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No Business Like Snow Business

Jul 1, 2010
by Micheal Alterio

After one of its products became a breakout best-seller, Gift Bliss had to grapple with the challenges of success. While most wholesalers carry a range of products, none would complain if just one of those items became a hot seller. That's what happened to Michael Penna, owner of Gift Bliss Enterprises, and his Instant Snow To Go product. And although it is the kind of problem that every wholesaler wants, coping with one hugely successful product poses significant challenges.

Although Gift Bliss has been around in one form or another since 1993, it wasn't until the turn of the century that Penna was inspired to step into the artificial snow business. "Back in 2000, we discovered a product used in indoor snowboard and ski parks in Japan," he says. He presented the product at several gift trade shows that year, and it surpassed all expectations. "That product started doing well right off the bat," he says. Penna found an improved version in 2002, and, "it has just taken off since." Now, Instant Snow To Go dominates the company's sales. "A little bit more than half of our business is our instant snow business," Penna says. Of course, having most of your eggs in a single basket poses certain hazards; hazards that Penna has handled with aplomb. Here's how he's managed his gold mine made of snow.

Diversify your product
Part of Gift Bliss' success with the instant snow product comes from the array of spin-off products his company offers, based on the original snow product. In addition to Instant Snow To Go, he offers a Fairy Frost Edition that adds glitter, a Snowball To Go Christmas ornament, party favors, greeting cards, and a new Snow To Go Takeout edition that comes in a novelty Chinese takeout-style package. A retailer packages regional tourist varieties. "It is a wonderful souvenir, particularly for areas that have snow, such as ski resorts," says Penna. "It can also sell very well in a desert-like location, where folks are, 'sending you snow from Las Vegas,' or, 'dehydrated snow from the desert.' It's just lots of fun." The company lets new customers create custom mixes of product for starter kits. "You can mix and match and still get an increased volume discount," says Penna, "because we like the idea that the retailer will have a variety and can make a statement in the store." This way, even new customers can offer the full range of varieties from the start.

Diversify your customer base
Penna has broadened the market for his niche product by offering it through a range of retailers. "We have many vendors. It starts with the gift store, and we have a huge number of Christmas and craft stores. We are also building a very good network of Internet retailers," he says. "We definitely have done flea markets. It's a really nice demonstration product, and it certainly sells in that venue." Gift Bliss does not sell retail, but the company does sell in bulk to those who want orders larger than his retailers can fulfill. These institutional customers can buy by the pound, to cover hundreds of square feet with artificial snow.

Quality product and support
"We believe we have the superior snow product," says Penna. "You know our product when you see it, because it is very explosive, it makes snow immediately, doesn't smell, doesn't blow around, is not sticky to the touch, and it's light and fluffy. We really have worked in partnership with our distributors, our retailers, and of course the end customers," says Penna. "Our suggested retail pricing usually ends up making the retailer better than keystone (more than double their cost). But we have some retailers selling it above that."

The company also offers special deals to established customers. "That's the way we work. We have a minimum order at a higher cost. As customers go up in volume, they are able to get discounts. The whole idea is to be very retailer friendly." Gift Bliss has a company motto: "Where the unusual becomes the trend." To that end, the wholesaler continues to pursue products beyond the artificial snow line. For example, an up-and-comer is a line of fashion jewelry. "Our Essania jewelry product is doing very well," says Penna. "They are floor displays of fashion jewelry, which fit into very trendy marketplaces. We end up calling these things 'money trees,' because they end up selling so well. In another year or so, that product will probably be on par with what we're doing with the snow in volume."

For more information:
Gift Bliss Enterprises
19269 Mallory Canyon Road, Building D
Salinas, CA 93907
Tel.: 831-663-0611
Instant Snow To Go Website:
Essania Jewelry Website:

Topic: Company Profiles

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Article ID: 1331

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