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How To Pick A Winning Idea

Aug 17, 2007
If experience teaches anything, it is that most newcomers break into mail order with specialties or novelty items; this, however, does not preclude beginning with staples. It should be pointed out that once established, the "staple" mail order firm has a better chance for survival than the "specialty" firm. Too often, phenomenal results are obtained with a specialty for a year or even two, and then the orders begin dropping off, the advertising cost per sale goes up, and suddenly the head of the firm is looking for a new item or a new business or his old job.

If your forte is the novelty or specialty, do not let this touch of pessimism dampen your ambition; its intent is rather to forewarn you and to anticipate such an eventuality by preparing substitutes or side-lines long before the decline. Then too, the sad day may never come. There are well-established mail order firms doing business with the same item they introduced ten or twenty years ago.

Some so-called experts disparage novelty or "fad" items because of their short life-span; this advice is fine for the well-heeled beginner who can take his time and shop around for a product with longevity possibilities. The opinion offered here is that any legitimate item that gets you started profitably in mail order, no matter how short the duration, pays its way, if not in large profits, then at least in valuable experience to be applied later more gainfully.

The important thing is to get started; don't procrastinate -- do it today!

Selling Staples in Mail Order

A staple is any commodity the public regularly uses and for which there is a steady demand. This classification covers food, clothing, tobacco, household supplies, and any other product a large group of people find essential to everyday living.

The beginner without a set idea will probably do well to eschew staples unless opportunities exist for special purchase, permitting him to offer lower than established prices; or if as a result of local laws, certain regional differentials make it possible to offer the residents of a particular state products by mail at prices less than those locally obtainable.

An outstanding example is the mail order sale of brand-name cigarettes to states where local taxes had driven the price to a point where it was profitable for the merchants to absorb the extra costs of the mail order operation and still allow the customer a substantial saving.

A recent Congressional law, the Perkins Act, has challenged this practice by making it possible for the State to collect the tax differential from the customer. The constitutionality of this law is being tested by one of the largest operators. The staple is ideal for an established business already selling such merchandise.

Sales resistance is comparatively easy to overcome if the price is substantially lower than that locally offered. Elaborate promotion material may not be required. An offering of three vacuum-packed cans of a national brand of coffee may be made on a combination postal card, provided a good saving can be promised the customer.

Most of the methods used by local retail merchants to attract business, such as loss leaders, combination sales, etc., are applicable to mail order, but always there must be just a little bit extra to the offer.

Specialties

In this group are many products which are really staples, but because they are most successfully merchandised through mail order (especially by beginners) and in the minds of the buying public have an exclusive character not available elsewhere, they are being discussed separately.

Specialties are products that are either exclusive with the seller or never obtained national retail distribution because the manufacturer lacked the money or the sales organization, or in some cases, where the advertising failed to keep pace with distribution. An example of the latter is the widespread sale of a brand-name home paint sprayer by a specialty mail order company despite the good retail distribution by the manufacturer.

There are many other possibilities to be considered when looking at mail order possibilities, it is merely a case of using what God has given you and finding them.
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