The most successful kiosks and carts offer customers something they can't get elsewhere. Unique products not only hasten sell through, they also attract attention.
Stopping shoppers in their tracks is the goal of every kiosk vendor. With a unique or exclusive product at the core, vendors can complement it with related ones, in order to raise the total sales ticket.
Fleece "Pockethrows" and "Earcozies" from Gemsports, a company based in Lake Forest, CA, fill the bill. So do products that are personalized on the spot at kiosks, using proprietary systems developed by CASI/QLT, a company in Mount Vernon, NY that supplies several turnkey kiosk and cart programs.
CASI/QLT offers four different turnkey kiosk programs. Each is available in several packages, which vary in price, allowing kiosk and cart vendors to start small and grow. None requires a contract, and the programs are neither licensed nor franchised. All come with a comprehensive marketing manual, and contain instructions. Ken Kendes, president and owner, says a kiosk operator is free to purchase the product components for his company's systems elsewhere.
Some programs include shirts, frames, mugs and various other items. CASI/QLT maintains a large inventory of these items for quick delivery and requires a minimum order of just $25 from its kiosk vendors in order to ensure that they have the items they need, and don't face out of stocks on the fastest sellers.
All of the programs are reliant on proprietary software developed by Kendes. The programs provide vendors with "personalization," which is key to their success, he says. The items the vendor sells are personalized at the kiosk, which helps draw attention.
The least complicated is the "Creative Names" program. An operator needs an IBM compatible PC and a printer. "The printer can be a simple, low cost unit," he says.
In its simplest form, the software contains tens of thousands of first names. A customer submits a name, and the vendor types it into the system, which prints the name along with its root, origin, meaning and a list of flattering personality traits associated with the name. The vendor then picks a background for the printed information, such as a certificate, keychain or mug and instructs the printer to size the printed information to fit the end product.
"It will print the information in exactly the right size," Kendes says, adding, "it even has trim cut marks on the paper to make trimming it failsafe." The vendor trims accordingly and frames it or applies it to the customer's chosen product. "It takes about a minute," he says.
Creative Names starter packs are offered in bronze, silver and gold versions. All include, in addition to the software, an instruction manual, free technical and marketing support and a selection of frames and products on which the printout can be applied.
The smallest, bronze package, wholesales for $489 and contains a Spanish language program, a program for dog's names, a selection of 150 art background paper designs, 10 keychain tags, a dozen mugs and cups, and 30 frames, plus 25 brochures for the vendor to give to customers for referral business.
Among the mugs and cups are three units each of pink baby cups, blue baby cups, mugs and steins. The frames include some of wood and some of Lucite in different common sizes, including easel and double easel units. The inventory has a retail value of more than $1,000, Kendes says.
A silver package, which wholesales for $989, has a retail value of more than $2,800. It contains Star Sign, Name Story and Family Tree software; a paper trimmer, a retail banner, 250 additional custom art background papers and 25 additional brochures as well as all that is offered in the bronze package.
Similarly, the gold package adds big multiples to the product line and expands the software to include flags, coats of arms, proprietary CASI poem software and other interesting name related connections. This wholesales for $1,989 and has a retail value in excess of $8,000. The products in the Creative Names program can also carry a personal message, such as "have a great birthday," or gift related words.
The other CASI/QLT programs take personalization even further by providing items with photos on them. The Photo Creations and Photo Fusion Systems are related. The first transfers photos to plates, trays and ornaments among other collectible items, and Photo Fusion is designed for putting photos on jewelry.
Like Creative Names, these are offered in a tiered program, each containing all of the hardware and software necessary to create the photo for transfer along with a selection of products. A Photo Creations starting kit wholesales for $5,995. A Photo Fusion component, that adds the jewelry capability and includes a selection of jewelry, can be added for just $700 wholesale. Alone, a Photo Fusion system wholesales for $2,995.
The newest system from CASI/QLT is Chroma Crystal program. Kendes says, "Before this, you could not get color images onto crystal. And crystal is very hot now. This system allows you to transfer full color images onto crystal in five minutes."
This system begins at a wholesale price of $2,295 and includes a Chroma Crystal unit that transfers the image, 50 sheets of Chroma Crystal film, a bottle of glue that is applied to the film, a bottle of glue that applies the film to the crystal and an assortment of 36 pieces of crystal in a variety of shapes. There is also a training manual and access to a web based support center. CASI/QLT carries more than 40 different styles of crystal.
The company has 30,000 customers in 44 countries. Kendes says there are several hundred cart and kiosk programs using one or more of the systems in operation in the U.S. The overwhelming majority operate year round. Of them all, 90 percent carry only CASI/QLT systems and products. All of the programs are delineated in detail on the company's website, which includes product descriptions, prices and suggested profit margins.
Interactive kiosk programs, particularly ones that provide personalized product, attract a lot of attention. They also require extra effort. Product only centered kiosks need to be something consumers see as new and different. If it's timely and useful, the vendor has an additional edge.
Gemsports' Pockethrow is an all in one pillow, throw and blanket. "It represents the lead product in Gemsports' kiosk program," says Jim Maccaro, the company's owner. It comes in three sizes: classic, toddler and baby.
The classic version is offered in 40 different patterns, including sports, novelty, seasonal and designer themes. Folded, it measures 15 by 15 inches, and it unfolds to a 50 by 60 inch blanket. The wholesale price is between $8.50 and $12.50 a unit, depending on volume, and the suggested retail price ranges from $19.99 to $29.99 a unit, depending on the marketplace.
The toddler size is 12 by 12 inches folded, and 36 by 45 inches unfolded. It is available in more than 25 designs. The wholesale is approximately $6.50 a unit, and the retail sales range is between $15 and $17.50 a unit.
For babies, there's a 10 by 10 inch folded Pockethrow that unfolds to a 30 by 36 inch receiving blanket. It wholesales for $3 to $5 a unit, and retails between $10 and $12.50 a unit.
"We guide vendors to the most popular patterns for particular areas," Maccaro says, "and we also tell them which patterns sell best by season. For the holidays, we have Christmas and Hanukah patterns along with deer and other fall and country themes."
Pockethrows come with a merchandising kit that allows them to be hung from a kiosk for easy display and to attract attention. In addition, the company provides banners, signs and literature to show how Pockethrows work and to show all of the different patterns.
With Pockethrow in the lead, Gemsports has assembled a range of related fleece products to round out the line. Among them is Earcozie, a reversible fleece ear warmer band that comes in the same patterns as Pockethrow and has a solid black or white fabric on the reverse side, so it can be worn two ways. It wholesales between $2.75 and $3.50 a unit and the retail ranges from $7.50 to $10 a unit.
Fringed scarves and beanies in the same patterns round out Gemsports' fleece program. Their pricing is similar to Earcozie.
Vendors pay only for product. "We don't require any minimum order," Maccaro says. "We try to make it as cost effective for a vendor as we can." He says more than 50 of the kiosk programs are now in operation, some carrying only Gemsports products and others that combine them with related products from other suppliers.
"Pockethrow and our other items work well with furry slippers," he says. "They also do well with other accessories, but all of the products in the cart or kiosk should be somewhat related," he advises.
The following people at these companies were interviewed for this article:
Ken Kendes, president and owner
602 South Third Avenue
Mount Vernon, NY 10550
Toll Free: 800-457-2274
Jim Maccaro, owner
24331 Muirlands Boulevard
Lake Forest, CA 92630
Toll Free: 800-274-4367
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