During the all important fourth quarter, a mix of practical and unusual products is expected to motivate holiday shoppers to dig deeper into their wallets. Despite rising gas and energy costs, and a volatile stock market, consumers want to be generous.
Retailers need to inspire consumers with broad selections of attention grabbing products that include both useful and unusual items. Merchants also need to buy right, in order to maintain profits in a season that is expected to be rife with discounting.
Suppliers of gifts and housewares, including home linens, are ready to help retailers meet the challenges in this often make or break quarter. In addition to well priced merchandise, many suppliers also offer programs tailored to maximize volume and profits.
Chef Craft Corp., a leading distributor based in Pewaukee, WI, carries more than 700 different kitchen gadgets and tools. While the company's selection includes all the basics, it also contains a, "Dream Craft," assortment of items for the highly popular scrapbooking market.
It also has a patent on a line of kitchen housewares that provide a comfortable grip. These are in addition to great stocking stuffers, and such higher profit items as bar and barbecue accessories.
Chef Craft helps retailers take the guesswork out of ordering. Brian Ernster, vice president, says, "We'll tell retailers which items are our best sellers in particular types of locations. In addition, we'll develop planograms around particular retail price points. We actually set the configuration of products up here, take a photograph, and send it to the retailer customer for review. The retailer can adjust it, if desired, and then place the order." The supplier also has a wide range of preset display wall programs and other fixtures.
One eight foot section, for example, contains 12 units each of 152 different items. Another 14 foot section contains the same selection of 152 items, but is weighted to include deeper inventory of best sellers.
The primary housewares line from Chef Craft is offered in a choice of three different colors, and color is often a priority among shoppers who like to coordinate kitchen colors and dress up the kitchen with these items, which often remain on the countertop when they are not in use.
The top everyday sellers are always in demand, Ernster says. Among these are basters, spatulas, and vegetable peelers. Other big sellers are bag clips for snack bags and barbecue skewers, he reports.
A toothpick displayer has become a surprise hit, according to Ernster. Chef Craft developed it in response to a customer's request. "It's a great impulse item," he says. The displayer contains four units of 100 toothpicks each, that are fitted with frills for use with hors d'oeuvres, two containers of 250 regular toothpicks in a dispenser, and three packs of 150 toothpicks and umbrella toothpicks, which are generally used in cocktails. Packs within the displayer wholesale for 59 cents, and the suggested retail price is 99 cents a unit, making it especially easy to buy on impulse.
Plugging In Profits
Portable consumer electronics are on a whole lot of wish lists this season, and some of the national brands put a big squeeze on consumers' pocketbooks. China Grabber, based in Portland, OR, has solutions for these shoppers and the stores they buy from.
It offers a broad selection of its own Digitalrise brand electronics that are as good as, and in some cases superior to, the nationally advertised big brands, according to Tunde Sosanya, owner. "We have all the best sellers," he says.
Chief among then now is the MP4 player. The Digitalrise unit has a larger LCD screen than many models, "and twice as much functionality as other brands," he says. It includes an FM radio, while also accommodating music, movies and music videos, which can be downloaded online, so that it doesn't require iTunes. The unit comes in a choice of five different colors.
Best of all, China Grabber sells the one gigabyte version, beginning in lots of 10 units containing two of each color, for a wholesale price of $44.19 a unit. The suggested retail is between $80 and $90 a unit.
This compares with about $200 for an iPod that does not play video. The China Grabber online catalog features 700 different products and shows pricing in lots, which represent the minimum order requirement for each. Wholesale pricing declines with each incremental addition of 10 units of a particular product.
Also popular are MP3 Bluetooth sunglasses, which wholesale on an order of 10 units at $66.19 a unit. The suggested retail price is $120 a unit or higher.
Orders can be placed directly over the internet. "All prices include shipping," Sosanya says. "We accept all major credit cards, and we offer a five percent discount on orders paid for with bank wire transfers," he adds.
Radio controlled vehicles are also hot for the holidays, and China Grabber's product mix includes a number of RC toys and games. One of the most popular is a radio controlled helicopter that wholesales in a minimum lot of 10 units for $23.69 a unit. Suggested retail is $60 a unit, making it affordable, while also giving the retailer a hefty profit margin. This and other RC products from China Grabber come individually boxed.
Building On Brands
Gifts and housewares are among the closeouts always on hand at JD Closeouts, based in Plantation, FL, and they carry other product lines, including apparel. Joe Beyhan, owner, says his company's ever changing inventory includes top branded, first quality products from, "high brand name department stores."
He sells by lots, which typically contain 100 pieces, and by pallets and truckloads. The prices on larger orders carry a bigger discount. However, "Our products are generally between 20 and 30 percent off the original wholesale price," he says.
Among the gifts and collectibles are figurines, religious items, candles, candle holders, porcelain figures, tabletop, crystal picture frames, vases, crystal ornaments, toys and more. "At present, we're getting lots of toys for the holiday season," he adds. A typical gift pallet would wholesale for about $895, according to Beyhan.
A housewares pallet can include dishes, glassware, cutlery, cookware, silverware and flatware, pots and pans and more. Its typical wholesale cost per pallet is about $795. In some cases, a manifest is available to identify contents; in other cases only the brand names are identified. Beyhan will explain contents to the buying retailer in as much detail as possible.
In household domestics, he says, "We often have a list of contents, and the retailer can order from the list, selecting just bedding, or just bath and accessories, for example." A pallet of domestics from a known brand retailer generally wholesales for $799 or more, depending on contents.
An example of contents includes: comforters, pillows, sheets, bed spreads, area rugs, towels, draperies, shower curtains, table linens, bath rugs, bed ruffles and other bedding accessories. JD Closeouts also sells branded kitchen gadgets and other housewares. Retailers can browse availabilities on the website and then call to place and verify an order. Beyhan says the website is updated frequently.
Latching Onto Licenses
Linens, especially those with popular logos and licensed characters, are very popular gifts, according to Imad Dahdoul, vice president of Dahdoul Textiles Inc., based in Commerce, CA. "They also sell well to customers that want to spruce up their homes for the holidays," he adds, "and blankets do particularly well. They are our number one seller from August through December 25," he reports.
Currently, a 3.5 kilo, "Sky Blanket," brand that his company wholesales for $12.99 a unit is especially in demand. Its suggested retail is $29.99 a unit, which he points out is below the price on similar blankets being sold by discount big box chains.
He calls for a minimum order of $1,000, which can include an assortment of the hundreds of towels, comforter sets, kitchen curtains, draperies and other domestics regularly in stock. The Dahdoul staff will work with a retailer to select best sellers for individual markets and stores.
Among the items enjoying great sell-through all across the country are licensed beach towels featuring Spider Man, Cars, and sports team logos. These wholesale for $6.99 a unit, and suggested retail is $12.99, which, Dahdoul says, helps retailers compete with chains that sell them for as much as $20.99 a unit.
"Spider Man merchandise is doing awesome volume," he adds, "and it makes a great gift." Disney comforter sets are also among the best sellers. Dahdoul wholesales sets containing sheets, pillow cases and a comforter for $25 a unit, and he points out that many retailers are selling the comforter alone for $39.99. "Our goal," he adds, "is to help our retailer customers compete and profit."
Wood Roses Won't Wilt
Roses are a gift that is always appreciated and always in season. Timeless Treasures, based in Woodland Park, CO, offers roses that are truly timeless. They are made of painted wood, and come in a choice of 50 different colors.
The company provides a starter kit that includes 160 stems each of the 20 best selling colors, for a total of 3,200 roses. The kit also includes 200 sleeves; 200 units of onion grass, which owner, Angelina Koski, says, "add greenery to a bouquet;" free shipping, and a one by three foot banner.
The banner spells out Wooden Roses and has a picture of one, signaling that the retailer is a source for this hot product. It is waterproof and can be hung outside. The kit wholesales for $250, and Koski says will produce a retail return of $2,500. Timeless Treasures requires a minimum order of $100, and it can include a mix of colors.
The company has pre mixed bouquets of a dozen roses that wholesale for just $1.50. However, Koski highly recommends that retailers encourage their customers to build their own bouquets. "Stores do especially well," she says, "when they display the roses by color, in buckets like those used in floral shops. Have some bouquets on display to offer ideas," she says. "Then encourage customers to pick and choose a bouquet of their own."
Appeal to Collectors
Another way to grab gift givers' attention is to show items that relate to an intended gift recipient's personal interests, such as pets, hobbies and sports. BL Gifts Wholesale in Warriors Mark, PA does it with hand painted figurines. Sanford Manufacturing Co., in Sanford, TX, does it with clocks.
Sanford Manufacturing offers 350 different designs of wall, desk and countertop clocks, all laser cut from oak or birch wood. The selection, exclusive to this company, is built around popular themes.
"Military motifs are especially popular today," says Kent Beedle, owner. "And our dragon wall clock is the hottest current item in our mix." The mix also includes nautical designs, sports themes, eagles and other wildlife images and 40 different dog breeds.
The desk clocks generally measure about three by six inches, and the wall clocks are about 11 inches in diameter. Wholesale prices range from $5 to $12.50 a unit, and Beedle requires a low $50 minimum order. It can include any assortment of units, and would typically include six wall clocks and one desktop unit, or 10 different desktop designs. "Some items are regionally popular and others do well everywhere," he says. Beedle will guide retailers to the best selling designs for different parts of the country.
BL Gifts Wholesale carries up to 1,500 different figurine designs, in sizes beginning at just under three inches tall, all the way up to a 56 inch high Indian chief. The design themes are equally wide ranging. They include fantasy figures, nautical images, animals, wildlife, farm and barnyard themes and southwestern motifs, to name a few. Brian Black, sales manager, says, "we have a line of hillbillies in a variety of poses, which is doing very well."
"Our fantasy line is also very, very popular," he adds. That includes dragons, wizards and fairies. While he acknowledges that the popular Harry Potter book and movie phenomenon may be adding somewhat to this trend, he says, "We try to steer away from fads and stick with themes that sell consistently well year in and year out, so no retailer will be stuck with items once the fad's over." Bears are also in demand, and BL Gifts carries a selection of natural looking bears and another line of cute bears. Both do well for their customers.
Like Sanford, BL Gifts requires a minimum order of just $50, and it can contain a selection of items. "Most giftware is quite regional," Black says, and his staff has experience in what motifs do best in which locations. "Different markets look for different price points," he says. "Some retailers like to buy products that sell for $4.99 a unit or less, and we can help them put together a mix that meets that demand. Others look for real eye catchers."
The wholesale prices range from as little as 85 cents a unit, up to about $200 for the Indian chief. "At all levels, our pricing is designed to turn quickly, and also give retailers a healthy margin of profit," Black says.
The following were interviewed for this article:
Brian Black, sales manager
BL Gifts Wholesale
2077 Pennington Road
Warriors Mark, PA 16877
Brian Ernster, vice president
Chef Craft Corporation
P.O. Box 370
Pewaukee, WI 53072
Toll Free: 800-628-3794
Toll Free Fax: 800-416-7448
Tunde Sosanya, owner
818 South Third Avenue
Portland, OR 97204
Toll Free: 866-768-7809
Imad Dahdoul, vice president
Dahdoul Textiles Inc.
720 Bandini Boulevard
Commerce, CA 90040
Joe Beyhan, owner
6741 West Sunrise Boulevard Unit 30
Plantation, FL 33313
Toll Free: 800-380-5861
Kent Beedle, owner
Sanford Manufacturing Company
113 West Main Street
P.O. Box 287
Sanford, TX 79078
Angelina Koski, owner
212 Pennsylvania Avenue
Woodland Park, CO 80863
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