Fall 2014 Sweet Dreams Are Made of This
Cortney Campbell, founder of Bamboo Traditions, headquartered in Twin Falls, Idaho, has been speaking the language of specialty retailers since 1995. Long before founding her own company, EVENT SALES, Campbell entered the world of specialty retail as a retailer herself in Boise, Idaho—with waterproof gloves. Since that time, Campbell has retailed and wholesaled over twenty successful product lines under the EVENT SALES’ umbrella, including Infinity Lights and Light Tunes, The Vertical Garden, Ice Shadows (glitter eye make-up), Pete McClearys (specialty food) and a line of lipsticks.
Managing Director of EVENT SALES, Amber Atkinson, also grew up in the specialty retail world, having started with the company as a cart operator seven years ago retailing bed linens. “All of our staff has worked at a mall or show. If you do not have the personal experience, you can’t possibly connect or understand the situation, such as how important it is to receive an order correctly and quickly,” says Atkinson. “We know the struggles of the mall, and the great effort that goes into making a location successful and profitable,” she says.
Not only do Campbell and Atkinson have specialty retail experience, they have direct experience selling pillows. Building on that experience and improving it, has paved the way for what may be tomorrow’s hottest specialty retail concept.
EVENT SALES has been selling pillows for the past five years until they realized they needed greater control over product. “The problem with [other] brands was that there were never any price controls. In other words, the brands sold were not made for specialty retail specifically,” says Atkinson. “The problem arose when customers approached the cart and had seen the brand for less at another place of business. So let’s say we were selling the pillow for $45. A customer would come to the cart and say, ‘I saw that same brand at the swap meet for $20’ or ‘I can buy those on Amazon for $25.’ As a mall cart operator, you cannot carry a brand with no price controls. Mall rents are much higher than swap meets, fairs or Internet selling,” she says.
“That is why we designed our own brand with improved quality and price control. We own the brand, we own the label,” says Atkinson. “Now we can protect our customers. When someone comes to the mall cart with their smartphone in hand, they will find that our operators offer the very best price available for this brand. That is our commitment to our customers,” she says.
Bamboo Traditions will be rolling this concept out in common areas across the country. “We already have 60 committed cart operators, and we hope to quadruple that number by the holidays,” says Atkinson.
Bamboo + Memory Foam = Zzzzzz’s
Pillows can make for a good night’s sleep and for that reason alone are a big draw. “Mall customers are interested in our bedding products because we spend one-third of our lives in bed. Not only that, but the energy we have for the following day’s activities is a direct correlation to the quality of rest we had during our slumber,” says Atkinson.
In addition, consumers today are buying green, reducing their carbon footprint and making environmentally friendly choices in the products they buy. Bamboo Traditions’ pillows fit this category to a “Zzz” with removable covers made of bamboo and polyester. “There is a huge movement in the fabrics industry toward sustainable, green products,” says Atkinson. And not only is bamboo a sustainable resource, it is antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial. It naturally repels dust mites and bed bugs, she says. This makes bamboo pillows ideal for people with sensitive skin, allergies, and asthma. The more an operator educates themselves on the properties/benefits of bamboo, the more pillows they will sell, says Atkinson.
“Another great feature of bamboo is that it is a thermal controlled fabric so you don’t have to worry about the pillow retaining heat. It keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” says Atkinson.
Inside the pillow, it gets even better. Feather-cut memory foam (where the foam is shredded) molds to the individual user to provide optimal support for the head and neck while sleeping. In fact, chiropractors strongly recommend memory foam for injuries to take the pressure off of the neck and spine, says Atkinson.
“The original memory foam pillows were very hard and brick-like, and they really were only intended for a back sleeper. So when they first came out, they got a really bad reputation because any other type of sleeper found them uncomfortable. So, what we did is, we took that memory foam and feather cut it. Now it’s much more malleable, so that any type of sleeper can use it,” says Atkinson.
Memory foam responds to the warmth of your skin by compressing. The more pressure pushing into the pillow, the warmer a spot becomes, the more the pillow gives and molds to support you. Where there is less heat (therefore less pressure on the pillow) the memory foam will hold its firmness, says Atkinson.
“The pillow lasts the average user anywhere from 8-10 years or longer,” says Atkinson. And unlike past memory foam pillows that flattened out after a few months, Bamboo Traditions’ pillows can be kneaded and fluffed up to return to their original size. (Although some people prefer the flat shape, and if left alone, they will remain this way.)
“The quality of pillow is designed to compete with any high-end bedding company,” says Atkinson.
With EVENT SALES now in the manufacturer’s seat, and thus in control of pricing, retailers are offered a healthy mark-up. “The lowest mark-up is 200%, but can go as high as 400%. The average is 300%,” says Atkinson. Queen pillows wholesale for $12.50 and retail from $35-$60, with an online price of $69.95. Kings wholesale for $13.50 and retail from $40-$65, with an online price of $79.95.
An operator thus has flexibility to run specials, such as “Buy One, Get One Free.” “There is plenty of room in the pricing for the operator to negotiate his/her best deal,”
If you’re an interested retailer, as little as $2,000 can get you up and running. Along with a low startup cost is the assurance you won’t be stuck with excess product at the end of the selling season. Bamboo Traditions offers a buyback program at year’s end.
Unlike complicated products with a long learning curve, Bamboo Traditions’ pillows naturally draw customers over, with nothing technical or complicated about them. Once retailers educate themselves about the properties/benefits of bamboo and memory foam, selling becomes as easy as a breeze.
Signs draw customers over asking them to: “Squeeze My Pillow.” (Operators can choose from a number of custom signage packages to deliver the message.) “We encourage them to touch it, grab it, feel it, and squeeze it,” says Atkinson. And then retailers explain what the material they are feeling is made of. “With the uniqueness of the bamboo, it’s about the operator engaging with them. We provide our operators with talking points, and educational materials” she says.
Visual merchandising assistance is included with the startup fee. Darzel Ambers, visual merchandiser, helps
retailers design displays suited to their needs and space requirements. He also attends many wholesale and retail shows to lend suggestions to interested retailers. And if he is in an area where an operator is opening, he can assist on site, as well.
Pillow packaging adds another element of visual merchandising, and marketing. Pillows are sold rolled up in attractive bags, made up of alternating see-through plastic and light change to deep green material that can easily be slung over the shoulder. “When a mall is busy, there’s no better advertising then your customers walking around with your product,” says Atkinson.
“We have a ton of customer feedback, from customers who absolutely love our pillows, and say they are the reason they get a more restful night’s sleep,” says Atkinson. Bamboo Traditions is in the process of creating a video of customer testimonials for cart operators to play at their carts.
“We also are doing a huge social media drive which will give customers a forum to give their feedback and share testimonials. It’s one thing for the cart operator to tell the end use customer that the pillows are great. But when thousands of happy customers can tell the potential customer what their experience has been, now the impact of that statement is magnified 1,000 times,” says Atkinson.
Completing the set
Bamboo Traditions has introduced a full set of bamboo sheets in all sizes: twin, full, queen and king, in 12 different colors. These sheets are intended to be a complementary sale to the pillows. A traveling, 14.5” by 14,” and lumbar, 10” by 16,” pillow have also been added to the mix.
“The concept of bamboo can lend itself to many line extensions down the road, which will give operators new items to show customers as early as January,” says Atkinson. “We want our operators to be able to keep their product offering fresh and have repeat business,” she says.
Bamboo Traditions is just one product line under the EVENT SALES umbrella. As the product offerings under the umbrella have grown, so has the company itself, necessitating a move to a facility five times the size of their prior one, and tripling their office staff. These changes have enabled them to focus on the wants and needs of their wholesale customers, says Atkinson.
“Because our troops are on the ground in all 50 states, we see every new product trend. This uniquely positions us to relay information to our customers,” says Atkinson. In addition, EVENT SALES keeps a handful of company-owned carts open year-round. “We are always testing new products,” she adds.
“We value the relationships we have made with our cart operators and we hope to bring them many successful products over the next decade,” Atkinson says.
From pillows to bottom lines, Bamboo Traditions supports its retailers every step of the way.
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