Fun always attracts attention, especially if the source is something novel. Two kiosk and cart suppliers offer products that provide an opportunity to capitalize on tickling the funny bone and delighting with irresistible flavors. Mini Melts, which migrated from abroad to its base in Norwich, CT, provides a new and novel way of selling ice cream. Backgate Designs Inc. in Morgan Hill, CA has patented, "Flair Hair Visors," head visors from which soft spikes of synthetic hair erupt to cap the head. There are 19 different visor colors, including embroidered patterns, and three hair colors, along with a line of Baby Flair Hair Visors. While these have a practical value in keeping the sun's rays out of the eyes and off the head, "It's really all about the fun," says Jennifer Delaney, VP of business development. "The target market," she adds, "is anyone who has a head."
Mini Melts are cryogenically frozen ice cream bits. They are the result of a technology that uses liquid nitrogen to freeze the ice cream to 187 degrees below zero, which takes the food to a frozen state quickly, "within seconds," says Tom Mosey, president of Mini Melts. "Cryogenics actually works at any temperature below 40 degrees, which is the point at which Centigrade and Fahrenheit align," he explains. "The instant freeze not only retains optimum flavor, but also results in a side benefit, which is an intriguing shape." He likens the shape to popcorn, and adds, "it's like snowdrops. The random shape nuggets are freeform and different from one another."
Mini Melts began on the international market in 1996 and came to the U.S. between 2003 and 2004. They are already a big hit at parks and zoos, according to Mosey, and are now being rolled out to kiosk vendors, beginning in Texas, where he says, "They are doing extremely well." The program lends itself especially well to this economy, Mosey suggests, and not just because Mini Melts are an inexpensive indulgence. "It's an excellent time to find good people to operate these kiosks, and malls are more willing to look at spaces they are eager to rent at reasonable rates."
There are currently 30 flavors of Mini Melts, and vanilla and chocolate are among them, of course. But so are cookie dough, cotton candy, Oreo cookie and cream, banana split, mango and more. "The flavors can also be mixed," Mosey notes, "giving buyers the chance to customize their Mini Melts cups, and giving vendors more chances to always offer something new." The company's kiosk program includes freezer configurations containing space for a multiple of eight flavors. "These can be changed out, and the vendor can rotate flavors over time, in order to keep offering new flavors," he adds, "which is an incentive to keep customers coming back."
Mini Melts utilizes a special shipping method that employs dry ice in order to maintain the proper temperature. Mosey recommends a minimum order of 100 gallons, "which makes sense from the standpoint of freight charges, and also because it's a quantity that fits into the kiosk freezer." Mini Melts offers several programs. It will supply a complete Mini Melt kiosk for $9,900, along with a serving freezer that costs $1,800, and a storing freezer for another $1,600. Vendors can also use their own kiosk, but will need to buy a freezer, which costs about $4,000.
The Mini Melts themselves wholesale for $14 a gallon, and each gallon provides 25 servings, which are sold in cups. That translates to a wholesale cost of about 60 to 70 cents a cup. The suggested retail price is about $3 per cup. "We use the highest quality premium ice cream," Mosey adds. While Mini Melts can be profitable all by themselves in a year round kiosk or cart, they also combine well with certain other products, according to Mosey. "They do very well in kiosks that sell cookies, baked pretzels and other snacks," he says. "In addition, they offer coffee kiosk vendors an opportunity to add something for kids." That is not to say that Mini Melts appeal only to kids, he insists. Proof is in the number of adult parties Mini Melt kiosk operators have supplied. "Many vendors have added business by supplying birthday parties and other events for both children and adults," he reports, noting that one vendor delivered his cart to a party for a total fee of $2,000. Others have supplied about 50 Mini Melts cups to parties, for a fun dessert.
Mini Melts offers its vendors a slew of merchandising materials. "We have sample literature they can adapt to pass out at the cart, promoting party business," he says. "Also, vendors can provide this literature and service to area party stores." In getting started, "Sampling is a huge selling advantage," Mosey advises. His company supplies little taster spoons that carry the Mini Melt logo. Beyond good salesmanship and enthusiasm, good hygiene is very important to success. The kiosk must always be sparkling clean.
Display is key to success with Flair Hair Visors, according to Delaney. "It's also very important that the vendor wear one," she adds. This not only attracts attention, but also establishes a fun mood. In addition to solid black, white and red visors, there is a camouflage pattern, several floral prints, and two popular embroidered motifs. One has flames embroidered on the bill, another touts USA with a flag theme. "The flame design is especially popular with younger customers," Delaney says. Flair Hair Visors with licensed sports team logos are also available. Flair Hair Visors initially made a name for themselves on the golf course, and have been seen on celebrity heads.
The "hair" is offered in a choice of blonde, grey and brown. The diameter of the unisex visor design for adults is adjustable from 19 to 22 inches, designed to fit nearly any adult head. The very popular Baby Hair Flair visor adjusts to a diameter of 15 to 19 inches, "making it a good fit for toddlers and children up to about age five," she says. The baby visor is baby blue, with an image of a monkey sitting in a car embroidered on the bill. It comes in a choice of blonde or brown hair.
"Sales of Flair Hair visors are pretty steady all year," Delaney says, and that is true in all climates and seasons. While it can do well on its own, it also pairs well with other products. Among them are sports apparel and sunglasses, along with other novelty items. The minimum order is 24 units, and can include a mix and match of all styles. The wholesale cost ranges from about $8 to $9, depending on size of the order. The suggested retail price ranges from $19.99 to $24.99.
Backgate Designs offers a variety of special package orders that make it easy to display Flair Hair. One package includes a display rack with a mirror on top that shows 36 visors and has a base that stores up to an additional 60 units. It is offered at a cost of $499, which includes 36 Flair Hair visors, another 10 bonus units of the product, plus free shipping. It is 5.5 feet tall and has six shelves for display. With wholesale prices at $8.50 a unit, "this package would normally cost $636," Delaney points out, and it has a retail value of $919.
Another package utilizes the same size display stand with the mirror on top, but includes 96 visors of the vendor's choice of designs, plus an additional 18 bonus free visors, also of the vendor's choice, along with free shipping for a total cost of $999. The normal cost of this program would be $1,229, according to Delaney, and it has a retail value of $2,158. With the minimum order of 24 units, a retailer can pay $40 for a shiny, plastic 18 inch mannequin head, in either black or white, and get two free visors. In addition, Styrofoam 12 inch mannequin heads are available for $5 each. Banners and posters showing Flair Hair Visors in action in a variety of poses are available, made to order.
According to Specialty Retail Report, shoppers spend nearly $10 billion a year on products sold from kiosks and carts. Mini Melts and Hair Flair visors bring fun to the mix, while also enriching the vendors that carry them.
The following were interviewed for this article:
Jennifer Delaney, VP of business development
Backgate Designs Inc.
16550 Railroad Avenue Ste. B
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
Toll Free: 866-999-3220
Tom Mosey, president
245 Asylum Street
Norwich, CT 06360
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