My cousin abruptly ended our recent telephone conversation saying that she had to run because she had an appointment to take her 5-year-old daughter to the American Girl store to have her Josefina doll's ears pierced. Curious, I went to the American Girl site and was floored by the sheer number of add-ons available to ensure that the doll is properly housed, clothed, fed and entertained.
You can buy everything from books about the history of each doll to a pet cat to a skin-care kit for your American Girl doll. The perfect doll would be outfitted with her own luggage, bathtub, violin and designer glasses. My cousin told me that her daughter gets frequent special treats from American Girl because there's always some new accessory to add to her collection.
Retailer Build-a-Bear offers a similar selection of accessories for their made-to-order stuffed animals. Besides clothing, shoes, sports gear, purses and backpacks, and food, your child can spend endless hours playing a variety of Build-a-Bear games. I'm beginning to think that for American Girl and Build-a-Bear, the profits are not in their core product but in the thousands of accessories available with their dolls and stuffies.
Take a walk around CES in January and you'll start to get some idea of the size of the accessories business. The opportunities for add-on sales in the CE/imaging category are virtually endless, going way beyond just selling a bags, tripods and some extra memory. Categories that are expected to be hot sellers include external storage, any and all DSLR extras and the latest mobile minutia.
At Olum's in Binghamton and Syracuse, N.Y., electronics merchant Tom Kulas has stocked his shelves with a wide selection of headphones, iPods and accessories, digital cameras, bags, batteries and tripods. Olum's assortment includes home telephones, Wii consoles and games, and myriad small portable audio products. In addition to a huge array of wall mounts, Olum's displays more than 50 furniture stands and wall units for video systems.
I recently upgraded my audio and video equipment. I have beautiful new flat-screen TVs, a Blu-ray player with Internet connectivity and a great sound bar to add audio to the kitchen TV. The thing that makes that kitchen system so fun, though, is the new subwoofer. I never would have thought of putting a subwoofer in my kitchen, but someone smarter than me included it in the bid since that is the set I watch the most.
Just an as example of thinking outside your core business, I was in an appliance store last week and noticed a large display of detergent for both dishwashers and clothes washers. The owner said his customers bought most of their laundry and dish detergent from him. It brought customers into the store again and again, but more important, since the products he sold were specifically designed for today's high-efficiency appliances, customers were not putting too much into their machines. Customers were happier and he had fewer service issues. If you stop and think there are similar models here for imaging retailers as well. To be successful in increasing your accessory sales, you need to develop a plan. Here are a few tips:
• Set monthly accessory sales goals.
• Develop accessory merchandising plan; consider expanding selection in a variety of the more popular areas.
• Review your accessory commission plan; reward more for selling high-profit products.
• Set monthly accessory sales quotas and bonus opportunities for sales associates.
• Conduct frequent training on accessory and add-on selling.
• Merchandise accessories in and around the products they go with; keep displays full, clean and relevant.
• Bundle accessories into kits. Example: Create good-better-best video kits with mounts, cables, surge protectors and screen cleaners.
Accessories remain the ultimate win-win-win category. The customers win in having everything they need to fully operate and enjoy their new purchase. The sales associates win with increased commission, while the company wins with increased profits.