Keeping up with fashion is an ongoing challenge, and retailers are well advised to set aside some time every season to stock up on the latest trends in apparel, jewelry and accessories. To be prepared, wholesale suppliers must devote time to investigate and test fashion trends for the upcoming seasons, and take chances on hot items that may only last a few months in the limelight. Some wholesalers take on the challenge of supplying fashion items year round, while others like Opt Fashion have found a niche in focusing on a single season.
Wholesalers Find Their Seasonal Niche
Founded in 2007, Opt Fashion is an importer and wholesaler located in the heart of New York’s garment district, and the company is experienced in marketing fashion trends during cold winter months. Some may wonder how to be fashionable during the winter season, as people bundle up against the cold, but any fashionista buying Opt Fashion merchandise knows that the fashion statement lies in the accessories. “We strive to be a fashion authority, building a comprehensive product line, offering gloves, leggings, leg warmers and winter accessories targeted to the lifestyles of men, women, juniors and kids,” emphasizes manager, Tony Wang. Like the seasons, every fashion piece has its cycle, and leggings and leg warmers are one of those fashion accessories making a comeback, minus the leather jackets and big hair. Opt Fashion now offers styles in animal print, faux fur, lace and rhinestones for those shoppers who have embraced the updated 80s look, adding warmth and fun and flirty feel to their fall and winter styles. Retailers can expect to sell these items at a competitive retail cost, making profits of at least keystone. Leggings and leg warmers wholesale between $2.50 and $8.50.
Gloves are the star accessories for this New York wholesaler. Opt Fashion’s wide variety of gloves for men, women, juniors and kids in categories such as non-slip, snow, driving and touch screen, provide cross-marketability in gift shops, boutiques, kiosks, general merchandise stores and more. “This season, shoppers are looking for gloves that keep their hands warm, but are functional. That is why touch screen gloves are currently a hot winter accessory,” says Wang. It used to be that driving gloves were the top winter accessory, providing a firm grip on the steering wheel and protecting fingers from the cold, while the car warmed up. Now, people want to keep their fingers toasty, but continue emailing and texting on their smartphone without any interruption, so touch screen gloves are the new must have. With a purchase of at least a dozen, any winter accessory such as touch screen gloves are available to sell for the winter season. “Larger purchases get a lower price, and our VIP customers always get a special discount,” adds Wang. Opt Fashion boasts that when it comes to winter fashion accessories, retailers and fashionistas alike can expect optimum fashion and a wide variety of options.
Queen Accessory, another fashion accessory wholesaler from the streets of Manhattan, is a newer supplier with a little over three years under its belt. Also finding a niche for winter fashion accessories, Queen Accessory carries all accessorizing layers, from gloves to scarves, to hats and ear muffs. And while Charlie Li, manager, agrees with Opt Fashion’s Tony Wang on the growing trend of touch screen gloves in this smartphone obsessed world, there are other winter accessories that are winning attention for the fun and feel they bring to fashion, rather than their functionality. Offered previously as a line of knit animal hats for little kids, featuring elephants, pigs, dogs, the ever popular sock monkey and more, these hats have become a favorite for all ages. “We received some interest from customers, so we decided to expand into this growing market,” says Li. The hats are priced low at $6.50 wholesale, and retailers can expect to make a 100 percent markup. While fun in appearance, the knit hats also perform the task of keeping wearers’ heads warm with their high quality, 100 percent wool, handmade design.
Animal knit hats are a great novelty item to add to any retailer’s winter fashion line, but they aren’t all that Queen Accessory has to offer. As relayed in a previous interview with a company sales rep, “As soon as the cold wave hits, the phones start ringing. We have between 400 and 500 products to prepare for winter’s worst.” The company’s full line can be seen at its wholesale website, canalstop.com. On its “About Us” page, buyers get a glimpse of the company’s mission and integrity, as it states, “Our business goal is simple. We focus on providing top quality fashion products to our customers by establishing strong partnerships with carefully chosen manufacturers.” And with an already large selection of products available on the company’s site, new styles continue to arrive almost weekly.
Li mentions, however, that there is a classic favorite that continues to attract shoppers and drive profits, even with other trends cycling through: cashmere-feel scarves. A favorite among men and women, cashmere-feel scarves give that soft and luxurious impression of cashmere, without the cost. These scarves wholesale for $3 each, but can fetch up to four times at retail. “People love the feel and the colorful choices for any ensemble,” notes Li. Simply stated, the company has what retailers and their customers need for the long winter months, and to maintain some fashion sense. “We get a lot of repeat business, and we believe it’s due to our competitive prices, fast turnaround and strong customer service,” explains Li.
It’s wholesalers like USA Hua Tai Group, Inc. that understand the importance of customer service, especially in an ever-changing market like fashion accessories. Retailers’ demands change at the flip of a switch because their customers’ wants and needs are continually and sometimes drastically evolving, and most of the time in sync with the season. USA Hua Tai Group has established a 20 year-old worldwide wholesale network, offering apparel, fashion accessories and more to a broad buyer base. Customer service, especially keeping customers informed about new products, is a key priority for the company. The firm manufactures, imports, wholesales and distributes a wide array of products, including belts, buckles, gloves, scarves, hats, underwear and more. Patrick Qu of USA Hua Tai sees product variety as a strength, and says, “We do stick with basics, but always try to keep up with fashion trends that are on the fast track. We have a lot of new products coming in every month. It is about testing the water, and then keeping what works best for our retail distributors.”
Qu adds that there are always seasonal bests, but currently winter accessories are the company’s primary focus. The fashion accessories with the largest turnover are ponchos, leather and fleece gloves, animal hats (much like Queen Accessory), and scarves. Scarf sales are among some of the strongest for USA Hua Tai Group, and wholesale prices run from $18 to $36 per dozen. The suggested retail price for scarves is in the $60 per dozen range. “Prices are reasonable on all our products, and I could sell belts for $1 apiece all day. With negotiation, volume discounts are a possibility, and retailers should expect to make keystone on any merchandise they order, sometimes even tripling or quadrupling the price,” adds Qu.
USA Hua Tai Group’s success is measured by the success of its retailers in staying up with trends, and as the wholesaler has gone to great lengths to test and market what’s hot, it wants to keep retailers in the know and prepared. Using a multi-pronged approach to keep customers informed, the company first reaches out to buyers through tradeshows and B2B magazines. In addition, USA Hua Tai uses email alerts when a new product is on the horizon, because what’s here today may not work for spring, summer or fall.
Suppliers Have Something For Every Season
While winter isn’t part of Florida based, Killerbeads’ vocabulary, the jewelry and accessories wholesaler carries more than 1,000 skus, and over 15 different product lines for other seasonal fashion trends. “The original owners went to festivals and shows selling their wares, starting about 18 years ago,” says Michelle Mosscrop, sales and marketing manager. “They then started traveling abroad to Greece, Costa Rica, the Philippines, India and China, looking for new products to sell. We now carry products from all over the world,” she notes. As a result, the company offers a wide range of jewelry products, and among them are classic customer favorites and today’s trendsetting pieces, like nature inspired merchandise.
Mosscrop notes the current seasonal favorite, saying, “Feather accessories have picked up, and for that reason we are trying to expand that avenue through fall and winter and into spring. Plain hemp jewelry is also very popular, and is one of our best sellers due to its earthy materials. We also have bracelet programs that do very well, including a variety of friendship bracelets.” In fact, any item in the bracelet category is attracting a lot customer attention; an accessorizing style that seems to continue throughout the recent seasons. “Our minimum order is only $100 and six pieces per style,” Mosscrop says. “Plus we can supply POP signage with our company logo and header stickers, as needed.”
Killerbeads also offers an excellent starter program for retailers who want to try out the products, for between $250 and $300. “It includes 144 pieces of our top sellers and comes with a display,” Mosscrop says. “The retail return is $750 to $900.” The company usually ships orders within 24 to 48 hours of receipt. All jewelry is carded for easy display, and Killerbeads will exchange any item on request. “We work hard to keep our customers happy,” Mosscrop says. “Our market is strong, even when the economy is weak and seasonal fashion is constantly changing.”
Michelle and Scott’s Wholesale Imports’ mission is clear. Scott McMillen, president, says, “Our mission is to target the smaller independent retailer, because we know we can supply them with products that will not only make them money, but allow them to compete with larger big box retailers and discount stores,” especially as the seasons and trends change. With thousands of SKUs, the company’s independent customers range from fashion boutiques to gift shops. Michelle and Scott’s Wholesale Imports specializes in fashion and costume jewelry and hair accessories, but also supplies staple products in the health and beauty category, as well as sunglasses and giftware. McMillen notes, “Among all our products, and even as we add for the times and trends, fashion jewelry and hair accessories are by far the categories we deal with the most.” Retailers can find good deals and markup opportunities in these product categories, such as U.S. made hair bows for $13.50 wholesale for a dozen, retailing for $7 or $8 apiece, or bracelets and earrings for $7.50 a dozen, with a retail value of $9.95 a set.
Looking to please its independent retail customers, Michelle and Scott’s not only seeks to deliver good customer service, but also fast service. By having its headquarters and warehouse in Memphis, TN, the company cleverly has two day shipping access to most of the population in the U.S.. “We are positioned to deliver to 80 percent of the country in two days or less by normal shipping methods, which means UPS Ground. Remarkably, New York City, Dallas, TX, and Miami, FL are all two day delivery from us,” McMillen says. However, fast customer service requires more than fast shipping, asserts McMillen. It requires a website that is a snap to use. “When someone wants to do business with us, they can visit our website. Our new customers can go to the website, register, put in their business credentials, and place an order.
Michelle and Scott’s Wholesale Imports also realizes that its customers cannot afford to have a lot of money tied up in inventory, or in merchandise that won’t move. The company prides itself on keeping minimum orders low ($75), and supplying only the hottest classic and seasonal trends. McMillen adds, “We let customers put together their own kind of sample orders. We do not put together pre-packaged sample packs for new customers, because we sell a large, in demand product line. Hair bows are still really popular, and feathers have been a big fad and can be found in earrings, hair clips, necklaces, headbands and more. And now flower inspired pieces are also starting to pick up; things like big roses. We’ve been selling them all summer, but flowers are grabbing attention this fall it seems.” While this is all great news, especially for those customers just coming on board, Michelle and Scott’s doesn’t forget about its loyal customers. Those customers who have already purchased and opted into the company mailing list will frequently receive loyalty coupons for offers like free shipping, or 10 percent off a total order. A point discount program is also available on the company website, for those retailers making purchases through the online portal.
Carrying about 1,200 skus of today’s trendy jewelry, souvenirs and accessories, Monster Trendz’ products are popular in the Caribbean and Hawaii, as well as among head shops, smoke shops, gift stores and souvenir outlets looking for novelty items and current fashion accessory trends to fill their shops. Matt Huusko, founder and CEO of Monster Trendz, describes one of the leading trends known as friendship bracelets, saying, “We’ve got all styles, old and new, deep and wide, and they wholesale for only four cents apiece, with retailers getting $2 and up. Usually most of our merchandise sells for a four time markup, so it’s a pretty good deal.”
Among other “pretty good deals” to add to the $150 minimum order is Monster Trendz’ silicone slap bracelet line, which wholesales for $1.25 to $1.50 and retails for $4.99. Inspired by Lance Armstrong’s fundraising Livestrong bracelet, silicone bracelets remain an accessory favorite. Huusko explains, “Silicone bracelets come and go, but that is fine, because there is always a new one to replace the last one.” Monster Trendz’ silicone slap bracelets for today’s trendy customer come in an assortment of colors and feature power words such as “Peace,” “Honor,” and “Strength.” In fact, Monster Trendz’ carries a product line solely dedicated to silicone power balance bracelets that wholesale for $1.35 each, and retail at $4.99. These hologram Boost energy bracelets are available in an assortment of colors and are selling fast.
Volume discounts are automatically calculated online, as buyers tally up their orders. Orders over $500 are discounted three percent, while orders of $1,000, $1,500 and $2,500 get an eight, 13 and 18 percent discount respectively. Huusko mentions, “We also do an email special every month, and have a Twitter feed that tweets out coupons on a regular basis. Anything we can do to help our customers, we’ll do it.” This includes a 15 day money back guarantee if a customer is not satisfied with a purchase, as well as a promise to exchange any portion of an order for the same value of goods within 30 days. Huusko began selling his jewelry and souvenirs at Grateful Dead concerts, and exhibited at his first tradeshow in January 1990. He is now accessorizing worldwide, with a niche in supplying beach resorts with accessories to remind vacationers of their trips, and also to prepare for upcoming fashions. Among the seasonal offers are feather inspired merchandise.
Like models and celebrities, the seasons dictate fashion, and in turn, retail sales. Wholesalers, while not runway designers or Elle magazine columnists, are required to keep up with fashion trends so that they may properly prepare retailers for the customer demands ahead. And whether the choice is to supply seasonal merchandise year round or for a niche market, wholesalers have their work cut out for them, as favorites come and go.
For more information:
OPT Fashion Group Inc.
22 West 30th Street
New York, NY 10001
Queen Accessory Inc.
52-01 Flushing Ave.
Maspeth, NY 11378
USA Hua Tai Group/ Q Mart Group Inc.
77 Morgan Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11237
7933 McElvey Road
Panama City Beach, FL 32408
Toll Free: 800-399-7830
Michelle and Scott’s Wholesale Imports
4957 Summer Ave.
Memphis, TN 38122
Monster Trendz, Inc.
One Washington Street, #5017
Dover, NH 03820
Toll Free: 866-365-6425