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Smarts & Sweat Equal Turnkey Success

Sep 1, 2007

Any reliable product supplier to a kiosk or cart program will want a prospective operator to have a business plan for success. The plan should include the ability to pay the initial rent on the space, and to fit out the kiosk and cart.

But a financial plan alone is no guarantee of success. Ideally, that plan will include not only information on the ability to establish and sustain the kiosk program, but also the operator's enthusiasm for the business. The willingness and capacity to market and promote the program, as well as put in the hours and effort necessary to profit, also needs to be considered.

Start up requirements can vary as widely as kiosk product programs do. Two very different suppliers illustrate that point.

Jeffrey Barnett, CEO of Tickers Watch & Clock Co., Vancouver, BC, with a warehouse and showroom in Washington state, says, "For starters, an operator of our program should have approximately $10,000 available." Tickers supplies 600 different styles of watches, and approximately 300 different designs of miniature, unique, and collectible themed clocks.

Like many turnkey kiosk program suppliers, Tickers asks operators to pay only for product. But Barnett reminds that, in addition to acquiring an ample amount of product at wholesale prices, the operator will need a cash register, deposit to the landlord for the space, and the kiosk or cart, as well as funds for display and marketing.

By contrast, The Magic Picture Company, based in Canton, OH, provides kiosk and cart operators with a very unique capability that relies heavily on its product's exposure to consumers. The company, founded and headed by Chris Skeeles, manufactures and provides truly magic pictures.

Each eight by ten framed unit contains two different photos, and as the eye passes over the unit or as it is tilted, the image automatically, magically, changes from one photo to the other. The manufacturing process generates the changing feature of the images, which Skeeles says, "Is similar to a hologram, but different, and produces images that are clearer and more defined."

You have to see it to believe it, he notes. That is one reason he often doesn't require any financial investment from a potential kiosk or cart operator up front, providing the prospective operator has a plan to generate business and will put forth a vigorous marketing effort.

The Magic Picture Company provides operators of the program with many examples of finished product. "It needs to be seen," Skeeles says, "and we supply some of our best, and most appealing examples of finished product." He also provides winning explanations and pitches that kiosk vendors can use for selling the product. "But the kiosk operator needs to put forth the effort to explain and promote," he emphasizes.

Here's how it works: consumers provide the kiosk vendor with two photos for use in a single Magic Picture unit. The vendor then transmits the photos electronically to the Magic Picture Company's headquarters, where they are converted into the magic picture end product, using the firm's proprietary process, and returned either to the kiosk operator or directly to the consumer.

A return to the kiosk is best, Skeeles says. "It brings the customer back to the kiosk for another opportunity to buy, and, once they see the result, they often want more of them." Bringing the customer back to the kiosk also helps establish a relationship between the customer and the kiosk vendor, which helps build business through referrals.

Skeeles also points out that consumers don't arrive at the kiosk for the first time with photos in hand. Once they understand what Magic Picture can do, they find the photos they want to use, and return to the kiosk to place the order. "Anniversaries are the most popular use of Magic Picture," Skeeles says, followed by birthdays, reunions, children, and pets. Its use as an anniversary gift best illustrates the appeal and capability of Magic Picture. A single unit, for example, can contain a picture of a couple at their wedding, along with a photo of the married couple later in life. Both photos will show up clearly as the eye passes across the unit.

"There is no inventory," Skeeles points out, which represents a savings to the kiosk vendor in comparison with other programs. The vendor does need a basic computer and scanner in order to download the images before returning the photos to the customer. "We provide the software and a point of sale system that provides a customer number, and carefully and systematically tracks each order," he says.

At kiosks that have an internet connection, the images can be transferred in real time when the order is placed. The customer gets the actual photos back immediately, which is important Skeeles says, "because these are often very treasured photographs."

If there is no internet connection at the kiosk, the vendor can batch the day's orders and transmit the images by phone, using software provided by the Magic Picture Company, and its peer to peer network that connects to its manufacturing facility. Or the vendor can burn the images into a CD for transmission by email or even by actual mail, although that is not recommended as it slows return of the finished product.

Orders are typically returned in less than two weeks. Skeeles says that Magic Picture units provide kiosk vendors with a healthy markup and typically retail for $69 each. The company will also provide kiosk vendors with a prepaid ordering package that can be sold to a customer on the spot, giving the vendor income even from a customer that wants a Magic Picture, but doesn't have the photos handy. This package and mailer has a sample four by five Magic Picture on the front, and contains a certificate for an eight by ten unit.

The customer takes it home, inserts the photos, and sends it directly to the Magic Picture Company. "This works well with kiosk operators that are good at closing," Skeeles says. It does, however, eliminate the customer's need to return to the kiosk, since the finished product is sent directly to the consumer.

Three company kiosks are now in operation. Skeeles acknowledges that they do best in the holiday fourth quarter of the year. Yet an energetic operator can exploit the product's year round potential, he says. Graduation season, for example, represents an ideal selling time, and sports enthusiasts and hobbyists are also prime customers throughout the year.

Gardens, home renovations, and other before/after shots represent additional opportunities for promotion. "Cars are among favorites for Magic Pictures, too," Skeeles says.

Exclusivity is not a requirement for taking on the Magic Picture program. Skeeles says Magic Picture can be combined for success in kiosks that also sell other photo products, such as mugs and mouse pads that bear images, or picture frames, or framed art. "A vendor must, however, dedicate enough real estate to this product to make sure it gets ample exposure," he says.

Tickers, on the other hand, does require exclusivity. Vendors can carry only the company's product. All of its watches and clocks utilize a Japanese made, high quality, quartz movement. All units include an additional battery, and carry a one year warranty.

The watches are actually more jewelry than timepieces and are ahead of the trend, according to Barnett. He says Tickers follows what's being done in Europe, in order to stay out front on designs and fashion. "People keep coming back to a kiosk to see and buy what's new," he reports.

These watches wholesale for $6.50 a unit. And although Tickers leaves retail pricing up to the operator of the program, Barnett says, "We find that the most popular retail price point for watches is just under $15 a unit."

The mini clocks wholesale at three different price points, from $6.50 a unit to $10, depending on the design. The best selling retail price point, according to Barnett, is for just under $20 a unit. The clocks are arguably the main attention grabbers. They are intricately detailed, enameled designs that cover a range of themes, with something to appeal to everyone. There are, for example, units shaped as a barbeque grill, beer barrel keg, Faberge egg, teapot, and picnic basket. There's a lawn mower, carousel horse, motorcycle, cruise ship, and an entire menagerie of animals, from domestic to exotic.

Every sport is depicted on a mini clock, as are all popular hobby themes. Popular licensed characters are also included within the mix. Regarding best sellers, "There are all sorts of cultural differences from neighborhood to neighborhood," Barnett says. Therefore, in setting up an initial assortment, Tickers advises vendors on which units sell best, and where.

"Everything sells through," he reports. The second and third reorders build sales momentum, because they reflect which units sell at the fastest pace in a particular location. "There's a high record of repeat business for the mini clocks," he notes.

The typical size cart or kiosk generally calls for an initial order of between 800 and 1,000 units, to cover display and back up inventory. Tickers provides beginning vendor customers with a comprehensive operating manual.

"It covers everything that's needed, from A to Z, including such factors as insurance requirements, and comprehensive advice on how to run a business," says Barnett. A selection of display materials is also available for purchase at nominal cost.

Vendors can buy product from Tickers with any major credit card, which Barnett says is popular, "because the vendor can accumulate points with the purchases." While all Tickers kiosk and cart operators sign an agreement to sell only Tickers product, there is no requirement regarding the length of time they must operate the kiosk.

There are currently about 200 Tickers kiosks in operation worldwide, including in Dubai. "The bulk are in North America," according to Barnett, "and they do well year round. Among our most successful are in airport locations, which is a marvelous location, since travelers are now required to get to airports so early before take off." The theory is, they have time on their hands.

While the location of the kiosk is entirely up to the vendor, Barnett says, "We do provide territorial protection." Tickers does not sign agreements with more than one vendor in near proximity to another.

While a kiosk vendor's financial investment may vary from program to program, all programs have one thing in common. They, like all businesses, do best when the operator is a dedicated, enthusiastic and energetic salesperson.

For more information, contact:

Chris Skeeles, Founder and Director
The Magic Picture Company
P.O. Box 7186
Canton, OH 44705
Toll Free: 877-223-1797
Tel./Fax: 330-430-9596
Website: www.magicpicturecompany.com

Jeffrey Barnett, CEO
Tickers Watch & Clock Co.
8838 Heather Street, Ste. 102
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canada V6P 3S8
Toll Free: 866-669-2604
Tel.: 604-669-2604
Fax: 604-669-2633
Website: www.tickerswatches.com

Topic: Kiosk Korner

Related Articles: kiosk 

Article ID: 331

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