It's no secret that consumers are scrutinizing their purchases carefully. And while many may deny themselves whole new spring or summer wardrobes, the desire to spiff up for the seasons ahead is alive and well.
So say suppliers of handbags, scarves, wallets and other fashion items that make people look good and feel good. The current climate strengthens the opportunity for sales of fashion accessories, especially when they are merchandised as affordable purchases that can lift spirits, while also refreshing last year's outfits. To benefit consumers and the retailers that sell to them, wholesale suppliers are putting together packages and programs to help promote all the benefits of fashion accessories, including their affordability. In short, many wholesalers are offering deals to retailers, so the merchants can pass them along to consumers.
Aliz International Inc., for example, is offering 50 bags for $200, which translates to an average wholesale cost of $4 for each fashion handbag. Rosanna Tran, an owner, says each can easily retail for about $10, "which makes them affordable and also provides a good margin for the retailer. Women still need some indulgences," she suggests, adding, "these are affordable indulgences without the calories." Her company brings in about 3,000 new handbags each season, so this offer also allows Aliz to make way for new arrivals in its Florida and California showrooms.
The $200 package consists primarily of factory samples and inventory, and Tran says, "We provide a nice assortment of styles and designs. It includes licensed celebrity image bags, some genuine leather, designer inspired styles, funky canvas bags and some classic everyday bags." The current economy is not affecting Aliz International's products, Tran says. "It's putting a dent in the luxury market, but affordable, mid price offerings are still doing well. Kids still have to go back to school. Working moms still have to freshen their wardrobes," she reasons.
Aliz International offers a broader range of sample packs, from $200 to $1,000, on its new merchandise. "Retailers can chose their own designs and styles, or we will guide them to what fashion trends are in their area," says Tran. All bags in these packages, "are 100 percent exchangeable," she adds. "If something doesn't sell, we'll exchange it for another design." The smaller package contains about 20 bags, while the larger one includes about 100 bags. The collections include licensed products, which is a specialty with Aliz International. Current new favorites are Betty Boop, Elvis and Sun Studio, "which is where Elvis made his first album," Tran explains, and a new Hey Poodle licensed line, exclusive to Aliz.
This month, the company is offering free shipping for a new customer's first order. While Aliz does not require a minimum, there is a $10 handling charge on orders of under $100.
Falk Sales in Hudson, NH, is offering what Charlie Falk, owner, frankly bills as a, "recession buster." It is a package of 10 handbags for $59, or just under $6 a unit. "The retail return," he says, "is $15 or more a unit." Falk does not require a minimum, "and there is no sales tax and no need to register," he says. His company's designer inspired bags wholesale in a range of $25 to $30, while others wholesale for as little as $5. "Retailers get at least keystone," Falk reports, "and many sell the $5 units for $15."
Quilted bags are among Falk Sales' best sellers, along with lots of colors and patterns, he says. "Animal prints are doing especially well," he adds. "New merchandise arrives daily, and retailers can buy directly from the website."
Scott McMillin, who with his wife, Michelle, owns Michelle and Scott's Wholesale Imports in Memphis, TN, sends monthly emails to his retailer customers. The company supplies scarves, handbags and hair accessories, along with jewelry, "and we had a record breaking year in 2008," he reports. The emails serve more than one purpose, in addition to showcasing new merchandise. "They almost always project some promotional ideas and themes and give the retailer some incentive," he says.
"We highlight the potential for marketing around events and holidays, and there is always something to market around, such as Easter and Mother's Day," McMillin notes. The incentives might be a 5 percent discount coupon to the retailer, or an offer of free shipping. "We cater to smaller retailers," he says, "and we have a minimum order of $75, specifically because we don't want to get into offering sample packs. We let the customers put together their own packs, so the merchandise will be suitable to their market and location."
The scarf selection at Michelle and Scott's Wholesale Imports is limited, primarily centered around seasons," McMillin says. "Now, we have floral prints and bright colors for spring and summer." The smaller scarves are wholesaled at $9.50 a dozen. The larger sizes are sold by the piece, and the wholesale ranges from $1.50 to $5, depending on the design and fabric. McMillin declines to suggest a retail price, noting, "The wholesale cost leaves plenty of room for an ample retail markup."
The company has a big variety of handbags, which McMillin says, "range from $3 to $20, depending on the style, size and material." These are also trending to brighter colors for spring and summer. Hair accessories, including bows, barrettes and clips, "make very good add on products," McMillin notes. "These are very popular with ladies and teens, and the wholesale price ranges from about $13 to $14 a dozen."
Fashion wallets for women are the mainstay product from Twin Pines Enterprises, based in Las Vegas. "We have the flat wallet in more than 100 different colors and designs," says Jessica Sartori, VP. "Keeping up on fashion colors is critical, and we guide retailers to the ones that do best in each part of the country." For spring, "vibrant colors, such as greens, fuchsia and purples are good," Sartori reports. "Our giraffe and zebra prints are very much in demand and growing strong."
The flat wallets are of vinyl, which is easy to clean. They measure 7.5 inches wide by 4.5 inches high and are just a half inch thick. Yet they have space to accommodate bills, change, ID cards and credit cards. There is also a checkbook flap and a pen slot for added convenience. The wallets have a metal frame and snap closure. The minimum order is 12 units, "and retailers can mix and match colors and designs," says Sartori. The wholesale cost is $9. "There's a quantity discount for orders of 36 pieces, which takes the cost down to $8.25," she notes. The suggested retail price is $24 and $29.
This year, Twin Pines is adding a, "wristlet," which is a purse with wrist straps. "Initially, we're testing it in 10 different designs," she says, "and will add more as the rollout continues." These wholesale for $6.50 each. The suggested retail price is $14. Quantity discounts have not been finalized, but will apply, Sartori assures.
She agrees with Tran that accessories are popular among consumers, "because they give the opportunity to update their fashion at an affordable price point." To maximize sales, she urges retailers to order an assortment of styles. "Keep the style selection very broad," she advises. "Even though the retailer doesn't love some designs, many customers might. Don't limit them to your own taste," she concludes.
It's not just women who need fashion pick ups. US Buckle, based in Albuquerque, NM, makes hundreds of styles of die cast pewter buckles. "We have assembled them into lifestyle themes," says Chris Jones, owner. The themes include Southern pride, bikers, outdoorsmen, Christian, Western and more. Jones offers a sample pack of the company's best selling styles for $100. "That includes about 13 pieces, and represents a retail value of at least $250," he says. That meets US Buckle's minimum order, which can also be met in any assortment. Typically, the buckles wholesale for $9, and suggested retail ranges from $16.99 and $19.99.
To attract attention and maximize sales volume, Jones says, "Keep the buckles at eye level and let people pick them up. "When they pick it up, they buy it," he adds. To help dealers show them off, US Buckle is offering a spinner rack that holds 48 pieces, for free, with an order of 72 units.
As its name suggests, Western Express, based in Bridgeville, PA, specializes in country western fashion accessories such as buckles, hats, bolo ties, scarf slides collar tips, ties, toe tips, tack pins for hats, hat bands, purses, wallets, vests and jewelry. "Western wear is popular all across the country," says Dan Mottsman, the company's co owner. It carries more than 650 different buckle designs and approximately 30 dozen different Western belt designs, including ones for kids. The belts accommodate interchangeable buckles. They are of leather and cowhide.
Among the most popular, according to Mottsman, is one that carries licensed Jack Daniels art. The same licensed art is equally popular on the company's metal buckles. The breadth of the buckle line, however, includes many other favorite licensed motifs, including John Deere and logos from the National Football League, Major League Baseball and other sports and college teams. "Many of the designs are in color," Mottsman says, and the inventory also includes a wealth of more generic, Western design themes.
The minimum order is $100 and can include an assortment of any of Western Express' merchandise. The buckles wholesale for as little as $4.50, while the average ranges from $6 to $8, depending on the design. "The suggested retail price," he says, "is at least double, and many dealers triple the wholesale price with success." A free display unit is offered on orders of 24 units or more. Mottsman will recommend a starter pack of hot selling units, tailored to different parts of the country and different markets.
"Economically priced cowboy hats are selling very well," he reports. His company carries them in a range of wholesale prices from $1.10 to $28. "The average wholesale is in the $5 to $9 range," says Mottsman. "We are getting a new line of straw cowboy hats for summer, and these are popular with both men and women," he adds.
Fashion still reigns. Retailers of fashion accessories must be up to date on trends, the suppliers agree. But at this time, affordability has become an important point to make in-store merchandising efforts, suppliers also agree. "Make a bold statement about low price," advises Tran of Aliz International. To stimulate sales and raise tickets, she suggests offering discounts on multiples. "For example, offer buy one, get a second one for half price. Or provide a package deal. Buy a handbag and get the matching wallet at a discount. Normally, the customer will buy the wallet, even if she doesn't need one," says Tran. "And it can add $10 to the ticket."
The following were interviewed for this article:
Rosanna Tran, owner
Aliz International Inc.
11136 Satellite Boulevard
Orlando, FL 32837
6830 East Washington Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90040
Toll Free: 888-289-2549
Charlie Falk, owner
34E Old Derry Road
Hudson, NH 03051
Toll Free Fax: 888-801-0871
Scott McMillin, owner with wife
Michelle and Scott's Wholesale Imports
4957 Summer Avenue
Memphis, TN 38122
Jessica Sartori, vp
Twin Pines Enterprises
3013 North Rancho Drive, Ste. 111
Las Vegas, NV 89130
Chris Jones, owner
3300 Princeton Northeast, Ste. S-2
Albuquerque, NM 87107
Toll Free: 877-515-4308
Dan Mottsman, co-owner
300 Villani Drive
Bridgeville, PA 15017
Toll Free: 800-245-1380
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