The Right Art-itude
Company: Lentics 3D
Concept: 3-D art
Headquarters: Benton Harbor, MI
Mission: Build a brand and be an art company with a program that can really help people succeed in their own business. Recognize that people are investing their savings in every kiosk, so we look to build a brand to help them succeed.
Strength of concept: Arresting, high-impact art in common area; complete turnkey package with low entry point for retailers
Number of carts and kiosks: 82, five corporate-owned.
Number of employees: 22
You’re a specialty retailer looking for a proven concept in the common area, but you are not optimistic about products that need demonstration and you are bored with the usual cellphone accessories or sunglasses. The solution? 3-D art from Lentics.
The products, which are a collaboration between Lentics and Jon Scheerz with Product Hunters, are appealing and affordable, and they have lasting value; they’re proven to perform well in the common area.
Art for today’s customer
Art, even 3-D art, is not new. This concept has been around for many years, but it was in desperate need of a makeover. For a long time 3-D art primarily focused on nature, wildlife and mystical themes. This is all well and good, but the selections needed an update to appeal to today’s audience.
This is precisely what Lentics has done: The company has forged licensing connections with the NFL and other sports franchises, and with DC Comics to deliver art that appeals to a wider range of customers. “There used to be a lot of nature and mystical themes in this space, but that is not what a six-year-old wants. It’s not always what you and I want on our living room wall either,” Scheerz says, “The old model didn’t have enough design and variety to cater to every shopper in the mall. To make a cart successful, you have to give operators the opportunity to make money, the opportunity to make a ‘Wow’ statement so customers will buy. This is exactly what we do.”
Rolen Pihl and Robert Holbrook are partners at Lentics, which was founded in 2012. They started the business with the 3-D art product that had been tried and tested in a few malls in the Midwest, primarily in Michigan (where Lentics is headquartered) and Indiana.
Meanwhile, Scheerz had been noticing that 3-D art was trending in specialty retail and he wanted to represent it in a very different way from what had been done before. While doing his research, he noticed that Lentics was already a successful player in the market. “Rolen and Robert were working with the same base of customers that we would have targeted and the network of operators was similar so we stepped back,” Scheerz says.
Having worked with Scheerz and Product Hunters before, including the company’s popular LuvALamps, Pihl and Holbrook saw that Scheerz could provide an opportunity to scale their concept to a larger level. “I was talking with them about competitive pricing, and that turned into a conversation about the company’s growth; sales and marketing support for the cart, kiosk; and [the] fairs and festivals market,” Scheerz says.
Product Hunters also handles manufacturing and wholesaling of products, the kind of vertical integration that could offer better profit margins to the nascent company. In late 2015, they all started to work together to deliver Lentics 3D art on a wider scale in the North American specialty retail market, handling manufacturing of the art as well.
Lentics’ roster of available art now includes a variety of images that appeal to today’s consumers. Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and NFL team images have been added to an already popular selection of staples, such as the American flag with an eagle, or butterflies.
Today’s 3-D images really pop. “The enhanced 3-D version has even more depth to it so it looks very realistic. Imagine the Jaws poster with the shark coming out of the water to get you; that’s the kind of effect these create,” Scheerz says.
Lentics most popular products range from landscapes and nature images to more on-trend depictions of dinosaurs, sports and popular licensed characters. Biker tattoos, cityscapes, skylines, mystical creatures, fantasy scenes—a wide variety of subjects is covered. The art comes in three sizes: 12” x 16,” 18” x 24” and 24” x 36.”
What’s more, the art all comes framed in modern, contemporary designs—no more boring, old beveled-wood models. Light-up LED frames and other sleek styles are part of the new mix.
Specialty retail fit
Lentics 3D art is an especially great fit for specialty retailers because the company offers a turnkey package with proven results in the common area. Operators typically get 100 prints with frames, including a mix of bestsellers and other pieces that are custom-tailored to the region. “For example, we won’t set up an operator in Arizona with a picture of a lighthouse; it will be more Southwest-themed,” Scheerz points out. In addition, cart and kiosk operators can customize what they sell by choosing from an extensive catalog of offerings.
The turnkey package offers a low barrier of entry: Specialty retail operators can get started for as little as $1,000 to $1,500 worth of inventory and the display that is recommended to use along with the concept costs a couple of hundred dollars more.
“We have been in the specialty retail industry for years, so we know what operators look for,” Scheerz says. Lentics also provides video tutorials that show how to assemble the frames, (“It takes just a couple of minutes, real easy,” says Scheerz), how to sell the art and how to set up the displays.
“Essentially everything an operator will need, we provide at their fingertips for no extra charge, when other specialty retail franchises charge a lot more for additional materials,” Scheerz says. Lentics is also working on video tutorials, which will be available through a YouTube channel as well as another web portal. Every turnkey package also comes with a video that can be played at the cart or kiosk, demonstrating what the 3-D art will look like in various real-life settings. This further helps cement the sale.
Catchy in the common area
The visual elements of Lentics 3D are equally appealing to many specialty retailers who may not want to invest in demonstration products, or can’t do so because of rules imposed by leasing management.
“When you’re on a cart you have to have a product with a ‘Wow Factor,’” Scheerz says. “There are many passive and commodity items—cell phones and sunglasses—and operators do a good job of displaying them. But for impulse items—you have to grab attention.
“3-D art sells. 3-D art brings images to life, makes them feel real, these are conversation pieces. When you’re walking by the cart with a lot of color and black and white images [and] different designs of art pieces, the images capture your attention right away and then the 3-D nature of the art follows you. The lighting from the cart enhances that even more.”
Little kids walk up and like to pretend they’re touching the nose on an animal when their finger is still two inches from the print. Or imagine a T-Rex popping out of the picture, that’s what the Lentics art looks like. “And there is no pressure, no hassling. Customers are attracted by the art and strike up a conversation making the products easier to sell,” Scheerz says.
The art makes the sale, and so does the price. Lentics 3D art is competitively priced with the average retail ranging between $25 and $50. While there are pieces that run higher depending on what the customer would like, the price points work for most shoppers. Operators point out that, unlike the poster art that most stores sell, Lentics offers spectacular 3-D art that is framed and ready to hang—there are no additional costs in preparing the art to be displayed.
Lentics is looking to grow nationally with an added boost from exhibiting at SPREE RECon. The company has 82 carts and kiosks across the country, five of which are corporate-owned. The goals are to increase presence in the specialty retail segment, and in the fairs and festivals market as well. The products have great appeal year-round, Scheerz points out, and some operators will sell them at fairs in the summer and then strike seasonal deals with malls for the Christmas season.
The sales revenues are impressive, with numbers that averaged $48,000 for 2015; 10 percent of carts made more than $60,000, and another 10 percent made between $80,000 and $90,000. This was before the licensing programs kicked into place, so revenues are expected to be higher this year.
Specialty retail winner
Scheerz points out that it is really hard to pick a concept for the mall common area; it’s hard to know what to sell. “What’s real important and key to do is to be able to distinguish between those products that are one-and-done, come up for a year or two and then they’re finished,” he says, pointing out that Hoverboards, for example, were extremely popular when they came out last year but then phased out. While there’s room in specialty retail for overnight sensations, Pihl, Holbrook and Scheerz believe that Lentics 3D art is here to stay.
“You’ve got products like Calendar Club that every year, year in and year out, create a brand, create a following, create a loyal customer. 3-D art to me is a lot like Calendar Club,” Scheerz says. “The art has been around for 30 years; it’s still popular, but people aren’t buying art just as a gift, people are buying art for their own decoration within their home. They’re buying it for personal use. This can be a long-term concept.
“An operator can be in this business for years, whether it’s seasonal or off season or year-round,” Scheerz adds. “Operators who are not hardcore demonstration operators look for a more passive product with good margins, that appeals to everybody, has a ‘Wow’ factor and captures attention without their having to say anything. We have been in this business for years and know that specialty retailers invest their life savings in concepts, so we’ve tested this for success. When you look for concepts that’s what you look for, that’s what operators want; that’s what 3-D art is.”
3-D art is a purchase whose true value is intangible, but one that strikes a special chord with every person. The partners in Lentics 3D are well aware of that essential aspect of their business. They offer accessible art that makes a huge impact—the type of easy turnkey experience that every specialty retailer is looking for.