Kiosk programs that have been market tested provide prospective kiosk and cart operators with more than product. In addition to proof that the concept works, the companies that have actually tested concepts on the ground have gathered a wealth of ideas and strategies that maximize the odds of success.
EZ Refillable Candles is one example. It began as Spa At Home, a company founded by AJ and Meena Chad, which they evolved into a proprietary line of personalized gel candles. A personal message is inserted into a glass bead that, in turn, gets inserted into a gel candle.
EZ Refillable Candles contain many of the key ingredients that lead to kiosk and cart success. Among them is a unique product, tailored on the spot to each customer's own design, and production of the end product draws the attention of passersby.
AJ Chad tested the concept in a kiosk of his own. He reports that during a two week period covering Valentine's Day 2003, gel candle sales increased 60 percent over the same two weeks the previous year.
Since then, he has concentrated on his company's EZ Refillable Candles brand, taken that as the company name, and continued to expand the concept. There are now 25 EZ Refillable Candle kiosks operating successfully year round, and about 90 during the peak fourth quarter.
The EZ Refillable Candles come in a choice of 18 fragrances; all market tested in Chad's own kiosks. Recently he has added two additional customizing features. Now the retailer can change the fragrance of a candle into the customer's choice.
More interesting and marketable is the introduction of Foto-Candle. This unit allows for a customer's photo to be inserted in a wall slot of the candle container. Like all of the company's products, this is also refillable with a votive or tea light.
The equipment needed to use the patented process for personalizing messages in the candles costs $250, and it is provided with kiosk and cart programs. The packages also include training materials, displays, posters and other marketing tools.
"We test everything," Chad says. "If nine out of 10 people walk away from a new concept or fragrance offered in our own carts, we won't launch the product. If eight out of 10 like it or buy it, we know we have a winner." Therefore, subscribers to his company's program only get winners. The reason why more carts and kiosks are in operation during fourth quarter is because many kiosk operators only want to work that season, Chad says.
While he acknowledges that high traffic locations do best year round, he says, "The program is proven to have year round success. It includes designs for all major holidays, birthdays, thank you, graduations, anniversaries, and all the occasions and situations covered by greeting card stores."
He also says that some of his kiosk operators consider the possibility of adding other products, such as incense, to the mix. "We don't discourage it, but we don't promote it either. Our own experience is that it dilutes the attention that can be won by concentrating on EZ Refillable Candles and displaying a full assortment."
An all new kiosk concept is currently under test at three company owned locations by Wings LLC, Orlando, FL. It is based on "Fairy Dust," a brand including patented mechanics for extending the concept, which was created by and is exclusive to Wings.
The creative concept links fantasy with reality and is targeted to girls between the ages of 7 and 12. It is designed around five fairies and one human girl, and the fairies use their magic to help young girls on their journey through the transition from child to teenager.
The concept encompasses Madame Moonstone, the head of Fairy Dust Academy, and recipes from each of the fairies, that cover different real life situations, and help the main character meet the challenges.
The first edition of Fairy Dust Tales, a series of books, has already been launched. It introduces a real girl and the problems she faces in a new town, along with the fairies' solutions. Sales in a Fairy Dust kiosk program include the book, along with jewelry, mix and match charms, cosmetics, novelties and other do it yourself projects.
Each of the fairies has an animal friend, which extends the charm of the continuing stories and their associated products. Add to the cast, Grock, a goblin and his iguana.
"This is more than a cart program, it's a lifestyle brand," says Debra Espinosa, national marketing manager of Wings. It includes a website with content for the young girls that are attracted to the fantasy. "We're not selling one off products, but a trademarked, protected entity that will continue to expand into collectibles."
The three tests underway are being utilized to ensure success once the rollout begins, in time for the holiday season. "We're testing in what are traditionally the difficult months for kiosk programs," Espinosa points out. While that handicaps the program, it also is intended to confirm that this is by no means only a fourth quarter program.
There are approximately 20 opening stock keeping units, each in all of the six colors associated with the fairies and the girl in the tale, which brings the total to about 70 different offerings. The package includes product to fully load a cart or kiosk, plus displayers, graphics and other point of sale materials.
Although pricing has not yet been finalized, Espinosa says three pricing levels (A, B and C) are under test. "Each is completely distinct, with the capability to handle a different mix of products." The three levels, she says, not only provide Wings with true tests of product profitability, but will also allow the company to accommodate, "Many different vendors. They will be able to choose from a range of investment levels."
Emirimage Corporation, based in Miami, which offers several different turnkey kiosk concepts, has nearly 100 year round kiosk operators, a number that jumps to approximately 250 between August and December, according to Eduardo Perl, president. "Some of our year round operators switch concepts during the year," he says, but most do not, because each of the three concepts has year round appeal.
Among the most proven Emirimage concepts is one devoted to remote control vehicles. There are five to six different R/C cars, helicopters and boats in the line, including Emirimage's patented Ramper Vehicle and StunerX.
Some kiosk operators concentrate on just one of the three vehicle classifications, while others take two or all three, Perl says. All of them perform stunts that draw attention to the products.
"There are malls that don't allow demonstrations, especially of flying RC toys," he says, and acknowledges that these sell best when they are demonstrated. To overcome that inability in certain malls, Perl provides DVDs showing the vehicles in action. "More than half of our customers use a screen in the kiosk to show the DVDs," he says. He also provides posters and other merchandising aids.
In addition, Perl will provide prospective kiosk operators with mall contacts. "We get requests from malls that have available space and want to have our products on their properties."
While it is not mandatory, based on his experience, Perl says a kiosk operator needs to maintain a stock of between $1,500 to $2,000 at wholesale prices per week, and that typically brings a return of $5,000 a week in sales. The cars wholesale for between $8 and $10 a unit; the boats at $12 a unit, and helicopters at $16 a unit. "We have a high rate of return among our kiosk customers," he adds.
Another Emirimage concept features educational toys, and that now includes approximately 10 to 12 stock keeping units. Among them is, "Zippy Mat," exclusively available from Emirimage. It is a portable electronic keyboard with the same capabilities as a piano keyboard, except it can be used at home, at the beach, park or anywhere. It teaches users how to play the piano.
Also in this mix is a dancing challenge that teaches all the right steps, an educational laptop, and mats that teach time and animal sounds. "We add new ones often," Perl says. Newest is the, "Just Born," baby doll. It is entirely realistic looking, and, a child can insert a hand and initiate movements in the doll that make it even more lifelike. It comes with a birth certificate, which the kiosk vendor certifies on the spot.
Perl says some of his kiosk operators prefer to concentrate on a single product, such as Zippy Mat or Just Born, and do well. When and if sales slow for that item, they change to another, continually drawing customer attention.
A third Emirimage concept is built around portable electronic household gadgets. They include a hair styler, a steam brush and a stain cleaner. The latter two are designed to be used on clothing while it is being worn, and have high appeal to customers, according to Perl.
Like EZ Refillable Candles has done and Wings is doing, Emirimage tests its concepts and continues to evolve concepts by refreshing them with products that have already made the grade.
The following people at these companies were interviewed for this article:
Eduardo Perl, president
5269 Northwest 161st Street
Miami, FL 33014
Toll Free: 877-858-4627 and 866-628-3090
AJ Chad, president
EZ Refillable Candles
1601 Applewood Way
Tallahassee, FL 32312
Toll Free: 888-631-1441
Debra Espinosa, national accounts manager
6450 Kingspointe Parkway Ste. 9
Orlando, FL 32819
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