Partnering With Suppliers
Kiosk and cart vendors always need to carefully evaluate the quality and appeal of products they wish to feature. But success isn't tied only to products.
Because kiosk sellers are more reliant on fewer suppliers than traditional brick and mortar retailers, they need to scrutinize their potential suppliers' capabilities in several critical areas. Here is a sample of the kinds of qualities to look for in a supplier:
- Will the supplier help tailor a mix that fits the local demographics?
- Is the product selection broad enough to appeal to a large proportion of consumers that shop the kiosk's location?
- Is there enough selection to allow the cart or kiosk to continually freshen the mix with something new and different?
- Does the company maintain ample inventory to replenish stock as quickly as needed? Most kiosk vendors don't have off site storage space, nor do they want to tie up a lot of dollars in inventory.
- Does the supplier provide merchandising support?
- Do the products carry high profit margins?
Two suppliers of very different products, both with years of experience in working with kiosk and cart vendors, not only have proven products for these venues, but also answer the above questions in the affirmative. In short, they form partnerships with their kiosk and cart vendors.
Quantum Mfg. is a jewelry supplier in Kent, OH, that offers a half dozen different lines and a total selection of more than 3,000 items. Warm Whiskers in Woodland Hills, CA, makes heatable, freezable aromatherapy pillows and body wraps in animal shapes.
Tammy Palmer, co-owner of Quantum Mfg., says, "Each kiosk is different. We discuss the vendor's target market in detail, get an idea of the area's demographics and price points, and analyze the available space together. Then we discuss displays and the best selection."
The company carries sterling silver and lead free pewter pieces, which have a sterling silver overlay, "so we cover two price points," she says. The designs include more than 1,500 Celtic designs; Snow Wonders, which are unique Christmas ornaments; a Messenger line of sayings, a Christian line, Madison fashion wear, which is at the lower end of the company's offerings and includes moveable animal and endangered species designs, along with angels and other popular themes, and an Aromatherapy line, which consists of wearable jewelry clad bottles into which consumers can put fragrance oils to wear on chains. At the upper end of the selection are pieces with mother of pearl and with synthetic, "lab created" opal.
"The average retail price point is about $20," Palmer says. "The average wholesale is $7, but we have many pieces that wholesale for $3 to $5, and some go down to $1." The minimum order is $100 and vendors can buy individual pieces.
"In kiosks, our products are usually merchandised with something else," Palmer says. Among the most compatible other products are gold jewelry, or any other jewelry product or fashion accessories. They also do well in kiosks that do ear piercing.
There are 85 different Warm Whiskers stock keeping units, ranging from eye pillows to neck and body wraps for all areas of the body and cozy slippers, all made of plush fabric in endearing animal shapes that are engineered to hug the contours of the body. There are "pocket critters" that serve as hand warmers.
All are filled with aromatic, all natural lavender and buckwheat. The grains provide therapeutic properties when heated in a microwave or chilled in the freezer.
The wholesale prices range from $4 to $29 a unit, says David Sternlight, CEO. "The suggested retail prices provide for a markup of between three and five times wholesale," he says.
While the plush animal wraps appeal to people in all age groups, Warm Whiskers also offers an upgrade Silk Spa line of five different body wraps. This line also includes eye pillows to refresh tired eyes. These are also heatable and freezable.
Meanwhile, the plush selection also offers body wraps for pets, which Sternlight says do very well. People love their pets, and these products offer relief for dogs and cats that suffer from the same aches that people do as they age. There are also microwave heatable pet beds and carriers and a critter door bell that allows dogs and cats to sound an alert when they want to go outside.
On the strength of the success of the wraps and other products for pets, Warm Whiskers has just introduced the Doggyback Jacket Pack. This is a set that contains a fleece trimmed thermal jacket and an animal shaped pillow buddy that is filled with the company's natural buckwheat and lavender.
While the jacket wards off shivers on winter walks, the buddy, after being heated in a microwave, attaches to the jacket to provide long lasting warmth and comfort. The pack, Sternlight says, "Is especially suited for arthritic dogs and others that are vulnerable to cold weather. The buddy emits moist heat and aromatherapy for warmth and calming comfort."
Doggyback Jacket Pack is offered in four sizes for dogs, ranging from as small as two pounds up to those weighing 44 pounds. It utilizes a Velcro like system to attach the buddy anywhere on the jacket's surface. The pack comes in two color/buddy combinations: a black jacket with a Boston terrier buddy and a pink jacket with a white fleece Polar Bear buddy.
Warm Whiskers provides a full merchandising package, which includes a selection of 10 different signs and a repeating cartoon on a DVD, or with a USB for downloading it from the company's website and showing on a TV monitor. The video demonstrates the use of Warm Whiskers wraps, while also showing their visual appeal.
"People are initially drawn to the animals because they're cute," Sternlight says. "Their utility and function should definitely be demonstrated. We can include a microwave, but vendors generally get their own and we advise on the best size and wattage."
He estimates that vendors make a minimum opening investment of $3,000. With an average wholesale of $10, that would include about 250 products. "After eight years in business, we have a good idea of what sells better in certain areas," he adds, "and we help vendors select a top selling assortment."
While he says he prefers that vendors carry only Warm Whiskers products, it's not a requirement. "When a kiosk carries too many different products, it loses focus," he contends. "Yet, it's not a problem if a kiosk includes other non competing products." The most compatible, according to Sternlight, are products in the health and beauty categories.
Quantum Mfg. will create planograms for kiosks and carts and create programs that include display units and signage. Signs are free with packaging. "We're very well organized and we'll work with vendors to get them where they need to be in respect to pricing and profits," says Palmer.
The company provides reorder tags, for example, so as stock in any of the items gets low, they can automatically reorder. Quantum ships same day. "We will provide product that carries our brand or without a brand, depending on which works best for the vendor," Palmer adds. The company will also make custom products in quantities of no less than 100, "with a very small set up fee," she points out.
This capability allows a vendor to offer something related to a particular geography on an exclusive basis. But that's not all. "Our custom capabilities also help vendors market fundraising programs for local organizations," she says. This is particularly beneficial in helping them continue to do business beyond the peak gift giving fourth quarter.
Quantum will create a special catalog of products that all carry the same retail price tag, "which simplifies the program," says Palmer. The vendor can determine the markup that's needed to make a profit, and also make a donation to the charity.
"When there's a catalog of products and the sponsoring ministry does the selling, we treat the vendor as a sales rep," she explains. "The vendor gets a percentage, we get a percentage and the ministry gets a percentage. When we make a special item for a fundraiser, we give a good wholesale price in order to give the vendor plenty of room for a profit and a contribution," she adds.
Warm Whiskers will also customize products. "We have our own embroidery machine, and we can embroider items for off season holidays, such as Valentine's Day and Mother's Day," says Sternlight. "The highest sales season is fourth quarter, as it is for all retailers," he concedes, "but the functionality of the product keeps it selling well year round."
Both of these companies will also provide sales tracking and product related accounting tasks. They are keenly aware that their success hinges on the success of those who sell their products, and both will go the extra mile to ensure vendors' success.
The following were interviewed for this article:
Tammy Palmer, co-owner
4631 Mogadore Road
Kent, OH 44240-7249
David Sternlight, CEO
21781 Ventura Boulevard Ste. 441
Woodland Hills, CA 91364
Toll Free: 800-233-0201
Toll free fax: 866-962-3147
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