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The process today of manufacturing wind spinners is not much different than it was when Ron Spinks, President of Iron Stop, came up with the idea and began creating them in his garage. Now, however, they have a factory and more expensive equipment. "Ron is very mechanically inclined and artistic. He had this idea of working with metal, started designing wind spinners and selling them and they took off," said Bobby Butler, Vice President of Sales. "He began in his garage with a little oven and a cutter, making two or three at a time, and selling them retail."
The company now sells wholesale, but it continues to grow by leaps and bounds. In four years, they have become a mid-size company with 70 employees. Said Butler, "We do business with QVC and sell to carts and kiosks all over the country. We sell to gift stores and mass merchants, as well as chain, grocery and garden store distributors." Also, Butler estimates that a full 50 percent of their customer base is mall kiosks, and a good chunk consists of mom-and-pop gift stores and vendors who do craft fairs and flea markets. Although Iron Stop is moving the product into large chains, Butler maintains that it is important to Iron Stop to keep the mom-and-pops, because that is how they built the business. "If you start relying too heavily on big accounts, you can fall apart very quickly. We have a base of about 1,500 active independant gift stores that buy every week," said Butler. "We can count on them."
Butler asserts that what sets Iron Stop apart is their designs. "We were the 'Original Wind Spinner;' that's one of our slogans. What differentiates us is that we have the best designs. It's the artwork-it's that simple." Although they have two full-time artists, the owner is still heavily involved. "He has an artistic edge, and the QC on the artwork is very rigid. Nothing gets by him unless he approves it."
Consequently, says Butler, they do not have trouble with their competition. "Some companies think you can just slap a hummingbird on the metal and it's a wind spinner. But you see one of our designs, and you want to buy it. Nobody gets it like the owner. He really puts the time and energy into the artwork."
The attention to the design is echoed in the manufacturing, which is done on premises. "Compared to others, we are the top-of-the-line," Butler said. "Our quality is excellent. As sharp as the owner is with the new designs and making sure that nothing leaves here unless it will sell, he is at that same level about quality and production."
In fact, Iron Stop is so committed to the quality of their products that every wind spinner comes with a lifetime warranty card. "We are the only company that does this," said Butler. "For any reason, a customer can send a wind spinner back for a replacement. It is metal that you put outside, and sometimes the customer might not believe the store owner's claims that the spinner will not rust."
Although the company has steadily evolved, their website is relatively young. It began a year ago as an online catalog, but in April they provided customers with the ability to order online. "It's great," Butler said. "The order comes through and everything is done. It ships right out, and the tracking number comes back. It's a great system."
Wholesale customers need to create an account to enable the wholesale pricing, an easy step completed through live chat, a toll-free number, or email. It is a well-designed site that beautifully showcases the 200 or so different products and designs.
"Customers like the simplicity of it. You can get around easily," said Butler. "It's sharp and easy to navigate." And because they offer a drop ship program that tacks on a mere $5 to the total order, "anyone who sells off of their own website can pull the pictures from our site."
The design themes remain the same but the actual designs change. "The sun, cross, butterfly, dragonfly, hummingbird: certain designs always sell, because what is hot is always hot," said Butler. "Once we get the look right, we will do different things with color variations or cutting-edge designs."
Their newest addition is a line of animated spinners, each of which has an acrylic disk with movement. "The horse is running as it spins. The humming bird is fluttering and taking nectar from the flower. The water splashes when the dolphin jumps. They're fantastic and they are selling very well," said Butler. "Changing the line has helped us stay the market leader." They also recently added gazing balls, which are iridescent, stainless steel balls that are also selling well.
Additionally, there are accessories. Spiral-tails are little hooks to hang the wind spinners on, and there is a motor for consumers who want to hang the wind spinner inside. "About 30 percent of the consumers buy the add-on tail or motor. The accessories bring greater margin and more dollars to the retailer," said Butler. The suggested markup depends on the type of business, but can range from 200 to 500 percent.
There are other goodies for the retailer, too. With a $500 order comes six demonstration motors and choice of display stand. For retailers who do not have room to display them, Butler says, "You can hang five or six from the motor and spin the whole thing. You need the motor so you can demonstrate them to the customers."
Butler said they are working on yet more display options, and are always working on merchandising ideas for their customers. This is reflective of their business philosophy. "We really take care of our customers," said Butler. "The owner built the company on integrity and customer appreciation. We don't do anything unless it meets his standards. We want to make the best products that really wow retailers' customers. We want to grow our customers, appreciate them and give them all that they deserve. We have integrity in our business, in who we hire and in our business practices."
Minimum order is $150 and by piece.
For more information:
Iron Stop, Inc.
Bobby Butler, VP Sales
Denton, TX 76208
Toll Free: 866-IRON-363
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