Thursday, October 9, 2014

Festive Video

Short videos called "Can You Sell This? " It is simple question but something every good retailer will of course be asking. The idea is to help you find out if you can sell a particular product.. Because if you can then that is a great, because it is another product that makes you money, and keeps your customers happy.

Friday, September 26, 2014

My Top Importers Tip

Greetings from Yiwu, China.
Last week I was musing about differing asian reaction's to the Scottish bid for independence. Bad idea! I thought I was offering a few views from different perspectives, and being careful not to take sides. I just upset lots of people on both sides of the argument. If you promise not to get upset with me you can read it here. Note to self: Don't discuss politics in newsletters.
To make amends I'm going to let you in on my top importers tip.
Here in Yiwu (regular readers will know) is the worlds biggest wholesale market for small goods. That includes gifts, and at the last count 90,000 small and big business display their goods here and are up for doing a deal. We have a warehouse and office here so I visit very regularly to find the latest trends in giftware and all the stuff we stock.
First I just wanted to share with you my day in Yiwu.
Mark, our agent here has a young son he is bright as a button and has just started at junior school which happens to be close to the market area. So to save Mark taking his son to school, traveling back to the outskirts of the city to pick me up and then going back into the city all in the rush hour. I have been going on the school run, Chinese style.
Thousands of kids go to this school, so thousands of cars descend on one set of back streets. 7.30am is big breakfast time. Lots of long tables on the street outside bustling kitchens pumping out wonton soup, dumplings, fried eggs and something like crispy nan-breads. It's all jolly friendly and communal. Everyone is so well dressed, Mum's and Dad's or Grandparents and the also the trendy kids (no uniforms I note), I think it is pretty competitive here. So I'm at the middle of the table tucking into a delicious wonton soup, Mark has gone to the kitchen to procure more dumplings. Young Loui turns to the whole table (who are clearly interested in the foreign guy) and announces proudly"My Father has lots of Lǎowài (foreign) friends.. this tall one here is just one of them" this is apparently a high status thing for a young boy. And very embarrassing for me.
Lǎowài is a word you hear a lot in China, people often comment at seeing one. Even in Yiwu which full of them, I often get asked for a picture along side someone. There are Lǎowài who make a living out of renting themselves out to business meetings to enhance the importance of a company.
Breakfast over and young son despatched to school, we head to the market. Mark has learned that one of his old school friends now runs a very successful scarf manufacturing business. They have some big orders from a huge Russian company. Naturally they have a showroom in the mega scarf market. Think of the biggest shopping centre you have been in, double that and imagine every store selling scarves. It's like that, I like to imagine just the sample scarves on show, put end to end would reach to the moon and back :)
So here's my top tip. It's called: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.
You know the company has a very big order, you have a good connection. You ask nicely if it is possible to get the same rates if you buy from the big buyers range.
Usually you get a yes, because it is easy additional business.
It's been a good day, I'm delighted to have sourced some very tasteful rather posh, but surprisingly good value scarves which should arrive well in time for Mother's Day next year.
It's creeping up on us, don't be scared. Halloween is only a few weeks away. See our deals below..
Until next week.
Take care.

Friday, June 6, 2014

It's Elemental

Hello everyone, is it summer yet? Last week I was telling you about Rugrat bags and Indian Red tape, you can read it here.
Well it's June and sun or not, folk have holidays on their minds. If you're not on holiday now, then you will soon.
The good news for retailers (especially those in holiday spots) is that nothing loosens the cash in your pocket more than being relaxed and having a good time.
I have been reading books about Behavioural Economics recently. It's absolutely fascinating. Basically a new science, studying why we do things and the relationship humans have to money. Every retailer should study it, because the human mind is less under our control than we imagine. I was a retailer years ago, and I learned all the usual tricks like; Don't block the doorway, make it open and inviting. Put stuff to the left of the entrance you really want to sell (people scan/read from left to right). Keep the shelves well stocked (but not absolutely full), sublimely people don't often buy the first one.. they think it's not popular. Or if there is hardly any on show, then they can't be popular either. And so on.. you know the tricks already I'm sure.
But this guy, Dan Ariely who pretty much invented Behavioral Economics takes this to a whole new level. Check out his Ted Talk. Remember you heard it here first.
Since that talk, lots of smart people have jumped into this area and there are new books coming out all the time. The top companies like Facebook, even employ Behavioral Economists as directors.
Check out the book: Hooked, how to build habit-forming products. by Nir Eyal It's worth reading on the beach this year, if only to find out how Candy Crush is messing with your mind.
About six months ago I asked for advice on buying scarves.. our plan is to be market leader in the wholesale scarves market within a year or so.
You were incredibly generous, and flooded me with ideas. One thing we learned was that there are (broadly) two types of scarve markets..
1) The cheap and cheerful, wear a few times and ditch. Bought by younger people or bargain hunters. - Polyester or Rayon - retail range £1.75 - £6
2) The added value, gift to someone special, or for yourself if you like good things. Cotton, Linen or Silk - retail range £7 - £18 and upwards.
To sell well, cheap or premium they need to be a good price/value combination.
I went to China, India and Indonesia in search of such things.... and the fruits of those trips are just beginning to come now.
Some of those scarves are beginning to arrive.. Some ready for the winter market, see our Men in Tartan (Ok Father's Day as well), and some are cool accessories for the summer season.
Check out our Elemental Scarves - which really are a product of all the feedback and ideas we received. They are in our Cheap & Cheerful range.
You can buy packs of 12 scarves in a range of elemental colours, the scarves themselves are graduated colours, meaning they will blend well with more outfits.
Synthetic material, but feels like cotton and in a nice textured rebel look. Light and floaty. The perfect Summer accessory.
So even if you only buy one pack you will have a range to sell, but better a pack of each of the four ranges to have a scarf to match any outfit.
I think they will sell well at £2 each, or you can offer 3 for £5 - still a good margin and if displayed well.. a flier.
Have a great summer!!
Take care.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Keep Calm it's Buddha Day

Greetings, serenity and inner calm. I'm at Ancient Wisdom HQ this week, and calmness abounds. Yes really. 
This week has been busy at AW (a short week because of the Bank Holiday) but we found time to install our new giant Buddha on the entrance to our complex.
Here are some pictures. Looks nice and calming and serene.. don't you think? One guy said "Wow looks great I want one, but I guess they cost a couple of thousand pounds".
We installed it on the 6th of May which just happened to be International Buddha Day, and Buddha's birthday.
Yes, we had one before, our last Buddha, was a little smaller but in a gale force wind the poor chap was whisked away to nirvana. Or maybe he just levitated and landed a few feet away as a kind of sign that we need to be calmer and more unselfish at AW. We don't as far as I know have any real live Buddhists at AW, and hope we don't cause offence to any, but it is strange how the Buddha statue does bring a sense of calm to all who see it.
These statues are made in Yogyakarta on the island of Java. Not far from one of the oldest, and the largest Buddhist shrine in the world.
This is Borobudur home to 504 Buddha statues and not far from our supplier.
They are cast using a mix of resin, cement and gypsum. Hollow inside, so not impossible to move, but solid enough to look and feel like a real statues. Can you sell them?
The perceived value is high, and we can ship direct to your customers, via our drop-shipping site. So in other words, you can have one as a display, and have them delivered to your customers each time you sell one. They truly look the business in any garden, hotel lobby, restaurant or luxury chillout lounge :)
So hoping you find inner peace and calm.. (it says let go of your ego and reflect on your navel here).. have a great weekend!
Made in Indonesia and shipped direct to us they represent excellent value.
Available to pre-order.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Made in Old Kolkata

I'm delighted to see the new leather products arriving online, these are also from Kolkata. Although if you see them in the you will assume they are Spanish or perhaps Moroccan. This is how it happened, I was shopping in that Carrefour supermarket behind Torrelomenous. The sea views from the checkouts are delightful. There are independant shops behind the checkouts, where I spotted a rather nice handcrafted wallet, price 29 euros. I bit expensive but I liked it because it had a nice motif of a lizard on it. I assumed it was local, made in Morocco.. perhaps.
A few weeks later I'm at a trade show in Delhi, and see the self same wallet displayed on a stand. "Where is this made?" I asked slightly surprised to see it, pulling out my wallet to compare. It's actually goat skin, the guy told me and made in Kolkata. After some conversation, I discovered the trader was an agent, therefore we wouldn't be buying direct from the source and would be unlikely to check the production was ethical or not.
Some time later I'm in Kolkata, and have made enquires though our man there; Mr Chatterjee. (see last weeks newsletter). We found a couple of promising companies to see.
The centre of this industry is Old Kolkata. A maze of lanes running between ancient houses, some which would have housed East India Company traders a hundred years ago. Rickshaw men still rush up and down these narrow streets, and behind closed doors a host of handicraft work is going on.
Our chosen man is a dapper chap. He has displayed his work in Milan a few years ago, and has been making designer brand leather bags for a major label. He is also the home of the "Cat Bag" very famous and his biggest selling product. The system here is that the trader will develop designs, often working closely with customers, then finance the orders. The craftwork is mostly done in family co-operatives, with final stitching and packing done in house.
The Italian bags you will find, in high end shops, with "Made in Italy" labels on them. Strikes me that Kolkatta doesn't get much recognition.
We went to see the family cooperative where his goods are mostly made.
This lady was pretty much in charge. She worked with the trader to get the designs right, and then allocated the jobs, showing the artisans exactly how to do it.
This chap does stitching work, on special extra tough sowing machines.

So you can see we are very proud of our collection of leather goods from Kolkata. The craft industry provides for work for thousands of artisans in this area.
Generations of artisans have been producing leather goods here for hundreds of years, support them by checking out the products below.
Of course if you have any ideas for products do let me know.
Also check out our rather posh Stripy (Milan inspired handbags) - notice the label inside proudly says "Made in Old Kolkata"
Take care.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Easter Message and Freedom Project

Easter is a time for bunnies and chocolate and eggs, or even chocolate bunny eggs. So I hope you are not too busy working and retailing and have some time for both chocolate and your family. Without wishing to sound like the vicar - Easter is also a time of renewal and reflection... and chocolate of course.
Speaking of renewal, after landing in Kolkata I scooted over the Hooley bridge up the Ganges a bit to Serampore where our Jute supplier is located. Regular readers will know that it is one of the poorer areas we do business, and that we have tried to help a little by adopting a childrens home there. Mr Chatterjee our supplier has worked as hard on this project as on our export order. Just scanned my emails to see he has sent more correspondence about that than business. Much more.
When he first took me to the childrens home, it was in a sorry state. But I was impressed by the couple who ran the place, they had been given the ramshackle house by a lake as a gift, on condition they look after the area's homeless children. They ran the place on occasional donations from local businesses and people, but only barely. The roof had pretty much collapsed, in the monsoon they couldn't keep anything dry and even though the children looked healthy it looked desperate. The local chief of police told me the guy and his wife have big hearts. When they find abandoned or lost children they take them until they can find the parents, if they can't, then this where they stay. Without this facility, these children could well end up in the begging gangs working the big cities living on the streets.
This is before and after.. now twenty seven children are been cared for here. On the back row, from the left: Babita, the lady who comes to cook every day, Mrs Kundu who is a local school teacher and teacher to the children, her husband Mr Kundu who looks after everything. Then the guy with the badger hair is Mr Chatterjee our supplier and finally the chap who organised and help redecorate and a put a new roof on the buildings. He is called Sailen Das.
All the children go to school everyday, one smart guy is in the top pupil in the school. We went to visit last Sunday evening and arrived to a delighted and excited crowd. We were shown round all the improvements and shown the new roof. Then I had to inspect all the school reports and nod as if I could actually understand Bengali. I asked to see the top pupil and shook his hand. I think he was pleased.
Then it was tea and biscuits time, and I chatted to the family and cook. Then we had to pose for lots of pictures like it was a wedding. Finally we went to the dorm, all the guys sat crossed legged on the beds. Mr Kundu lead everyone in a rousing rendition of the hymn "We are not alone" which brought tears to my eyes. They had been practicing for weeks, and it was pretty darn good to say they are Hindu and don't speak English.
Here are a few more pictures:
Actually they are really happy, and didn't ask me for anything. Mostly the hymn summed it up, they felt happy because quite simply some cared about them.
Still there is a lot to do, the kitchen was far from satisfactory, not even a sink. And washing and toilet facilities are pretty basic. After that we plan to make a small garden / play area by the lake.
Support us by stocking Freedom Fund items.
The real hero's here are Mr Chatterjee, his helper and Mr & Mrs Kundu.
If you give money to a charity, you don't really know what happens how much really gets put to good use. Not that you shouldn't donate (I'm not saying that).. but when we give money to Mr Chatterjee every single rupee is accounted for on a spreadsheet, backed up with a folder of receipts.
They don't really have Easter in Kolkata, but it was just the Bengali New year on the 16th. So if you'd like to send Mr Chatterjee and The Kundu family a New Year greeting you can buy just replying to this email. I'll pass it on.
So that's my Easter.. er Bengali New Year Message. One of renewal and hope.
..and chocolate bunnies of course :)
Now I'm in Delhi.. I'll tell you about it next week.
Have a great Easter
Take care