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Archive for the ‘Sun Glass Products’ Category

How to Make a Single Mall Kiosk Into a Multi-National Company

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

by: Geoff Ficke

One of the bigger mistakes we see new entrepreneurs and startup businesses make is to try to hit a home run right out of the box. My experience in the days when I played baseball, and in building a solid business foundation, is that when purposely trying to hit home runs, you usually strike out. The homer usually comes when you just try to make contact with the ball and put it in play.

My consumer product marketing consulting firm counsels dozens of entrepreneurs every year. Very often, these admirable, ambitious go-getters are driven to be as big as they can be, as fast as they can be. Our advice to lay a strong foundation, test market, re-test market, change marketing strategies to insure feasibility and secure a rock solid “proof of product life’ often goes for naught. These hard chargers want to see product in big box retailers as quickly as possible. There are many other, more sensible ways, to reach lofty goals.

One of the most mundane sales channels that can be taken to achieve success is the basic shopping mall kiosk. The kiosk provides a wonderful platform to introduce consumers to new products and services. These open air stores are inexpensive to rent, easily merchandised and located right in the main traffic aisles of the mall. Customers do not have to walk into stores to shop, they simply must pass kiosk’s to move through the venue. The opportunity to have product demonstrated for a constant flow of shoppers makes the kiosk a wonderfully logical tool to test new concepts.

They are not considered sexy. But kiosks are efficient and can be exceedingly profitable. They also are among the best possible routes to take to leverage a product from local, to regional, to national, and possibly international sales distribution. The 1971 experience of a Miami optometrist provides an enlightening example of the potential that kiosk sales can provide to new businesses.

Samuel Ziff was a practicing optometrist in 1971. He felt that the sunglass product category, which was very strong in his South Florida based practice, was not sufficiently well merchandised in the available retailers at that time. Dr. Ziff decided to highlight the category, add a wider selection, styling and services and specialize in sunglass sales only. He chose a Miami mall and rented one of the first mall kiosks to offer his wares. The kiosk was branded “the Sunglass Hut”.

Sales immediately exploded and exceeded expectations. Dr. Ziff and his family decided to expand and began to open additional kiosks around the state of Florida. Gradually, as sales and profits grew, Sunglass Hut began moving from kiosk locations to fixed store spaces.

In 1986, after opening the 100th location, the Ziff family sold 75% of the Sunglass Hut business to a private investment group. The investment partner enabled the Sunglass Hut to aggressively expand across the United States, Europe and ultimately into the Indian and duty free store marketplace.

In 2001, Sunglass Hut was sold to the Italian luxury eye frame design house Luxottica. The new owners had recently purchased Cincinnati based Lens Crafters, the largest chain of eyeglass retailers in the world. The combination of Luxottica, Sunglass Hut and Lens Crafters created a fashion and retail powerhouse that dominates the world of fashion frames.

Today the retail colossus that includes Sunglass Hut sells frames from Chanel, Ralph Lauren, Burberry, Oakley, Ray Ban, Gucci, Bulgari and many other haute couture houses. Sunglass Hut is one of the most recognizable brands in the retail universe. This classic American success story emanated from a single mall shopping cart. Samuel Ziff started small, proved his sales model, reinvested in expansion and built the first fashion retailer devoted solely to the sale of sunglasses. This is a very viable marketing strategy that many other entrepreneurs should consider.