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Summer 2010 Success Is No Illusion

With a mysterious name and puzzling products, Black Box Illusions attracts attention and customers.

Yaniv Gross is one of six partners at Black Box Illusions. He says the company’s name is in keeping with its mission: to lend an aura of mystery to the products and thereby draw customers in.

Black Box Illusions sells about 30 products with magic as their driving concept. The company’s first cart of magic products opened at a small San Diego mall in 2006. “The words ‘Black Box’ are intriguing,” Gross points out adding that they work better than simply using the word “magic.”

“If we used the word ‘magic,’ it would give away the secret, and people who don’t think they’re into magic might not stop.” The name, combined with a mysterious-looking cart and salespeople wearing T-shirts reading “Can you keep a secret?” spark curiosity from passersby, Gross says.

Gross and his partners, including his brother, Elad, are specialty retail veterans who sold Dead Sea products in the past. Elad Gross says they were looking for a new concept for years before discovering Black Box Illusions.

Magical product range

The company’s first product was a series of DVDs that shares the secrets behind many tricks and illusions. The company has expanded its line to include 3-D stainless steel puzzles, card tricks, levitation devices and other products that create optical illusions.

Retail prices for professional Black Box kits are $149.95, $249.95 and $349.95. Kits priced at $39.95-$79.95 allow the amateur to quickly learn the art of dazzling friends. At $29.95 or $49.95, the Levitation kits, which make coins and driver’s licenses appear as though floating in mid-air, are top sellers. There are about 20 3-D puzzles, priced at $29.95.

Depending on the product, markup ranges from 600 to 1,300 percent, says Gross. He notes that the markup is high because the company is selling knowledge. “When salespeople demonstrate the products, there is a ‘Wow’ effect,” Gross says. “Shoppers want to know how to do the trick. There’s a high percentage of repeat shoppers, who want to come back and learn more secrets.”

Growth formula

The company owns and operates five carts in California and Las Vegas. In the past, Black Box Illusions grew by training trusted employees to become cart operators. “Employees would advance to the position of manager, and then we would help set them up as business owners and sell products to them,” Elad Gross says. “It was a slower but more stable way to grow—and it was very successful for us.”

This year, the company is offering its products to independent retailers for the first time. The company attended SPREE this spring to get the word out to the specialty retail industry. According to Yaniv Gross, Black Box Illusions has about 10 independent cart locations and is in talks with several potential retailers.

Gross points out that retailers benefit from virtually no competition. The company offers live training, both at the retailer site and at the company’s San Jose, CA headquarters. Online training is also offered. In addition, Black Box Illusions offers assistance with staffing and cart design.

The company started as an online retailer and continues to sell its products through the Internet. To participate in online profits, retailers can give their customers coupons to use toward future purchases. According to Yaniv Gross, while customers will get a better deal by purchasing at the cart, if they purchase online with the coupon, the retailer will still get a percentage of the sale. “This way we grow together as a network, not just individually,” he says.

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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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