Sometime in June, Amie asked me if we had any back-to-school gift items for our kids’ display. Well, we had an order from International Arrivals for new Smencils (the old scents are seemingly discontinued, and the new ones all smell like sweet to me, but Halley swears she could distinguish notes of cherry and pear) and those great rulers from Fotofolio, and there are lots of other crazy pens and pencils and journals around the store but I hadn’t placed a new order for lunch boxes and backpacks.
We’ve used several other vendors over the last few years, from the cute animals of Streamline and Melissa and Doug to the classic tin sock monkey boxes of Schylling. But of course I was hoping for something different, and that’s where I ran into trouble.
I placed my first order at the Chicago gift show in July from vendor S. Nobody said anything at the show, but when the order arrived, everything showed up except my back-to-school items. I hoped they’d follow soon but after a couple of weeks, I called and learned they were out of stock through September. That’s not going to work.
So wandering around the Minneapolis gift show, I settled on vendor C. They had a nice assortment of matching lunch boxes, backpacks and water bottles. Their unit minimums were a little high for us, but I thought I’d take a chance. I wrote a tentative order and asked them to hold it while I found out what happened with vendor S.
And then I started doing a little investigating, and found out they were heavily discounted on websites. I understand that we can’t match the prices of lowballing websites with no services or storefront or even sometimes the expectation that they will make money in the short term. But what I found was much worse than that. The price I could sell these items at was higher than the marked list price, the one they used for comparison. Well that doesn’t make any sense at all! With these items, I have to account for the possibility of damage, theft, and seasonal markdowns. So we bagged that order too.
Fortunately I found a backup, a beautiful line called Beatrix with kauaii-inspired (that Japanese style cuteness) cartoon animals that I learned wasn’t being carried anywhere in metro Milwaukee. Now of course that’s via the rep; it’s possible that another store bought the product directly. But more than that, it seems to have a minimum price agreement in place. Even our online discounting competitor is only selling it for a penny less than the list price.
So that’s the thing, the stuff is super adorable, and really well made. They’ve seemingly gotten a lot of press, as there seem to be a lot of kids of celebs who are taking them to school. The various characters get periodically retired—you can no longer get Anastasia the pig or Esther the bunny. We currently brought in kids’ backpacks, lunchboxes, and water bottles for Juju the Ladybug, Papar the Owl, Alister and Baxter the dinosaurs, and Nigel the shark. The mini packbacks are $42, the lunchboxes are $34, and the water bottles are $16. We only bought a limited amount of each, but if folks take to them, we’ll certainly restock.
Need something cheaper that's still got that animal vibe? Our friends at Little Monsters are selling animal backpacks from Kreative Kids and Andie tells me they have been qute successfull.
But for me, I'm almost sad about selling them because I just like to look at them. This Beatrix stuff makes me so happy.
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