With a successful history of 40 years selling key rings, novelties and more, you might think a wholesaler like Kalan Inc. would be content with a sure winning strategy. Still, the Landsdowne, PA based company, known for its personalized programs and humorous products, continues to reach for new heights and take on new challenges. From its roots in the basement of the Kalan family home, this manufacturer and distributor has become one of the largest key ring makers in the world, and one of the most willing to experiment.
Two years ago, for example, Kalan acquired Funworks, a personalized vacation-destination souvenir items company. Jackie Pope, Kalan's sales manager, says that the merger has gone quite well. "We're incorporated with Funworks. That's where we do a lot of work for zoos, aquariums, and national attractions. We run it a little separately, but it is run out of here," she says. For a company that now sells 60 product lines covering literally thousands of items, that has meant an expansion into new warehouse space, as well as a complete company integration. "Just in one line of key rings, we have 500 or 600," declares Pope. Now the company is deep into plans to roll out an exciting new product line, as well as a complete redesign of the company website.
"We have developed an exciting product made out of lanyard material," says Pope. "Our mini lanyard is a multifunctional piece. It has a plastic water bottle holder, a carabiner, a key ring, and it's a wristlet all in one." Pope describes it this way, "A lanyard is one of those things you put around your neck that holds your keys. It's just usually longer. Ours is a mini lanyard." However, the product can be used in a variety of ways, unlike traditional, bigger lanyards, which are worn around the neck. "It doesn't have to be worn on the wrist, but it can be," Pope explains. "It can be held in your hand or put in a pocketbook. Say you're walking somewhere, You can put it on your wrist, attach a water bottle, and put your keys in it without having to carry a bag."
The prime selling points of the mini lanyard are the quality of its woven, layered material as well as the incredible number of variations that Kalan sells. "Ours are all color coordinated," says Pope. "We have 68 styles right now, including girls' names, boys' names, generic styles, styles like 'Smile Faces' or 'Superstar,' or 'My Keys' or 'No. 1 Mom,' which happens to be the number one seller." As that suggests, the item is selling well to the youth market. "Kids are buying it," she says.
There is always a risk when a company rolls out a completely new line of products, but for Kalan, the payoff has been immediate, because the product has proven quite popular. The product's first run was snapped up by the customers who heard about it. "I was sold out," Pope says. "The sell through is just amazing." However, the company has geared up production, and the mini lanyard is available again in quantity. The minimum order is $100, and the company's products generally offer keystone margins or better. For example, the mini lanyard sells at wholesale for $1.50, with suggested retail of $2.99.
As part of its policy of helping retailers increase their sales, Kalan offers the product with two presentation options. "We have two displays available; a floor display that holds the personalized and the generic, and a counter display that holds 32 styles," says Pope. "It can fit anywhere - in a convenience store, gift shop, tourist store, anywhere. For everything we sell, we have a display that goes with it that customizes our product, so we always offer a program. Displays are purchased with the product." Getting that product in front of customers is a key selling technique, because, as Pope explains, Kalan's mini lanyards are, "absolutely an impulse item. The colors on the rack attract the eye, which attracts the impulse buy."
Bravely, Kalan, located outside Philadelphia, is simultaneously pushing another major initiative: a complete rollout of a redesigned website. "Our site is under construction," says Pope. "We hired someone to redesign our whole site." The company hopes to replace the existing site, which has served the company well, with the new version early in 2011. Kalan plans for a number of new features that will mean real improvements for customers sourcing goods online. "It will be completely updated at all times, easy to navigate, and will include an email newsletter," says Pope. She emphasizes that the site is not a move away from the company's core business of selling to retailers. "We will have a shopping cart on the new site," she says, "but we're wholesale trade. We're not making that available to the public." The company does not plan to put every single variation of every product online, but all 60 lines will be very well represented. "We'll have all lines up, but if we have a line that has 600 key rings, I don't know that we'll show you 600 key rings," says Pope.
She describes her goals for the site in clear terms, saying, "Basically I want to target the market that we are not already hitting, and I want people to be able to see the breadth of the merchandise we offer, how much really is there. Sometimes customers know us as 'the key ring people,' but we also manufacture shot glasses and birthday candles. We have a whole party division now," she says. "We had a name for so long that has been synonymous with key rings and humor that customers think we can't be on the serious side with a birthday candle or a love card." The site will allow an Internet outreach to a range of new customers, and Pope plans to keep in touch with her customer base through email and personal contacts. "Every time I have something new that's not out on a sheet yet, and I want to give customers a heads up, I can send an email."
However, Kalan has a long history of reaching out to its customers on the phone, and that will not change. "We have a complete customer service sales department here. One great thing about us is that our salespeople have all been here a long time," Pope says proudly. "Most of our salespeople have been here for over 20 years. We have no turnover. I've been here 25 years, and I've been dealing with some of the same customers that whole time. When a customer calls, they know they are talking to somebody well versed in our lines. We're not a call center. Everything is personalized," she adds. Kalan has ten salespeople in-house, and collectively that adds up to a lot of personal contacts. "We're very customer-oriented and customer-friendly in everything we do," Pope says.
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97 S. Union Ave.
Landsdowne, PA 19050
Toll Free: 800-345-8138
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