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Fall 2007 Flying High at UJ Trading

Ayhan Yuce is a driven entrepreneur: Even before he’s reached one goal, he’s got another bigger goal in his sights. Although sales for his Houston, TX-based UJ Trading are in the multi-millions, he knows another million is just over the horizon. When he considers that his products are sold from hundreds of carts and kiosks in malls across the country, he knows there are even more malls he could be in.

UJ Trading already has a big presence in the specialty retail marketplace—and it’s getting bigger every year. The company currently wholesales its extensive lineup of remote-controlled toys to more than 350 independent cart and kiosk owners across the country. UJ also operates 20 to 100 of its own carts (depending on the season), plus 10 holiday-only express in-lines. The express stores, which operate mostly in Texas malls, are 1,500 to 4,000 square feet. Although the in-lines feature some of UJ’s best-selling remote-control toys, the stores also carry more traditional playthings such as stuffed animals, video games and board games.

Although his products are all fun and games, Yuce is all business when it comes to strategic planning for his nine-year-old company. He wants to build on UJ Trading’s success as the nation’s number-one provider of RC toys in the specialty retail industry. When kids or adults think of RC toys, he wants them to picture UJ Trading’s high-flying helicopters, buzzing racecars and swooping warplanes.

“Business has always been something that has interested me,” Yuce says. “I grew up in a family that placed a great deal of emphasis on succeeding in business, and I’ve always believed that if the product is good and has a high level of quality, you can sell it.” He is especially excited about his company’s sales prospects this year—thanks in large part to a small helicopter.

Small product, big sales

UJ Trading recently introduced a series of RC mini helicopters, including the Mini Dragonfly, which Yuce says is poised to become the company’s biggest seller. The helicopter is only six inches long, small enough to fit in a child’s palm but packed with enough power to deliver long flying times and incredible maneuverability.

The fully rechargeable toy can float by remote control for up to 15 minutes, and the small size means the Mini Dragonfly is highly agile. Even young children are able to fly the toy down hallways or through doorways. To make the fun really challenging, the Mini Dragonfly’s remote control is configured so that owners can fly three Dragonfly copters simultaneously.

Sales of mini helicopters have skyrocketed, in part because the toys are so easy for specialty retailers to demonstrate in the common area. Salespeople can easily hover the unit “just so” and impress passers-by with a flying trick or two to get attention. Yuce says cart and kiosk operators have no trouble moving the product if they keep the demonstrations going.

“You just have to be a salesperson,” he says. “You have to promote the product, and let people know why they want to have it.” That’s not hard when it comes to the Mini Dragonfly and its mini heli cousins, he says, because in addition to children, adults are drawn to the helis more than any other toy he’s sold. “I’ve never seen toys generate such a reaction. This year with the mini-helicopters we are going to break all of our sales figures—it’s unbelievable. Kiosk operators just have to show these products in action and they get business. … They show a customer how much fun they can have with this and—boom!—they’ve made a sale.”

But the mini helis aren’t the only UJ Trading product that’s had such a phenomenal response in the specialty retail market. Sales have been strong—and growing—for the company’s full line of RC toys, which includes RC planes, jets and airplane kits; more than two dozen RC racecars and boats; plus RC birds, parachuters, air kites and even a flying Santa. Shoppers are also drawn to the company’s RC Mini Astronaut, a super-miniature astronaut complete with full spacesuit and rotors for indoor or outdoor flight; the RC Motorcycle, a stunt bike complete with rider that operates on land or in water, where the wheels turn into propellers; and the Robot Combat sets, which include two miniature robots that battle each other through twin remote controls.

But lately it’s the Mini Dragonfly and its mini heli cousins that have UJ’s sales hitting the stratosphere. In fact, the Mini Dragonfly’s tagline—”The Sky’s the Limit!”—could serve as the official mantra for UJ Trading as the company continues to expand. Over the summer, UJ and its 80 employees made the move to larger offices. Still located in Houston, the new space is more than 15,000 square feet, more than three times the size of its old office. UJ also has offices in China and Turkey.

imageSome of the new space is warehouse space, which allows the company to keep more products in stock than in the past, which is good news for the retailers it serves. If a specialty retailer needs lightning-quick turnaround on a big re-order of Mini Dragonflies, Super Wolf stunt cars or Racing Boats, employees can pick, pack and ship dozens of units in no time. The quick turnaround helps retailers move closer to “just in time” inventory management, which boosts their bottom line and keeps the re-orders coming.

Strategies for growth

Yuce says a key to his company’s success has been selling through carts and kiosks. He prefers those locations over in-line stores both in terms of his own company locations and in terms of the retailers he wholesales to. Not only do mall carts and kiosks sit right in the middle of foot traffic, giving his products exceptional visibility—especially when demonstrated—but also cart and kiosk operators don’t have to spend nearly as much as an in-line operator trying to stock a large in-line space. That makes cart and kiosk operators more willing to take risks and test new products.

“The retailers we sell to don’t have to make a huge financial commitment to go into business—they rent a kiosk, put our product in it and they’re ready to go,” he says. “With an in-line store, you spend a lot of money to design your store and to fill up your store. Most of what you do is permanent.” Retailers on carts and kiosks “don’t face those problems. That makes it easier for us to find new buyers willing to start out in a business selling our products.”

Another element to UJ Trading’s success is its ability to quickly identify hot and cold sellers, and drop the slow movers. The company continually seeks feedback from retailers about what’s selling best and specifically what shoppers have to say about the company’s products. Yuce keeps a trained eye on customer feedback and sales figures, then meets with his marketing staff to determine which products the company will promote for the coming selling season. Weak sellers get replaced ASAP.

Every year UJ Trading has to protect its hard-earned reputation for quality products and great customer service, Yuce says. In fact, all holiday locations—whether they’re company-owned or independent carts and kiosks—stay open through January, to give holiday shoppers a chance to exchange or return any UJ products. “It’s the right thing to do ethically, but it’s also the right thing to do business-wise,” he says. “If you provide good customer service, people will spread the word.”

Niche selling

Another factor in UJ Trading’s success is its specialization in one niche: remote-control toys. The company’s laser-beam focus on that one category not only gets shopper’s attention on a cart or kiosk, but also lends a certain aura to the products, creating what Yuce calls a “must-buy” mentality.

“If you put too many different items in your kiosk, the customers will look at them and say, ‘Which one should I buy?’ and maybe they’ll decide to just go to the toy store,” he says. On the other hand, “If you put in a limited number of products, you’re telling customers: ‘This is it! This is what everyone is looking for. It’s right here!’”

With his razor-sharp insights into which merchandising and selling strategies land the most sales, backed by a high-quality product that shoppers of all ages view as pure fun, Yuce continues to plan his company’s further expansion.

“We are ready to keep growing,” he says. “Everything we do is in the expectation of future growth.”

Dan Rafter

Based in Chicago, Dan Rafter has written for the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, Business 2.0, and other publications. He can be reached at danrafter@sbcglobal,net

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