The leading sales category for the past two holiday seasons has been Apparel & Clothing, which saw double digit growth, year over year. And while there are many subcategories here, there are few more important than that of Fashion Accessories.
The holidays would not be the same without grandparents, aunts, uncles and others picking up awesome belt buckles, pretty necklaces, zany stocking caps and too cool for school backpacks for their younger loved ones. Of course, there is also the lucrative accessories gift market for adults, and many buyers are already gearing up for Valentine's Day. That holiday often entails the timeless products women love, and from now and into '08, accessories are 100 percent in season.
"Our accessories sell throughout the year," said David Younge, Owner of Capico Accessories in San Francisco, CA. "Women's handbags have been particularly hot. Recently, for instance, they have been outperforming men's and women's belts. In any case, we always have a tremendous variety of products."
Capico offers over 1,200 accessory items at www.capicoaccessories.com. Buyers are required to register with the site before they can choose from the 20 year old firm's superb collection of handbags, hairclips, wallets, belts, luggage and backpacks.
The backpacks, in particular, should prove to be a formidable product to have in stock for gift stores that do a lot of Christmas business. Specifically, the Fubu Athletic Backpack will make a great gift for adolescent boys and college aged men. The sporty, durable item comes with padded straps and netted pockets, while wholesaling for $12.90 per unit.
"Our price points can range anywhere from $7.90 up to $35 per unit, depending on a lot of different factors," Younge explained. "The important thing is that we always have or get what our customers need. Plus, handling customer service in a professional and timely manner is important to us and any successful business."
Hot Buckles Online
Another aspect that is important to operating a winning company is keeping your product line fresh. After all, the best merchandisers are constantly keeping a close eye on emerging items and tossing appropriate selections into their mix. "We are constantly getting new products in," said Eran Meltzer, VP of Hot Buckles in Tampa, FL. "We have a special section at the bottom of our homepage where you can find the most recent additions. Sometimes, they are among our hottest products."
Recently, his firm's biggest seller has been the Big Rhinestone Skull Belt Buckle ($38 per retail unit), which can be found by searching "H247" at www.hotbuckles.com. In addition, the Big Stasher Flamed Skull Belt Buckle retails for $18 and can be seen by searching "H206" on the website. Sound interesting? Well, to get bulk prices, buyers need to click the "Wholesale" link at the top of the homepage, register by filling out a form, and let Meltzer and his staff review your retailer certificate and other information. If approved, they will send an email notice, and then let the purchasing begin.
The stylish belt buckles are picked up by a variety of clothing accessory boutiques, belt stores, motorcycle shops and tattoo parlors. Many find Hot Buckles because Meltzer and his marketing team have managed to get to the top of organic search for the keywords, "belt buckles," at Google, Yahoo and AOL. Buyers clicking through the search ads are greeted by a website that is put together as chicly as the products themselves. The site also offers belt buckles that feature popular characters like Spiderman, Betty Boop, and the iPod.
"We take great pride in our site and have a fulltime web designer," Meltzer explained. "We stay open every night until 8 p.m. ET, so we can serve our many customers on the West Coast. We are open on weekends, too, and if you have an idea for a specific buckle, we will manufacture for you and give them a chance to hit the market."
Sometimes, the best accessory products are invented out of necessity. For instance, Peggy Sheehan, President, The Holey Hat Company, launched her startup in 2003, but the idea behind the enterprise was inspired a few years earlier on a Vermont ski trip.
Here is the scenario: Frustrated with the hassle of tucking her long hair into her stocking cap, she cut a small hole in the top of it and pulled her pony tail through the opening. She then hit the slopes. Before she knew it, "I had a lot of girls coming up to me and saying, 'Great hat. Where'd you get it?'" Sheehan said. "After I told them, they said, 'You should go into business with that idea. I'd buy one.' And so I did."
Before long, she was wholesaling that hat style for $4 per unit at www.holeyhat.net and www.wholesalecentral.com/holeyhat. They are 100 percent acrylic, made for wash and wear, and aimed at high school aged girls who want to look sassy in chilly weather.
They come in two styles: one with a snowflake pattern over a solid color and the other with a fully solid design. They are available in 14 colors, including versions like deep yellow with a dark blue snowflake, and salmon with a white snowflake. Convenience stores, regional chains and mall kiosks have been retailing them for $10 to $15. "The hats sell themselves," Sheehan said. "Once you see them, you understand the utility. They are a great holiday gift, especially because of cold weather that time of year."
Gansta Style Gets Hipper
One of the fastest growing product niches over the last 20 years has been urban culture wear. And where there are fly shirts, mad jeans and straight, bad high top tennis shoes, there are happenin' accessories.
Blank Dog Tag offers a fantastic array of hip hop styled accessories, including the mouth jewelry popularly called, "grillz," earrings for both genders, and military styled dog tags. Whether you are a mall kiosk entrepreneur or a store owner, if you count young people as a major portion of your audience, then you need to consider the return on investment that can be attained with Blank Dog Tag's product line.
For example, the grillz range anywhere from $2 to $10, while usually falling around $4.50 per unit. Yet they often retail for $15 to $30, creating a 3X profit margin that does not come around every day in the merchandising world.
"The grillz are becoming more and more popular," said Derek Malert, Marketing Manager at Blank Dog Tag in Lemont, IL. "We have increased the variety of styles we offer to meet the growing demand. All of this is reflected on our website if you give it a visit. Interestingly, we received a lot of requests to put our catalog up as a PDF at the site, so we have recently added it to our offer mix there."
At www.blankdogtag.com, the firm also displays an array of necklaces, pendants, bracelets and key chains, while offering preprinting services for all the mentioned items, as well as tee shirts. In addition, the wholesaler recently began pitching hip hop styled, straight brimmed, fitted baseball caps in medium, large and extra large sizes. "Our products suit the interests of consumers aged 16 and up, male and female," Malert explained. "Around 70 percent of them are eventually sold to people who are African American, but the items attract people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds."
Cool Checkbook Covers
Meanwhile, affinity marketing is a brand of product selling that will not go out of style as long as there is pop music, TV and hit films. Take MFI Products, which offers a unique array of affinity checkbook covers that are popular year round. The checkbook covers commemorate The Beatles, Betty Boop and a variety of classic 1950s cars, among other timeless images. Modern looks involve entities like movie star, Johnny Depp, race car immortal, Dale Earnhardt Sr., and the Dallas Cowboys.
The checkbook covers run at $2.50 per wholesale unit. They are also test friendly for interested retailers, because MFI does not require a minimum purchase. In addition, there is a countertop spinning display rack that holds more than 90 of the checkbook covers and costs just $25.
"The checkbook covers make great gifts for men," said Kelly Edmunds, Owner of MFI Products in Sandy, OR. "Car lovers are going to be intrigued with the classic make and model looks. Beatles fans are going to buy the ones with the Fab Four on them. Gift shops, convenience stores and other brick and mortar shops are our typical wholesale customers. Internet retailers have also been consistent buyers in recent months."
MFI also offers sun shielding visors for $2.95 per unit. This price includes the acclaimed Flamingo Sun Visor, which is a high quality foam and fabric hat that protects the wearer from the headaches that other visors typically cause.
"Women find the Flamingo Sun Visor to be both fashionable and comfortable, which is a combination of attributes that sets it apart from other visors," Edmunds explained. "It is worth mentioning that I am a former retailer who has worked with wholesalers and sales reps in my professional past. So I am uniquely qualified to serve the needs of retailers. Having been in their shoes, I concentrate on their needs and do everything I can in order to deliver. Our customer service is as good as the products that we carry."
For more information, contact:
76 Apparel Way,
San Francisco, CA 94124
5416 Airport Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33634
Toll Free: 1-877-6-BUCKLE
The Holey Hat Company
27 Golf Course Road
South Dennis, MA 02660
16135 New Avenue Unit 11
Lemont, IL 60439
Toll Free: 877-Dog-Tag9
Wholesale website: www.blankdogtag.com
P.O. Box 298
Sandy, OR 97055
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