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Spring 2010 Goods from Down Under

“Snuggz” just might spell “profitable” in Australian. This mall cart—launched by a native—offers footwear and other authentic Australian products.

Jamie Tarr had always noticed that Americans had a positive image of his native Australia, but did not have much exposure to the country’s products. So when he was ready to launch his business, he decided it would be Australian all the way.

Tarr, who for a while traveled the world with his wife, a professional basketball player, launched Snuggz in the Meridian Mall in Okemos, MI, last November. The cart offers Australian-made boots as well as specialty items like boomerangs and kangaroo paw back scratchers from the Land Down Under.

Boots made for selling

About 80 percent of Snuggz’s sales are from boots and slippers lined with Australian sheep’s wool; a style of footwear that has been popular on the island continent for more than half a century. Similar products are sold in the U.S. under the high-end brand Ugg and are popular among girls.

Prior to opening the cart, Tarr began selling Snuggz products online and through displays that he set up at two tanning salons in Michigan. “I was expecting that the boots would do well with girls, but I wound up getting more attention from the moms,” he says.

Since July, Tarr has sold his products through home parties. He opened the cart in order to promote his home party business and to get the word out about the authenticity of his offerings. “I was either going to do a TV ad or open the cart for the holidays,” he says. Tarr is pleased he chose the latter. “Sales have been much better than I expected,” he says, noting that he decided to keep the cart open throughout the year due to its holiday-season success.

However, Tarr did not sign up as many home party hosts as he had anticipated. “There was a lot of interest, but not many people followed through—I think it was the nature of the [holiday] season,” he says, adding that he expects the cart to stimulate the home party business better at other times of the year.

Cart operations

Besides boots, Snuggz sells bottle openers and pouches and the paw back scratcher, which at $45, is a top seller. The retailer also sells hand-painted Aboriginal artifacts and wooden musical instruments called didgeridoos. These are made from eucalyptus tree branches hollowed out by termites.

The mix of products includes a bullroarer—a hand-painted wooden product on a string that creates a whirring noise to confuse animals. It is meant to be used with a hunting boomerang, which is also for sale.

At the high end of the price spectrum, the retailer offers sheepskin rugs for about $800. Snuggz boots run $120 to $185 or $45 to $70 for slippers. All quoted prices include tax—just like they do in Australia.

Prior to opening the cart, Tarr ordered items from Australia only after making the sales, a strategy that helped keep overhead costs low. But running a cart required him to learn about stocking various sizes and storing excess inventory. “People like to walk away with the items when they buy them in the mall,” he says, noting however, that some people did place orders for items that were out of stock. “They liked that they were coming directly from Australia,” he adds.

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Bernadette Starzee

Starzee, a Long Island, NY writer who covers business, sports and lifestyle topics, is a senior writer for SRR. She can be reached at .

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