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While kiosk and cart vendors, like all retailers, rank the fourth quarter holiday season as their best time of year, certain kiosk programs can offer exceptions.
Sunglasses, for example, actually sell well all year long, and shine exceptionally well during the year's warmer months. And Vinyl Etchings, a clear vinyl window and glass covering that faithfully replicates designs of etched glass, sell well in all climates, but are especially popular in the warmer states.
St. Louis Wholesale LLC, based in St. Peters, MO, wholesales a variety of products, but sunglasses are at the heart of its offerings, and the company has created sunglasses programs especially for kiosks and carts. Not incidentally, St. Louis Wholesale also does business as Elite Image Sunglasses.
The company has been selling sunglasses kiosk programs for the past eight years. It now supplies more than 200 independent kiosk operators nationwide.
"The high margins on sunglasses makes them ideal for kiosk operators," says Craig Pinkerton, owner. Making the most of those sales and margins relies on having the top fashion designs, which change frequently, he notes.
Celebrities and stars set sunglass fashion, which initially emerges on products introduced in New York, Paris and Milan, according to Pinkerton. Currently, "a shutter shade," is a top seller, because it is seen on stars, he says. "It will probably have a 60 day fashion run," Pinkerton adds.
For that reason, his company updates its selection daily and shows all new entries immediately on its website. It also assigns a salesperson to every kiosk vendor, and that person communicates by phone and email to keep the vendors up to date.
St. Louis Wholesale carries about 60 different aviator styles, and Pinkerton says they have had a long run. "They've been popular for the past three years and are still going strong."
The kiosk vendors that buy from St. Louis Wholesale pay only for product. Pinkerton recommends beginning with a package of about 100 dozen fashion sunglasses, along with a selection of goggles, polarized units, children's designs and an assortment of reading glasses. He estimates the average startup investment is between $2,000 and $3,000, depending on the specific selection.
The fashion sunglasses consist mostly of designer look-alikes. Within that category are sport metal, sport plastic, basic fashion and high fashion, which Pinkerton says are styles with rhinestones, pewter and other decoration. These are especially hot now.
Each dozen comes with a marble blue display box that indicates the, "compare to," designer style. The profit margin ranges from as little as 300 percent to as much as 2,000 percent.
The sunglasses sell at retail for as much as $40 a pair. Typically, however, Pinkerton says kiosks sell them for between $10 and $12 a pair, and some offer two pair for $20 or even three pair for $30.
"The retail pricing can be adjusted to meet the vendor's needs, based on rent and other costs, and also on the market." He will not supply two competing kiosks or carts in the same shopping center or mall.
Many of St. Louis Wholesale's kiosk vendors sell sunglasses and sunglasses only, all year long. Pinkerton says mixing them with other products generally diminishes the impact, because it reduces the selection and slows sales volume.
In the colder climates of the Midwest and Northeast, he acknowledges that sales fall off during the winter months. They can do well generally from February through the first of November, and St. Louis Wholesale offers a line of alternative products to fill the winter gap. Typically, the vendors start switching out sunglasses in October," Pinkerton says.
The replacement products from the same supplier, which begin replacing sunglasses in September, are cold weather gear, such as socks, gloves, and hats. The best sellers among them, and the mainstay of St. Louis Wholesale's cold weather items, are licensed National Football League products.
"We created the NFL lines to take over for sunglasses sales in the colder climates in the winter months," he says. There are more than 2,500 different NFL products, including hats, gloves and winter knits. "We have 160 different styles related to the Pittsburgh Steelers alone," says Pinkerton, and he will also add in some NASCAR units.
"We recommend that kiosks carry items related to all 12 major NFL teams and go very heavy on the local team," he advises. "These are good impulse items, they fit well in kiosk space, and carry a good profit margin." The NFL goods typically retail at prices between $9.99 and $19.99.
St. Louis Wholesale also inventories some generic winter apparel, such as toe socks and earmuffs. "The salesperson who is dedicated to a kiosk vendor might suggest a selection of these products be added to provide a lower price point in some areas," Pinkerton says. The in-house salesperson is a kiosk vendor's point of contact on what is selling best in what locations.
"We're not just interested in selling product to kiosk and cart vendors," says Pinkerton. "We're interested in helping them succeed. When they succeed, we do, too."
Nancy Forbes, owner of Vinyl Etchings International, couldn't agree more. That's a reason why her company has designed more than 100 different four by six inch oval designs of the company's decorative decals that have the look of real glass etchings.
Most popular among these smaller ovals is a series of dog designs. There are 28 different breeds in the line. Another popular oval series depicts each of the four U.S. military insignias, plus the U.S. Coast Guard.
Other oval designs cover the gamut of popular themes, from palm trees to kittens, dolphins, marine life, popular sports, lighthouses, birds, holidays and tropical themes.
Vinyl Etchings do not have adhesive. They go on easy and stay on via static cling, which also allows them to come off just as easily without leaving a trace. All are removable and reusable.
Each oval is individually packaged in a poly bag that has a picture of the design. The minimum order is $250, and the wholesale price for a four by six oval is $1.50. The suggested retail is $3.95.
Forbes says, "People like anything to do with dogs," so her company has developed a spinner rack that holds up to 10 each of 24 different designs. "It is 21 inches high and has a header to attract attention."
"Kiosk vendors don't have to use it just for dog themes, although they have been the best sellers," she says. The vendor can pick from among any of the design themes. Forbes will offer guidance on which themes sell best in different markets.
The small ovals represent just a portion of the company's full line of vinyl etchings. But their price point makes them an ideal place to start with a kiosk program, because they are affordable to consumers and have high impulse appeal.
The company also offers ovals in a succession of larger sizes, all the way up to 26 by 41 inches, large enough to fit on a glass door. There are also full door panels, side light panels, corner pieces that coordinate with ovals, and borders for mirrors. The border pieces are offered in a two inch by 78 inch strip and a four inch by 78 inch strip.
Forbes' company works with vendors to create a top selling mix and also helps provide marketing tools. It will provide a selection of free samples, so the kiosk can create an eye stopping display.
"Many of our designs are copyrighted," Forbes says, making them exclusive. "Our full door line in general, and the tropical designs in particular, are especially popular in the warmer climates," she reports.
Kiosks can do well carrying only Vinyl Etchings, "but some vendors combine them with other products and do well," says Forbes. "They complement anything related to home décor. With the economy as it is," she adds, "people are taking pleasure in doing small things that enhance their home."
Vinyl Etchings also has a complementary product: screen magnets. These are back to back magnets that attach to screens. They are offered in many of the same themes as the etchings. In addition to décor, Forbes points out their safety feature. "They prevent people from walking into a screen door," she says.
The following were interviewed for this article:
Craig Pinkerton, owner
St. Louis Wholesale LLC
D/ba Elite Image Sunglasses
3958 Shady Springs Lane
St. Peters, MO 63376
Toll Free: 800-340-7642
Nancy Forbes, owner
Vinyl Etchings International
7915 Congress Street
Port Richey, FL 34668
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