Kiosks devoted to multiple product categories, can generate sales and profits at holiday time. But what does a kiosk vendor do after the holiday lights come down?
Rental rates for fourth quarter kiosk positions spike just like sales do. But year round rental rates are generally more affordable, and they also allow vendors to keep key positions within a mall.
A dozen different themed programs for kiosks are available from Trademark Global, based in Avon, OH. "We invite potential kiosk vendors to talk with our knowledgeable sales staff to help develop programs that will fit in their individual locations," says Jim Sustar, president.
The company has been supplying kiosk programs for the past five years. "Tell us about a market, and we'll customize a kiosk program of top sellers," he says.
Among the more popular now is a poker theme. There is also one built around gaming that includes skill stop slot machines, and a toy version of a grab machine, which he says always attracts attention. Other kiosk programs are based on dartboards, chess, billiards, electronics and accessories, and summer toys.
Vendor customers pay just for product, and, on approval, Trademark Global will give credit terms. "A vendor can make $10,000 a week from a single kiosk," Sustar says, "and in a month, can turn between $40,000 and $50,000 in sales, which is enough to maintain the kiosk's space in the mall all year."
Trademark Global maintains stock in a 100,000 square foot warehouse, ready to replenish orders quickly. There is no minimum order requirement. "Vendors can buy by the case and still get our bulk price," says Sustar. In addition, "If a product is not selling well, we will replace it with another."
"We're not interested in making one sale. We want a long term relationship with a successful year round customer," notes Jim Suster.
Because it carries products around a dozen different themes and ships in case quantities, Trademark Global can transition smoothly when one season moves into another. High ticket electronics, for example, may do especially well at the traditional holiday time.
The vendor can then transition to games for the long winter months that follow, and set up with outdoor toys and/or garden supplies as spring and summer approaches. In addition to keeping the kiosk stocked with timely product to keep sales coming in, these seasonal switches also continually attract the attention of frequent mall shoppers.
Kiosks that don't rework the mix or generate excitement fade from view, experts advise. Impulse appeal is essential, and moving from one theme to another keeps customers looking to see what's next.
"Success with kiosks relies on mall traffic and impulse buyers," adds Josh Allen, president of Stuffed Innovations LLC, based in Augora Hills, CA, that is the U.S. distributor for Animaland. Frankly patterned after Build-a-Bear, Animaland supplies more than 180 different licensed animal designs, and as many outfits for them, along with a widening range of accessories.
At the heart of an Animaland kiosk is equipment for stuffing the animals and creating custom tailored plush animals. "We're not selling product, we're selling an experience," Allen says. "Anyone can buy just a stuffed animal. But at an Animaland kiosk, the customer designs and builds one that is unique and personal."
A kiosk vendor can obtain the Animaland stuffing machine (which sells for $4,995) for no money down, under a beginning program with Stuffed Innovations. Under this program, the vendor pays only for product and obtains an opening inventory of Animaland merchandise for a total of $1,000 wholesale. Allen says that typically includes more than 40 different animals and 30 different outfits, in addition to some accessories, which raise the ticket for the typical sale.
"That buy will result in retail proceeds of between $3,000 and $4,000 in sales," Allen says. In addition, the vendor pays $289 a month for 36 months, and then owns the stuffing machine. The reorder minimum is $250, and Allen says retailers obtain markups of 300 to 400 percent per sale.
Before the equipment is shipped, Stuffed Innovations provides the vendor with a training DVD that tells how to unpack and set up the equipment, and also offers kiosk and cart planograms. It also provides proven tips on how to sell and promote Animaland.
Additional marketing materials include "coming soon" signage to prime the market, and a slew of marketing materials, including a CD of logos and signs that can be printed. There is also a promotional DVD that can run on a loop in the kiosk to draw crowds.
The Animaland product line includes a mix of regular size animals, which typically retail for $17.99 each, and outfits, which Allen says generally raise the initial sales ticket to about $29.99. The outfits and accessories include outfits depicting hobbies and sports. There is even a pair of roller blades.
Sound chips, which can be inserted in the animals, are an especially popular add-on. They include a barking dog, giggle and other sounds. The chips wholesale for 75 cents each and retail for a suggested $7.99. "This is not a franchise, so we don't dictate retail price," Allen points out.
But his company operates its own kiosk to test concepts, products, marketing ideas and track sales, especially of new items. This gives vendors confidence in the products and promotional materials.
There are also mini animals, a line of about 12 different designs that retail for $8.99 a unit. These, Allen says, "Are a way to capture that impulse appeal among people and their kids who are drawn to the kiosk, but may not be ready to pay the higher price on the spot. This is an affordable animal that is also stuffed at the kiosk and provides the same fun experience."
Stuffed Innovations' staff members offer a wealth of advice to Animaland kiosk vendors. Using their own experience, they help the vendor pick a top selling assortment, and also share winning promotional ideas.
Allen acknowledges that the fourth quarter holiday season is tops for Animaland vendors, as it is for all retailers. But he also points out that other holidays, such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day, represent prime opportunities to sell tailored collectibles. "Our own kiosk, which is not in the best of malls," he says, "sold more than 150 animals the day before Valentine's Day. It grossed more than $6,000 in the three day period leading up to Valentine's Day."
Two additional Animaland programs have been developed to build traffic and sales when there are no holidays. One is the birthday party program, and another is fundraiser business. Both have been tested in Stuffed Innovations' own kiosk, and Animaland vendors get complete instructions and materials for operating these programs.
Allen suggests vendors hand out the birthday party flyers to all customers all year. Parents are eager for ideas for kids' birthday parties. He recommends that vendors book three to four of them for small groups at the kiosk on as many Saturdays and Sundays as possible. Kids choose and stuff an animal and dress it to get a birth certificate. He then suggests the vendor take a group photo for each participant. They love it, and the photos provide additional promotion for more birthday parties.
Under the fundraiser program, vendors link up with a local school or other organization and offer to donate a portion of sales proceeds to the organization. Two weeks prior to the local school (or organization) day at the kiosk, the participating organization is asked to advertise the event to generate excitement and traffic.
While building sales for the kiosk, it also makes the vendor a good neighbor. And the kiosk gets free promotion among key constituents. Furthermore, these events should be scheduled on days when mall traffic is down, from Monday through Thursday, leaving the vendor free for full price selling on the mall's most trafficked days of the week.
Stuffed Innovations will also create a free website for its kiosk vendors, further promoting locations, products and events. "While we offer all the many materials that lead to success, we think our customer service people are the biggest advantage we offer our kiosk vendor customers," Allen says. "Every account is treated like our largest account. Each one gets personal attention and advice."
The already extensive Animaland product mix is always being expanded. A new Animaland theme song is about to hit the market. So is a slew of new accessories, including strollers and all the things children and grown ups like to surround their stuffed animals with. Allen says 10 percent of all toys sold annually are stuffed animals. When people can design their own and dress them with outfits and accessories that give them personal meaning, they become collectibles.
Animaland animals are sold in 770 locations worldwide, and kiosks are currently the fastest growing market segment in the U.S. There are now approximately 20 in place, "And it has proven that the concept works very well in a small location," Allen concludes. Most important, it works year round.
For more information, contact:
Jim Sustar, president
1300 Chester Industrial Parkway
Avon, OH 44011
Toll Free: 800-218-0104
Josh Allen, president
Stuffed Innovations LLC
5126 Clareton Drive No. 260
Agoura Hills, CA 91301
Toll Free: 888-252-0087
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