind of a bargain appeals to all customers, no matter how much they might have been willing to spend in the first place.
"The affluent love a bargain as much as anyone else," she contends. So a kiosk vendor that offers this kind of value gains a broad customer base that includes the affluent as well as the army of the fashion conscious who are less well heeled. In fact, Lemke suggests, the great prices often lead to multiple sales among many consumers who want an entire wardrobe of sunglass styles, ranging from sport to dress.
While being in a great location aids a vendor's success, Kachina also helps its kiosk and cart vendors shout out their benefits. Its products are shipped in handsome silver or gold boxes, depending on the collection, and the boxes provide an eye catching display platform.
In addition, the company provides signs that attract customers to the kiosk, and labels for its sunglasses that say, "Compare our prices to . . . (the actual designer line)." This gives immediate impact to the merchandise and the value. This is topped off with Kachina's lifetime guarantee, which gives customers confidence in the quality.
To help kiosk and cart vendors select the most appropriate mix of styles for their location, Kachina maintains and regularly updates top style lists for every state. Its experienced sales staff works personally with each account to make sure the vendor is on top of the latest trends.
While some Kachina kiosk vendors carry only the company's sunglasses and do well, others combine sunglasses with related products. Lemke says fashion sunglasses complement, and are complemented by, jewelry and/or fashion accessories.
Game Time, based in Fishkill, NY offers a mix of fashionable sports watches that just might fill the bill. They come in three styles, each carrying the licensed logo of all professional teams for all the major sports, the 21 top NASCAR drivers and more than 70 colleges and universities.
To test the waters, Patrick McGeough, a company principal, says a package of 12 units is available for $120 and comes with a free countertop displayer. "It can include a mix of girls', boys' and adult styles in any mix of team logos," he says, "so the vendor can choose ones that are popular with local fans." These wholesale for $10 a unit, and the suggested retail is $19.95.
Upgraded versions with leather or stainless steel bands are also available, and Game Time offers rotating, locking acrylic displayers that showcase the team watches and get attention. All of the display units include signage.
The show stopper from Game Time, however, is its "Schedule Watch," which the company invented and patented. Like the company's other models, these also carry licensed team logos, but do a whole lot more for sports fans. The chosen team's game schedule and locations for the season are programmed into the watch.
On baseball team units, when the first pitch is thrown, the watch plays, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." For other sports, it plays the national anthem, or the anthem of another country if the team is based in Canada, for example.
Wearers can also get all of the World Series champion's results. The Schedule Watch comes with a custom USB converter, so, when one season ends, the wearer can download the schedule for the team's next one. And when the season for baseball, for example, ends, and football or soccer begins, the wearer can download that team's schedule.
The NASCAR watches in this series contain a stop watch so the wearer can time a driver's laps and convert it to miles per hour. In addition, it shows the top five finishers for each race a year ago and is pre-programmed with all NASCAR tracks.
This August, Schedule Watches for colleges will join the pro team lines. And they will play the school's fight song. "Demonstration of these in a kiosk draws crowds," McGeough says. "Because the watch is so versatile, and the line encompasses so many teams and sports, it's a year round top seller," he adds.
On the knowledge that kiosk and cart vendors can often get a better rent deal on a long term lease versus just a seasonal one, Relaxus, a supplier based in Vancouver, British Columbia, offers a variety of different product programs. This allows a vendor to change out his or her kiosk by season.
While this ensures that the kiosk has appropriate merchandise at the peak selling period for each product category, it also keeps customers coming back to see what's new. Changing the look of the kiosk is important to grabbing the attention of frequent mall shoppers.
Whether the vendor carries the same product categories year round or shifts by season, virtually all suppliers encourage their kiosk clients to refresh displays on a regular basis. This ensures that they never fade into the mall background.
The Gekko's brand of today's popular summer beach shoes is one of Relaxus' most successful kiosk programs, according to Steven Malkin, marketing director. "While most shoe stores carry a limited number of units of these kinds of shoes," he says, "a cart or kiosk that shows all the colors and styles in one place makes a big impression. This is often an impulse purchase."
"The vendor that carries men's, women's and children's units in all styles and colors and sizes often gets added sales from people who buy more than one pair as gifts or for themselves," he adds. The suggested retail prices for Gekko's range from about $25 to $35 a pair.
While the wholesale varies, depending on style and the size of an order, Malkin says, "The margins are appropriate for the wholesale cost, and kiosk vendors typically sell pairs for more than three times the wholesale cost. This kind of mark up is needed in the cart and kiosk business," he adds, "because the rent in good locations can be high."
Relaxus provides vendors with Gekko's artwork, which can be replicated as signage on kiosks. It also gives new vendors photos of other Gekko's carts and kiosks, which help in arranging displays and offers advice on the top selling colors and styles.
To complement a Gekko's cart and raise total tickets, Relaxus supplies "Shoebedoit," a line of decorations for Gekko's. This is another hot trend. "These typically retail for under $4," Malkin says, making it easy for a customer to pick up more than one when buying a pair of Gekko's.
"We have more than 40 different designs," he says. They include little football charms, flowers, suns and lady bugs. "Many customers pick up a half dozen at a time," according to Malkin. "It's an easy way for them to customize the shoes."
While Gekko's sell well year round in warm climates and tourist beach locations, summer is their peak season elsewhere. In those locations, Relaxus offers "Fun Feet," a line of more than 30 different plush slippers. There are animal designs, sports motifs and plush sneaker patterns.
Like Gekko's, whimsical plush slippers are carried in limited quantities in some shoe and apparel stores. But it is the massing of all styles in a kiosk and cart that attracts attention, particularly during the holiday selling months, Malkin says.
He also correctly claims that Fun Feet units are of higher quality materials. They have one inch high density foam, for example, and vendors can point out a quality story in comparison with pairs seen in stores. The suggested retail price is $19.99 a pair. "That's the magic holiday gift price point," Malkin says.
Beyond footwear, Relaxus has kiosk programs for the Cobra brand of remote control toys, the Sea Tone cosmetics line and a collection of massage products. "When a new potential kiosk or cart vendor calls, we talk about our different concepts and help the vendor develop one, or a series, that will help bring maximum success all year long," Malkin says. "We want our customers to not only make a lot of sales, but also profit from every one."
The following companies were interviewed for this article:
Patrick McGeough, principal
10 Stage Door Road
Fishkill, NY 12524
Toll free: 888-249-9627
Julia Lemke, marketing director
1640 East Edinger Street Ste. L
Santa Ana, CA 92705
Toll free: 800-550-1231
Steven Malkin, marketing director
1590 Powell Street
Canada V5L 1H3
Toll free: 800-668-9876
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