While most wholesalers carry a range of products, none would complain if just one of those items became a breakout best-seller. That’s what happened to Michael Penna, owner of Gift Bliss Enterprises, and his Instant Snow To Go product. And although it is the kind of problem that every wholesaler wants, coping with one hugely successful product poses significant challenges.
Although Gift Bliss has been around in one form or another since 1993, it wasn’t until the turn of the century that Penna was inspired to step into the artificial snow business. “Back in 2000, we discovered a product used in indoor snowboard and ski parks in Japan,” he says. He presented the product at several gift trade shows that year, and it surpassed all expectations. “That product started doing well right off the bat,” he says. Penna found an improved version in 2002, and “the product has just taken off since.”
Now, Instant Snow To Go dominates the company’s sales. “A little bit more than half of our business is our instant snow business,” Penna says. Of course, having most of your eggs in a single basket poses certain hazards, hazards that Penna has managed to handle with aplomb. Here’s how he’s managed his gold mine made of snow.
Diversify your product
Part of Gift Bliss’ success with the instant snow product comes from the array of spin-off products his company offers based on the original snow product. In addition to the core product, he offers a Fairy Frost Edition that adds glitter, a Snowball To Go Christmas ornament, party favors, greeting cards, and a new Snow To Go Takeout edition that comes in a novelty Chinese takeout-style package.
A reseller customer packages regional tourist varieties. “It is a wonderful souvenir, particularly for areas that have snow, such as ski resorts,” says Penna. “It can sell very well in a desert-like location, where folks are ‘sending you snow from Las Vegas’ or ‘dehydrated snow from the desert.’ It’s just lots and lots of fun.”
The company lets new customers create custom mixes of product for starter kits. “You can mix and match and still get an increased volume discount,” says Penna, “because we like the idea that the store will have a variety and can make a statement in the store.” That way, even new customers can offer the full range of varieties from the start.
Diversify your customer base
Penna has broadened the market for his niche product by offering it through a range of retailers. “We have many vendors. It starts with the gift store. We have a huge number of Christmas and craft stores. We are also building a very good network of Internet retailers,” he says. “We definitely have done flea markets. It’s a really nice demonstration product, and they certainly can sell it in that venue.”
Outdoor flea market vendors face a special challenge, however. “We make very specific recommendations to those folks as to what they might want to sell, and we always tell them that if they are going to sell it in that arena, they have to do their demonstrations under a covered awning,” says Penna. “It is difficult to make the snow in direct sunlight.”
Gift Bliss does not sell retail, but the company does sell in bulk to those who want orders larger than his retailers can fulfill. These institutional customers can buy by the pound to cover hundreds of square feet with artificial snow.
Offer quality product and support your retail customers
“We believe we really have the superior snow product,” says Penna. “You can really tell our product when you see it because it is very explosive, it makes snow immediately, it doesn’t smell, it doesn’t blow around, it’s not sticky to the touch, and it’s light and fluffy.”
“We really have worked in partnership with our distributors, our retailers, and of course our end customers,” says Penna. “Our suggested retail pricing usually ends up making the retailer better than keystone — more than double their cost. But we have some retailers selling it above that.” The company also offers special deals to established customers. “That’s the way we work. We have a minimum order at a higher cost. As customers go up in volume, so they are able to get discounts. The whole idea is to be very retailer friendly.”
Get ready for the next big thing
Gift Bliss has a company motto: “Where the unusual becomes the trend.” To that end, the wholesaler continues to pursue products beyond the artificial snow line. For example, an up and comer is a line of fashion jewelry.
“Our Essanya jewelry product is doing very well,” says Penna. “They are floor displays of fashion jewelry, and they fit into very trendy type marketplaces. We end up calling these things ‘money trees’ because they end up selling so well. In another year or so we’ll probably be on par with that product with what we’re doing with the snow in volume.”
For more information on Gift Bliss and Instant Snow To Go, contact:
Gift Bliss Enterprises
19269 Mallory Canyon Road, Building D
Salinas, Calif. 93907
Tel.: (831) 663-0611
Web site: instantsnow.org