Winning cart and kiosk programs can be fashioned around a wildly diverse choice of product categories. Here are featured programs for hair extensions, personalized ornaments and a combination of candles, oils, incense and related items. How diverse can you get?
The common thread among this diversity is the vendor's own dedication to recognizing and promoting the value of the products and merchandising the category. The suppliers of each of these three kiosk programs agree that the vendor will do significantly better by giving the program his or her personal and aggressive attention.
Bill Sage, president of Laura's Country Candles, based in Allegan, MI, has had years of experience in kiosk vending. "The owner always does better when he runs the program himself," Sage says unequivocally.
His company has put together a program that, by itself, provides a diverse selection of product. It includes nearly two dozen different types of related products, with the majority offered in a variety of fragrances and forms.
There are 60 microwavable heating pads in two different shapes; dozens of five different sizes of candles, including some in apothecary jars and some of horse hair in pottery made by Navajo Indians; multiple bottle incense burners; the company's exclusive Koko Krazy Koconut candles and Koko Krazy shea butter; 108 oils in a choice of 40 fragrances, along with oil diffusers; African shea butter; a selection of abalone and Koko Krazy Koconut burners; two racks of incense displays, for an aggregate of sixty 100 piece bundles in an array of 18 fragrances each.
The suggested retail price points within the product mix range from $3 to $20, "Offering consumers good quality products at affordable prices," Sage notes. The retail prices also make it easy for consumers to buy on impulse.
In addition, the package comes with shelf talkers promoting each of the products and signage touting the Laura's Country Candles logo and name, which has widespread recognition. There are also eye catching display tripods. The comprehensive package contains enough product to get a vendor started.
The total wholesale cost, according to Sage, is $4,015.10, and the retail value, "without any backstock," he says, is a suggested $10,441. In just the month of December 2007, Sage reports that a Laura's Country Candles kiosk had a return of about $26,000. Reorders are shipped immediately, so the vendor can avoid out of stocks without investing in a lot of extra inventory.
"Novelty items come and go," Sage notes. "But these high quality products, which are all natural and include a lot of 'green' items, can be the foundation of a year round business."
Hair extensions, too, are good sellers year round, according to Israel Levy, president of Natural Extension, based in Fort Lauderdale. Upcoming Holiday parties, however, make this an ideal time to introduce consumers to the availability of this very popular beauty product at affordable prices.
Hair extensions have been generally available only at salons, where the process takes hours and costs a minor fortune. Natural Extension offers relief from the time and the messy procedure, while also shaving the price considerably.
Natural Extension offers two forms of hair extensions: 100 percent natural and 100 percent synthetic. The human version represents about 70 percent of total sales, according to Levy. "It's about three times more expensive than synthetic," he acknowledges, but also points out that natural human hair extensions can be ironed and can be washed. "They carry a lifetime guarantee and cannot be damaged by hairdryers or heated hair devices," he adds. Such heating devices cannot be used on the synthetic version.
Both the human and synthetic versions are offered in 17 and 20 inch lengths and in a choice of 23 different colors. Natural Extension has come up with a clip system of attaching the extensions. They prevent damage by eliminating glue and also allow for a complete application in just five minutes. The extensions remain in place until the clips are removed, and the process can be done over and over again.
Human hair and synthetic hair is packaged in an upscale looking box about the size of a shoe box. Each contains seven hair pieces and 14 clips. The synthetic version in 17 inch lengths wholesales for $14 and has a suggested retail price of $149. The 20 inch version wholesales for $16 a box, and the suggested retail is $199.
The human hair version in 17 inch lengths wholesales for $42 and has a suggested retail of $499, while, in 20 inch lengths, it wholesales for $44 and has a suggested retail of $599. Levy says a majority of his kiosk operators often run 10 percent discount promotions.
All kiosk vendors get a kiosk display planogram, a video that shows how to work with the product and how to work with customers, along with a list of merchandising suggestions and hair styling suggestions. There is also a demo video, which can run in kiosks on a continuous loop to attract attention.
While there is no exact minimum, Levy suggests that vendors begin with a few boxes of at least 12 different colors, or ideally, 18 colors. The mix should also reflect the overwhelming popularity of human hair extensions versus the synthetic version, he says. Natural Extension will advise on the optimum colors and lengths for different parts of the country.
While Natural Extension kiosks find success using only this company's products, Levy says they also do well in kiosks that also carry other beauty related products.
Although personalized holiday ornaments are strictly a fourth quarter kiosk program, they can be a fourth quarter bonanza, reports Debi Allison, owner of Deb & Co. Allison also designs all of the company's products, which encompass more than 500 different designs.
While the designs are winning, there are ones targeted to every conceivable segment of the population; it is the personalization at the kiosk that clinches sales. Deb & Co. provides all vendors with a permanent ink marker that dries quickly, along with lists of, "little sayings to add to the ornaments, along with a person's name," Allison says.
"All my friends are flakes," for example, works well on the snowman ornament. Consumers also use their imagination to make the ornaments highly personal. The chief ornament themes, in addition to holiday, are sports, hobbies, occupations, interests, family and pets, which Allison says do particularly well.
There are related collections, such as the Elves of Whimsington and Belly Bears. The former group returns by popular demand, and the latter depicts cute takeoffs on sports.
All of the company's ornaments are handmade, so no two are exactly alike. Allison suggests that vendors display the fastest moving ornaments in baskets, so they can be replaced quickly. "If they're on hooks, the vendor won't have time to rehang them, and the customers don't want to rehang them either," she reasons. Consumers like to view all the designs, so the others should be displayed on hooks.
Vendors can put together their own selection, or Deb & Co. will do it for them, guiding them toward best sellers. Allison says the typical inventory represents a wholesale cost of about $5,000, and there is a three times or four times return for between $15,000 and $20,000 at retail.
"At $5,000," she says, "the vendor has a good selection of about 1,200 pieces." The average wholesale is $4, and the suggested retail price is $9.99 or more. "Our products do very well in a slow economy," she adds, "because they're affordable, personal, warm and fuzzy, and giving ornaments as gifts becomes an annual tradition with many people."
She discourages vendors from keeping the kiosk in operation after Christmas Eve. "Some stay and discount," she notes, suggesting that they are actually training customers to wait for a sale.
The following people at these companies were interviewed for this story:
Debi Allison, owner and product designer
Deb & Co.
2154 Chestnut Avenue
Buena Vista, VA 24416
Toll Free: 866-478-6425
Bill Sage, president
Laura's Country Candles
1141 Lincoln Road
Allegan, MI 49010
Israel Levy, president
5731 Park Road
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33319
Toll Free: 877-825-4766
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