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Innovative Products at Silver Streak

Apr 1, 2009
by Judi Perkins

Mike Mallon, CEO of Silver Streak Ind., knows how to help his customers move product. His forte is not only designing turnkey sales solutions, but also tweaking a concept to make it unique and more attractive to consumers. In both cases, his ability results in retailer sales. Incredibly, he does this with diverse configurations of a product that is fairly technical and would otherwise be difficult to sell.

Mallon designed and wholesaled southwestern Indian jewelry until the market disappeared in 1988, at which time he went into gemstones and minerals. Mallon functioned as a marketing outlet for a gem and mineral wholesaler, and when his marketing expertise out performed his contact's ability to produce the orders, the next logical step was to go direct to Brazil.

Since then, his instinctive marketing expertise has manifested itself in multiple forms. One is designing themed displays, complete with signage, carding, packaging and bar coding; all aspects intended to make it easy for the retailer to take the product to market. "This is important," said Mallon, "because many stores have never been in the gemstone business. We make selling this product very simple for them to do and to teach. This way, product is simply dropped into the store and they are in business."

Nowhere is this more evident than his first interactive display, designed in 1994: The Ore Car. Said Mallon, "The Ore Car took the tumbled stones industry and changed it forever by putting it into the big theme parks. Suddenly, major retailers could see the potential."

Tumbled stones are semi-precious stones polished to one inch, free-form stones, which come in 50 to 70 varieties. On one of his trips to Brazil, where the stones and minerals primarily originate, Mallon saw a load of mixed tumbled stone, and wondered what the best way to sell a lot of stone, fast, would be. Until that point, tumbled stones were bought by the type of stone per pound, then sold for so much per stone.

Instead, the Ore Car invites consumers to select the stones they want, put them in a bag, and buy the bag of stones for one retail price. "I thought perhaps we would sell 50 of them," said Mallon, "But by the time we had done the first trade show, we were back-ordered 150 Ore Cars. They were that successful." Customers who take advantage of this display can have their name on the top of the Ore Car at no extra charge, and their company name and location engraved on the bags.

Another example of a stand-alone turnkey solution designed to facilitate sales is the Manzanita Tree, a countertop display for gemstone jewelry. It comes with a large, cost average assortment of pendants, all of which can be sold for the same price. This not only simplifies the price points for the retailer, but eliminates putting stickers on each item, keeping the display clean and linear.

Mallon is also adept at taking a concept and redesigning it to make it unique. Take, for instance, the ubiquitous gemstone lamps. "They came in different sizes, wrapped in newspaper, and you would have to figure out a price." Mallon designed the process so the lamps are uniform in size, quality, and price. "We also put UL approved electrical cords and light bulbs in them. I designed packaging so that we can individually box each one and sell them for exactly the same price. They are bar coded and ready to go."

He has done similar alterations with the popular gemstone collector bottles, agate slices, mounted gemstone birds and other products. In each instance, Mallon has developed a niche for Silver Streak by upgrading the quality or diversity of the article and its packaging, making it easier for retailers to sell and look more appealing to consumers.

Mallon creates products, as well. The Mining Mineral Collection and the Discover Mineral Collection are aimed at entry-level collectors. The intense colors of the Extreme Amethyst products result from a dying process he pioneered to enhance the natural color of each stone.

The website,, is vibrant and reflects the colors of the gemstones and minerals they sell. Their online catalog is comprehensive and easy to browse. The site, however, is not as interactive as Mallon would like, but the project is underway with an anticipated finish date within the next few months.

"When it is done," said Mallon, "customers will be able to check their order status, place orders online, make payments, etc. It will be completely integrated with our software. Additionally," said Mallon, "the buyer will be able to click on an item, see it in a larger size and read about it in acute detail, including what quantities you can buy, discounts and savings per quantity. They will not have to call for price breaks."

For now, orders are placed by fax, phone or email. "To ensure a customer's success, we first find out their geographic location and what they specialize in," said Mallon. "Then we suggest a product that will sell well in their specialty. If it is a jewelry store, we have two or three different lines of jewelry. If it is a rock and gem store, we can suggest some of our top sellers in gems and minerals."

"And," said Mallon, "there are always the novelty items that are a crossover, like the magnetic wraps or the zingers, which work almost anywhere, from jewelry stores to truck stops. We try to suggest what we feel will best fit their clientele and will look the best in their store."

Their customers are as varied as their products, and include museum and airport gift shops, as well as book stores and jewelry stores. "We are in all kinds of gift stores," said Mallon, "including all the major theme parks and many small ones. They are looking for name recognition. Anything we can put their name on, they want." About 75 percent of their customers are brick-and-mortar stores.

In the meantime, aside from the beautiful catalog, there is the New Items section, where at least one new page goes up every Friday. A page is a single pane that can be clicked on and enlarged for more detailed viewing. "New items will stay there until they are in the 2009 catalog."

The Monthly Special is determined by the inventory, while the Specials page has multiple panes, similar to the New Items section. These products will not be found anywhere in the main listings, however, to facilitate easily pulling a page if the entire inventory of an item is purchased.

The minimum order can be by dollar amount or number of items, but varies considerably because of the large number of products carries. Markup is generally advised at about 200 percent.

A good businessman, Mallon is continually looking to make selling easier for his customers. "We have been focusing on items that sell in large volume, which can make the customer a 300 to 500 percent profit, while selling for less than $10 retail," he said. "It has been very successful. We also put together programs that consist of displays with an assortment of product. If they put together a certain dollar amount, we will give them a free display to go with it." As a bonus, anything sold by the pound has free freight.

The marketing-savvy entrepreneur's ability to make selling easy for his customers has earned Mallon a lot of trust and loyalty. "My customers want something that sells. If the retail price fits a niche they want to be in, they are not nickel and dime. If I can sell it to them for $3.30 and they sell 10,000 for $9.95, they are very happy. They are not apt to leave me if they find it elsewhere for $3.30, because they know they can get a display designed and built by me, and there will be no surprises. There will be very little training for their employees because things are so uniform."

For more information:

Silver Streak, Ind.
1604 S Edward Dr
Tempe, AZ 85281
Tel.: 480-894-9528
Toll Free: 800-526-9990
Fax: 480-894-6037

Topic: Company Profiles

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Article ID: 983

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