Spring 2010
Carts Across America, Spring 2010

These specialty leasing operations give a snapshot of what’s selling in the United States.

Bhairab Dahal’s Sushma Handicrafts in Prudential Center, Boston, MA

Duffy C. Weir

A native of Nepal, Bhairab Dahal owned a factory in the country manufacturing shawls and scarves. But political unrest lead to hard times and it became difficult to operate the business. After initial success at a tradeshow in New York in 2005, Dahal decided to get into the specialty retail business in the U.S.

Sushma Handicrafts, selling pashmina shawls and scarves, has been operating in the mall at the Prudential Center for four years. Dahal says business has been very good. He has another location at Copley Place nearby and in the near future hopes to open an inline at Prudential Center and maybe a kiosk at the Natick Mall in Natick, MA.

The shawls and scarves Dahal sells come in four sizes and five different grades/blends of pashmina wool and silk. Scarf sizes range from neck scarves to large 36″ x 80″ wraps.

Dahal says careful attention to display has worked well for his business. “You cannot display all your products at once and you must offer the customer reasonable prices,” he advises fellow retailers. Mall management at the Prudential Center has been a good resource, Dahal says. “The team is excellent and they schedule meetings to train and communicate with all the merchants, which is most helpful,” he adds.

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Asif (Sammy) Mohammad Ali’s carts in Lufkin Mall, Lufkin, TX

Duffy C. Weir

Asif (Sammy) Mohammad Ali had been working in Dallas for a while selling jewelry until he decided to venture out on his own. The retailer at Lufkin Mall in Lufkin, TX, now has three carts: one selling watches and jewelry, another selling purses and wallets and the third, personalized Christmas ornaments.

Ali sells the jewelry and purses year-round. He has been at the mall for more than two years. Ali knows when to take a chance on a new product and isn’t afraid of changing merchandise. He has sold sunglasses and even hermit crabs when the market told him to do so.

Best-sellers include Fossil watches which sell for $35-$100. Ali stocks wallets in 300 different styles and these sell very well between $14.99-$20. Christmas ornaments for new babies and new homes also sell well.

Ali hopes to get into the cell-phone accessories business once the economy picks up steam. “Like jewelry, it too is an evergreen product,” he says.

Ali adds that business is competitive but he has succeeded because he keeps his prices low and offers a good selection. He is very grateful to the mall’s management for helping him succeed in the business. “They are one of the main reasons for my success,” he says, “they advertise my carts and help to keep me satisfied.”

Ali encourages fellow retailers to always welcome customers. “Keep your prices low, new ideas flowing and have a positive attitude,” he recommends.

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Franco Delbiondo’s Evolution Too in Miami International Mall, Miami, FL

Nathan Dappen

Franco Delbiondo, owner of Evolution Too, specializes in selling shape-wear; lingerie, underwear, and outerwear that make customers look better. Delbiondo says the products enhance people’s figures and sculpts their bodies. Delbiondo introduced his first Evolution Too cart operation five years ago, at the Miami International Mall. His business has been successful enough to open carts at three other malls in the Miami area (Dadeland, Westland, and Homestead Mall), with plans for further expansion.

Delbiondo says the shape-wear products are for both men and women. Even though most of his clients are women, he says men will buy a fitness girdle for back support or to improve body image.

His best selling product is the fitness girdle. Delbiondo says this body-tight cotton-covered latex suit improves posture, provides back support, and gives the appearance of a smaller body size. Depending on clients’ needs, these products range from $40 to $120. Girdles are custom-fitted, with the more extensive designs that cover more of the body costing more than the ones that are less specialized and smaller. Delbiondo reports that post-partum women swear by these girdles.

Delbiondo is a strong believer in customer service. Working from his cart, Delbiondo feels that he is able to give his clients the personal attention that they need. “Thanks to this interaction,” he says, “people remember their experience and get exactly the product they need. This encourages them to recommend me, and my products to others.”

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Sherry Lange’s Shelly Bags in Genesee Valley Center, Flint, MI

Duffy C. Weir

A former horse groomer, Sherry Lange is relatively new to the retail world. But Lange has been so successful selling “Shelly” bags that she is already looking to expand her
young business.

Despite the weak automotive-industry economy in Flint, MI, Lange opened her first RMU at Genesee Valley Center in February, and business is thriving. She sells a purse—the Shelly Bag—that allows customers to change the bag’s look using interchangeable shells. These shells clip on with magnetic strips and surround the exterior of a base bag. “You get two purses for the price of one. Women love this bag because of the price and it makes them feel good because they can change the look without [buying a whole new bag],” Lange says, explaining the bags’ popularity.

The “Shelly Bag” gets its name from the variety of shell covers offered in a wide range of colors and fabrics. The purse, a lower priced version of the Miche Bag, is offered in two sizes. The price range depends on the size and the varying numbers of interchangeable shells and straps sold with it.

Following a stint as a holiday sales person in a mall store that sold the bag, its owner/designer, Mike Sullivan, suggested Lange sell the product through a mall kiosk. “I saw the demand for the bag and how women [liked its versatility],” Lange says, adding that she stepped out of her comfort zone when she started the business.

Mall management has been very supportive. “I am in a great location where traffic is strong and the demographics are right. I was scared [but] mall management encouraged me because they knew I had a great product. So I did it and I’m glad I did,” Lange says.

Lange also plans on selling the bags through home parties, which she believes, offer a fun atmosphere for women to get together and compare, shop and buy products.

Would you like your specialty leasing operation to be featured in these pages? Or nominate one that you think is worthy of coverage? Email SRR’s editor, Poornima Apte, at papte@specialtyretail.com to participate.

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