Full Steam Ahead
AD Importers LLC
Headquarters: North Bergen, New Jersey
Concept: travel steam iron
Mission: To grow the company to over 100 locations and be one of the leading companies in the retail business
Strength of concept: The experience and knowledge that we have as a company and the strong partnerships we have with our factories and our customers
Number of RMUs in 2014: 88
Number of RMUs in 2015: 100
Number of states: 14
Number of countries: 10
Number of corporate employees: 4
Additional employees: 10 training/marketing/warehouse
Websites: Italvapors.com, Maxvapors.com
The success of AD Importers rests on its must-have travel steam irons, knowledgeable sales staff and effective product demos.
North Bergen, NJ-based AD Importers is a true family business success story. It’s sold over one million travel steam irons to date and with a new and improved model hitting carts across the nation—as well as a smaller version on its heels—the company is poised to steamroll the specialty retail market in 2015.
Father and son team, Asher and David Dimor, have been in the specialty retail business since 2000, retailing, wholesaling and manufacturing travel steam irons. In other words, their experience is vast, and their company has grown—methodically and carefully—over a number of years.
David Dimor, Vice President/Owner of AD Importers, discovered the world of specialty retail by invitation. He was studying business and marketing at a university in Israel and was approached with a unique opportunity to come to America and manage five carts selling zoom copters and puzzle vehicles for a period of three months.
David took up residence in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and quickly learned the art of selling demonstration products. “I learned how to sell, how to talk, how to understand what people want. I learned to listen to the customer,” says David. He quickly became the top seller in the company.
Soon after his return to Israel he was invited to come back to America, this time as district manager of 12 carts located in Virginia Beach, Florida. He eagerly returned, fully knowing he would one day make a career in specialty retail with a product of his own. “I was always thinking about how to grow. I was speaking with my dad all the time about opportunities,” he says.
These talks turned out to be critical, as it was Asher Dimor, President/Owner of AD Importers, who discovered what would become their future success, a small travel steam iron called the Italvapor. “I took a sample and sent it to David. The first time David tried it, he said, ‘Bingo! We have to make a pilot,’” says Asher.
David ordered the product, tried it in a few of his locations and saw the demo work for himself. In the meantime, Asher flew to America to visit a number of local shopping centers in the Virginia and Maryland area, and to see firsthand the specialty retail market the product would be serving. With David confident about the product and Asher confident about the market, they were ready to begin.
David invited his wife-to-be, as well as a group of friends from his Israeli homeland, to come to America and join him and his father in their business venture. “We rented a small apartment, my Dad, me, my two friends and my future wife,” says David, spreading themselves throughout the aforementioned locations and coming home to compare notes. “In the beginning, when we sold the iron, we would sit around the dining room table. ‘I sold an iron today because I said this or I sold an iron today because I said that,’” he says, constantly sharing the details of how sales were made and learning what the most effective methods were.
“Our first year we started to learn, and we realized and recognized the potential,” says David.
More locations soon followed in 2003 in the New York and New Jersey area: Westfield Garden State Plaza, Menlo Park Mall and Jersey Gardens, to name a few.
“We started to import more and rent more storage,” says David. Around this time, they also partnered with their manufacturer in Italy and opened locations in new parts of the country, such as Florida and Georgia.
Fast forward to 2004 and, “People start to call from all over the country and sit with us to see the opportunity. Once we start seeing people come to us, we think this is our next stint, to grow as a wholesaler,” says David.
As their business grows, so does everything else. In 2008, their storage unit grew into a 3,000-square-foot warehouse and their office grew into a two-story building to allow for a training area on the second floor.
“Customers always ask about having enough product,” says David, thus housing plenty of stock to assure retailers they will be covered through the holiday season became important early on. Today, AD Importers stocks just under 100 carts during peak season.
The power of steam
“The key to the product is seeing it working,” confides David, who notes all sample irons for demo purposes are supplied to retailers free of charge. Specialty retailers need to have at least two demonstration areas and a bevy of materials on hand: cotton, linen and jeans, so that “people can see you can do all kinds of fabrics,” says David.
The steam generates attention from mall patrons, and as they approach the cart, a quick demonstration is given, where wrinkles vanish with the wave of an iron. “People can see it, feel it and touch it. That is very strong and powerful,” says David.
When retailers sign on with Italvapor, they learn many tricks of the demonstration trade, such as: “Always have steam. Always have clothes hanging. Always hold [an iron] in your hand to show how light it is. Ask questions like, ‘Do you want to hold it?’ or ‘Do you want to see how fast I can take the wrinkles out of that shirt?’” says David.
And perhaps most importantly: “Always show two travel steam irons working to hit customers from all sides,” he says. Most carts have two employees for this reason.
Once the demo begins, cart associates can speak about the benefits of the iron, tailoring their demo to each individual customer. “When I hear someone wears a lot of jeans, I know they don’t care about shirts,” says David, and modifies the demo accordingly.
“Irons only require salt, water and electricity,” says David. “They can be used on everything but suede and leather; linen, silk, sheets, curtains, and they never burn anything,” he says. “A regular iron cannot do a silk tie,” he adds.
Other advantages include speed and convenience. Irons work within 15 to 20 seconds after being plugged in. And, “You don’t need an ironing board. You can steam clothes by hanging them up or putting them on the bed,” says David.
And lastly, the product weighs less than a pound—making it extremely convenient for on-the-go. “You can take this with you to the office for touch ups,” he says. Its small size makes it easy to store, as well. Due to its size and light weight, and the simple fact it is a travel iron, tourist markets are especially well suited for the Italvapor. In fact, the three top selling states are Florida, Texas and Nevada.
In addition to the Italvapor, two complementary items are available for sale: a travel bag and a suction-cup hook to hang up clothes while they are being steam ironed. “At the register, cart associates ask customers if the iron is for home use or travel. If it is for travel, then they can show the customer the travel bag, which fits everything, and retails from $3.00 to $5.00 [the same range as the hook]. These accessories give retailers incentives to offer their customers to buy more or close the deal,” says David.
Another potential accessory AD Importers is considering manufacturing is adapters. Global voltage is an important term when selling travel steam irons, and, in fact, the reason these irons are travel irons, says David. “If you can fit the cable to a wall, it doesn’t matter what kind of voltage there is,” he says. Voltage varies by country, but consumers can use them any place in the world with the proper adaptor.
The retail price of the steamer depends upon where the product is sold. Irons cost $99.99 and up with a 500 percent mark-up. Retailers interested in starting with AD Importers can expect an opening order to cost approximately $2,000 to $3,000.
Since 2002 until today, virtually everything has been improved: the shape of the model, the plastic and the technology, says David. “We change the name every three to four years to keep the product on the shelf and we change the colors,” he adds.
Introducing the Maxvapor
Following on the coattails of Italvapor’s success, in 2010, AD Importers began to explore the idea of manufacturing a similar model for less money and with improved technology. Named the Maxvapor, production on a mass scale began in 2014 with 45,000 units.
The idea for a second model came from an Israeli engineer working for a manufacturer in China. “He asked for the chance to produce a similar model that would improve our current model and save us money,” says David. “With the
new one we can go to more locations and more high-ends malls,” he says, “because we have exclusive ownership of
Retailers now have the option to carry the Italvapor or the Maxvapor, exclusively, or retail both of them at the same time. It all comes down to what the customers want to spend, says David. The Maxvapor and Italvapor retail for
$80 to $150.
“Some retailers love to have a product that is made in Italy. It gives a good impression,” says David, noting one of his Las Vegas retailers who manages eight carts and says the product sells well because of its provenance; this is appealing to the many tourists in her demographic.
“In Texas, we have very high-end malls that will keep the Italvapor, but we have local high-end malls that stock the Maxvapor,” says David.
In addition to the Maxvapor, AD Importers is working on a smaller model to target short-term leasing opportunities in airports. “The smaller model will be two to three inches shorter, have less plastic and will weigh less,” says David. “We will continue to introduce new models and accessories as they fit our demographics,” he says.
Regardless of what travel steam iron is stocked, the product, its accompanying demo and the supporting customer service work the same way. “Customer service is very important to us,” says David. And for that reason, all travel steam irons come with a 100 percent satisfaction guarantee.
When customers buy a steam iron, they register the product online. “I have their email and name, and if they need replacement parts, all they do is email me and I send them,” says David. “Last week I got an email from a customer in Las Vegas who lost the spoon to measure her salt and we sent her a new one,” he says.
Plans for 2015 include an expanded customer service department and an enhanced retail training system to assist the growing number of retailers selling the products and consumers buying them. “This is a family business. This is what we eat and breathe,” says David.
With experience behind them and strong relationships beside them, AD Importers’ future looks as clear and wrinkle-free as the shirts they are steaming.