Events conspire to help keep the housewares market strong, while gift giving remains an important part of family and social life. Value is the watchword for both categories in this economy, and suppliers are cognizant of retailers' demand for products with high impulse appeal and affordable pricepoints.
Housewares sales are benefiting from increased cooking at home, versus eating out, according to Rob Kole, president of Kole Imports. His company carries approximately 1,000 different housewares items, "which we offer at extremely good values," Kole says. "In this economic climate, we're able to take advantage of many buying opportunities. Every house has a kitchen, and every kitchen needs housewares," he reasons. "People are gravitating toward basics," he adds.
Kole Imports has developed a program specifically aimed at meeting retailers' needs. It is a quarter pallet promotion that contains 768 units. That includes 24 pieces each of 32 best selling housewares. The wholesale cost varies according to the total volume of an order, and Kole Imports sells products in many categories. However, Kole says, "there are products on the housewares promo pallet that retail for as low as one dollar."
This prepack offers retailers additional benefits. "It's ready to go," Rob Kole says, calling it, "a sale in a box." It is packaged as an in and out promotion for dollar day sales, sidewalk sales and other kinds of retail specials. "It can be set up in less than 60 seconds," Kole says. "Every item on the pallet, all 32 pieces, are identified with a single UPC code. It is a real challenge for retailers to enter a lot of UPC codes, so this makes it simple and quick for store personnel. 'In addition," he notes, "retail real estate is valuable, and because this is a prepack, the retailer doesn't have to make special room for it. Setting it up as a promotion builds excitement in stores," Kole adds. "It has a 'halo' effect that leads to incremental sales. The values in the promotion give the impression that everything in the store has good value."
Latin American Distributors Inc. in New Jersey also carries a wide range of basic housewares, but as its name implies, it also occupies a particular (and rapidly growing) housewares niche. That is the Hispanic market, or as VP, Antonio Bomnin, correctly points out, the various different Hispanic markets. The company has been in business since 1975. "The Hispanic proportion of business, which now totals a good 60 percent of all, has mushroomed in the past several years," Bomnin reports. "And it has broadened to all parts of the country."
Among the ethnic specialty housewares are paella cookware, lemon squeezers, tortilla plates and tortilla warmers, plantain smashers and molcajete, which are the lava bowls use to mix guacamole. "We also have the kinds of frying pans and other pots that are historically used for Hispanic cooking," he says. Having specialized in this niche for so long, Bomnin, who represents the second generation in this family business, and his staff are experts in understanding the differences among the many Hispanic markets. "The needs of a store with a large market of people from the Caribbean are very different from those of a store with a large Mexican population," he notes.
"After talking with a retailer, we can develop a planogram of four to 16 feet that is oriented to that retailer's, or an individual store's, specific ethnic group." In addition, "we supply banners, shelf talkers and other point of sale materials to help draw customers to this section." Not all of the people drawn to an Hispanic housewares section are Hispanic, Bomnin also notes. "Various Hispanic foods are now mainstream, in demand among a very broad market." For that reason, Latin American Distributors can also provide recipes that the retailer can display and offer to customers.
Most items are sold in full cases, which typically contain six units. All are designed to provide sellers with a minimum mark up of 40 percent, says Bomnin. Product illustrations and descriptions are on the company's website, but buyers should call for pricing and to place orders.
Innovative Gift Giving
Gifts are for the fun of it. They give pleasure. In general, pleasure and fun are in the eyes of the recipient. Some gifts, however, are timely and nearly universal. That is particularly so at Christmas time, when a gift can add to the holiday spirit and ambiance.
The Snowglobe Christmas DVD, developed by Ron Ranson of Snowglobe Christmas in Leucadia, CA, is one such gift. Ranson and his wife, Nicola, hit on the idea for the DVD after noticing that during holiday parties, "there was either a very large dark television staring at the holiday guests or there was something playing on the TV that was completely unconnected to the holiday spirit the host was trying to create," he says. That inspired the couple to experiment with images of Christmas, including snow globes. The Ransons departed for Vienna, where snow globes originated, and eventually gathered about 30 Austrian snow globes, each with different images. Ranson utilized his background in theatrical lighting to photograph the globes in their best light, shape and form.
He then combined the images with 25 musical selections. The range of images and music is wide. Among the snow globe images are classic European Santas, along with the fatter, jollier Santas from America, reindeer, penguins, polar bears, angels, cakes, religious images of Joseph and Mary, and even a replica of the snow globe that appeared in the movie, Citizen Cane. Among the musical selections are 16 songs, which Ranson describes as, "upbeat and jolly." There is also organ, country guitar, jazz and calypso music.
The result is a 40 minute DVD set on a continuous loop that puts enlarged snow globes onto any TV set. "It's like the Yule log in fireplace videos," he says, "but it matches the images with the mood of the music and lyrics. It is both festive and soothing." The DVD also contains a bonus section featuring an interview with the Ransons' grandson and some humorous segments using snow globes. The full production is 52 minutes long. A starter pack of 12 DVDs is the minimum order. The wholesale price is $7.98, and there are volume discounts on larger orders. The suggested retail price is $16.95 to $19.95. Retailers get a free demo copy for in-store playback.
Few gifts are greeted with more enthusiasm than ones that fit with a recipient's hobby or interest. Scott Nelson, VP and co owner of Collector's Armoury in Lorton, VA, which carries approximately 750 different items related to period firearms, confirms this. "Firearms are an important part of American history," he says, "and we offer safe and affordable replicas that are alternatives to the originals. No one can shoot ours."
His company's inventory includes replicas from medieval times to the 21st century. The market is collectors, and Nelson says they exist in all parts of the country. "Even we have been surprised that consumer buyers are spread evenly all across the country," he says. "There is little change by type of market or geography."
The current best sellers are World War II rifle replicas and Old West and Civil War box and frame sets. Collector's Armoury carries several dozen such box and frame sets, and the wholesale price is under $75. The suggested retail is double wholesale. World War II rifle replicas wholesale in the mid $1,000 range, and retail is also typically double wholesale cost. The minimum order is $100, and can include any of the company's products.
"We talk with each retailer about their market and advise on products that meet a retailer's best selling pricepoints," Nelson says. The least expensive items in inventory are accessories that go with replica firearms, such as frames, hangers, handcuffs, period decorations and accoutrements. "These not only serve as important add ons that raise the ticket, but they also improve displays," he points out. Regarding display, Nelson says, "it's simple. These items are eye catchers. People are not expecting to see them, and they become instantly interested. They're unique; people can't find them anyplace else."
His company has been in business for 41 years, "and every year, we continue to grow sales. We now have a third generation of collectors, and people buy them to pass along to heirs. Collector's Armoury publishes a 64 page catalog that is free to retailers, and it also shows all products on its website. "Once a dealer registers online, we'll set up a system giving them direct access to order. And we can ship same day or within 24 hours," Nelson adds.
Another growing market niche consists of retirees. John Kallestad noted this growing market, and developed a clock that celebrated retirees' lack of a need to know what time it is, but their remaining need to keep track of what day it is. He developed the Day Clock, available exclusively from DayClocks Inc. in Reno, NV. The Day Clock face is divided into seven pie slice shaped segments, labeled Sunday through Saturday, and the day hand makes one revolution every 168 hours. Border lines on the face denote midnight, and the midway point in each segment is noon.
"It's a whole new way of looking at time," Kallestad says. Furthermore, he has found that the market for looking at time by days rather than hours and minutes extends beyond retirees. "While Day Clocks are a favorite retirement gift," he says, "they are also very popular for cabins, vacation homes, boats, recreational vans, trailers and anywhere people relax and don't live by appointments."
Day Clocks, sometimes referred to as Seven Day Clocks, come framed in a choice of either oak or mahogany. The regular wholesale cost is $20, and the suggested retail price is $39.95. Currently, however, Kallestad is offering orders of six units for $95, which represents a wholesale price of just over $15.83.
Day Clocks automatically attract attention, he says, "especially when the retailer tells consumers to take a harder look." Once they realize that it is a unique timepiece, it brings a smile, and almost everyone can think of someone who would appreciate this clever clock that speaks of life at a slower pace." DayClocks Inc. also offers a wall clock that shows both the day and the time. It, too, has the seven segments, each devoted to a different day of the week. But above the days, it also tells the time of day. This unit is offered in a choice of an oak frame or a silver/pewter, contemporary finish frame. It wholesales for $25 and has a suggested retail of $49.95. Units are individually packaged, and the face is shown through the packaging. Both versions run on a single AA battery (not included with the unit and replaceable).
OBI Import is the new name for Opportunity Buys Inc. in Indianapolis, and it signifies a change in direction that gives retailers better pricing, reports Ian Flannigan, sales manager. "We are now bringing in our own merchandise, which is exclusive to us. We've licensed an artist for our designs," he says. In addition to exclusivity, Flannigan notes, "because we go direct to the retailer and eliminate middlemen, we can keep our prices low. This gives retailers healthier margins, while also helping them set prices for quick sell through."
Native American merchandise, not the only products sold by OBI Import, is one of its specialty areas. "This is becoming increasingly popular," he reports. Dream Catchers are chief among the most popular gift items in this category. "We've added a dozen new designs, primarily in American Indian and Cowboy visuals," he says. "The art work is especially fine and available only from us." The 26 inch Dream Catcher wholesales for $4.50, and the suggested retail is $19.99. OBI Import also offers smaller, four and a half to five inch versions. "These come in a countertop displayer of a dozen units, two each of six different designs," he says. The full display wholesales for $7.80," which translates to 65 cents each. The suggested retail is between $2 and $3. "The display and the price makes them ideal impulse buys," Flannigan notes. "We will work with anyone on a first time order to put together a package of top sellers for a particular market," he adds.
Also new and exclusive to the company are Indian framed portraits. The eight by 11 inch size, in a wooden frame, wholesales for $1.25, and suggested retail is $9.99. Larger units, (up to 27 inches tall) wholesale for $7.50 and have a suggested retail of $19.99. "On orders of 12 or more, the wholesale comes down to $6.50," he says.
Other popular gift items from OBI Import are candle warmers and oil warmers. "We have about three dozen styles of candle warmers, including solid colors and designs, angels, stars, home sweet home themes and country designs," he reports. They are made of ceramic and are about four or five inches wide, depending on the design. They can be used with a candle or a scented wax tart, which Flannigan has dubbed, "Melt'ems." These have 24 hour burn time and are offered in, "dozens and dozens of scents," he says. The candle warmers wholesale for $4.50 in a case of 12, or $4.95 in orders of less than a case. The suggested retail is $14.95 to $19.95. Melt'ems are the ideal add on to raise the retail ticket, and offer a gift that's ready to go. In quantities of 12 different fragrances, they wholesale for 80 cents for a four pack unit. On orders of 144 or more, the wholesale falls to 75 cents. Suggested retail is $1.99.
The company's oil warmers have a halogen bulb that warms scented oils. OBI Import carries more than 100 different styles, including units of glass and poly resin. "The pricing varies, depending on material and design," Flannigan explains. "The glass units wholesale for as little as $3, and the suggested retail is $11.99. The highest price poly resin unit in bright colors wholesales for $12.50, and suggested retail is $35," he reports. In displaying candle warmers or oil warmers, he suggests that retailers have at least one of each design operating in the store.
Electric oil warmers are also among the best selling gifts available from Buy Wise.biz, based in Overland Park, KS. There are 50 different designs, including glass and poly resin units, and these have the unique feature of a dimmer switch, which Debbie Burks, owner, says, "makes a wonderful night light. "Simply plug them in to a wall outlet, and the bulb heats fragrance oils or scented chips." In size, they range from five to 13 inches tall, and wholesale prices span from $5 to $20, depending on the material, design and size. The suggested retail price is, "at least keystone and often better," Burks says. The glass units look hand blown, according to Burks, "and some are clear and others are in color. The poly resin units are not as fragile, and they have the colors of what is depicted in the design." Among the most popular designs are dragons, tigers, deer, butterflies and an eagle.
Buy Wise.biz also carries approximately 150 different scents in half ounce bottles. "Retailers can mix and match the scents," says Burks. The wholesale cost is $1.50, and the suggested retail price is from $3 to $5. "Display sells," she advises. "These look best on a glass shelf," she adds. Also new from this company are mini decorative waterfall fountains. There are a dozen different designs, each about seven inches tall, and all made of poly resin. Just add water, and a clear crystal ball rotates when the water pulses, and forces a water wheel effect. These plug into a wall outlet or onto a USB outlet on a computer, making them an ideal gift for anyone who spends time online or at word processing. Among the most popular designs are frogs, dragons and vases. The wholesale cost is $10, and retail is at least double wholesale.
In past years, Buy Wise.biz introduced its line of motion fish lamps, and they remain popular gifts, Burks reports. There are three styles, all 15 inches tall with shades that contain images that move, giving the illusion of an aquarium. These wholesale for $12, suggested retail is $24 to $30. The company's trademark "motion" characteristic is also available on wall hangings, in such designs as a castle with a clock and a soccer ball.
According to these wholesale distributors, the combination of basic housewares and innovative gifts is a good bet, for profits, as retailers head into fall.
The following were interviewed for this article:
Debbie Burks, owner
Overland Park, KS 66202
Toll Free: 800-428-9947
Scott Nelson, VP and co-owner
Collector's Armoury Ltd.
9404 Gunston Cove Road
Lorton, VA 22079
Toll Free: 800-336-4572
John Kallestad, owner
892 Maestro Drive Ste. 102
Reno, NV 89511
Toll Free: 866-329-2562
Rob Kole, president
24600 Main Street
Carson, CA 90745
Toll Free: 800-874-7766
Websites: www.koleimports.com and www.promopallets.com
Antonio Bomnin, VP
Latin American Distributors Inc.
100 Crows Mill Road
Keasbey, NJ 08832
Toll Free: 800-832-1208
Ian Flannigan, sales manager
Opportunity Buys Inc.
1515 Brookville Crossing Way
Indianapolis, IN 46239
Toll Free: 800-894-2816
Ron Ranson, producer and director of creation
174 Andrew Avenue
Leucadia, CA 92024
Toll Free: 888-547-6039
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