The Wildman Business Group, a third generation family owned business based in Warsaw, IN, knows how to adapt to an evolving business environment. "We started in 1952 as a professional dry cleaner," says David Bazzoni. "We went from that to an industrial laundry, corporate apparel and promotional products, to licensed college merchandise." But the unusual evolution from clothing cleaner to clothing retailer to supplier of grilling tools signals the company's willingness to think outside the box. "We're a marketing company that happened to get its start as a dry cleaner," he says, quoting a company motto. Bazzoni is vice president of Sportula Products, a division of Wildman Business Group. This subsidiary specializes in the Sportula, a sturdy and stylish spatula designed for use on the grill.
An able marketer and supplier can sell anything. On its main website, wildmanbg.com, the company offers items from first aid and apparel to uniforms and linens. On its recently rolled out sportula.com website, the firm offers something new, specifically a fun, brand-conscious and consumer-savvy tool to sell unique licensed products. Bazzoni himself was the driving force that brought the Sportula to fruition. "I did all the development for the product," he says. "I've taken it and developed it to what it is today. Now we have a full staff that promotes this brand offering." However, the advantage Wildman offers is not just a great product with a devoted marketing organization, but with almost 60 years in operation, the full might of the company's selling expertise is available to support this new division. "Our strength is that we already have the infrastructure in place, with accounts receivable, 50 years of customer service, and all the skills that have made us a successful company," explains Bazzoni.
A Hamburger Flipper's Hamburger Flipper
It helps, of course, that the product itself is so remarkable. "The Sportula is a one of a kind," says Bazzoni, with clear enthusiasm. "It is an 18-and-a-half-inch laser-cut hamburger flipper with a bottle opener at the end. It's a great impulse purchase." The Sportula is made of heavy duty stainless steel, featuring hard maple handles. Its custom heat stamped lettering, durable brass rivets, and convenient bottle opener give a solid, high-end feel. The Sportula benefits from the eye catching logos, letters, and artwork that are laser cut into the metal flipping surface of the spatula. The company has organized the product into six product lines, based on six themes. The Collegiate, NASCAR, Patriotic, Corporate, Greek, and Enthusiast lines feature university logos, race car drivers' numbers, military service, college fraternity letters, and generic guy-friendly images.
The company offers over 100 variations on the product, which is a marketing dream for retailers, who can customize a display for their store. Bazzoni notes that the ability to customize a floor or counter display with product that appeals to a particular demographic is key. "We designed a brand that will fit the needs of any retailer in any location," he says. For example, a retailer might customize a display with a college logo from a nearby university, with #1 Dad and #1 Granddad near Fathers' Day, and so on. The 18-unit counter display and the 36-unit floor display are free when retailers buy the sufficient quantities to fill them. Offering the free display is an expense, but well worth it, according to Bazzoni.
Licensed Merchandise Is A Hot Selling Commodity
Bazzoni points out that licensed products are popular these days, because even in a struggling economy, fans will pay for things that reinforce their deeply held feelings, and friends and relatives will look for gifts that they know the receiver will treasure. "Our customers are often females buying for men," says Bazzoni. "Eight out of ten of our buyers are female." Moreover, end users buying gifts, especially females shopping for unique items that will be appreciated by their guys, are looking for a sure thing.
The most popular Sportula line is the Collegiate line. Wildman Business Group has a longstanding relationship with Notre Dame, and the university urged the company to create a licensed product that would stand out. "Notre Dame challenged us to come up with a new product, something different, and Sportula is what we came back with," recalls Bazzoni. The product worked so well that it spread to other campuses. "Now we have licensed products for over 70 universities across the country," he notes, which speaks highly for the product. "Colleges are very discriminating and selective when choosing their licenses. The reason they let us produce their logos is because the product is so unique."
Wildman Business Group favors personal interaction with its customers, and continues to practice this with its sales team. The Sportula website is not set up for the wholesale trade. "We like to do business face to face or over the phone," says Bazzoni. Consumers can buy Sportulas at the site at the full retail price. "We sell in gift shops, hardware and hardlines stores, and online at sears.com and sportula.com," he adds. "For retailers, the site can serve as a catalog and a contact page." The company does use the Internet to reach out to its customers. "We have an email marketing campaign. It simply serves to show new products and highlights specials such as holiday shopping, free shipping, and so on." The company also facilitates a lot of reorders through email.
For more information:
Wildman Business Group
800 South Buffalo Street
Warsaw, IN 46580
Toll Free: 800-477-0276
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