LAS VEGAS — For those who may still harbor lingering illusions or doubts that bulk vending isn’t an international business, meet Jessica Gasperoni. A new exhibitor at the National Bulk Vendors Assocation trade show, Gasperoni and her line of premium licensed products garnered the attention of both American and international operators. Even as American suppliers and manufacturers continue to expand into Europe with merchandise and machines, Gasperoni is heading in the opposite direction by bringing her European style of vendible products and equipment to the U.S. through her company, Cool Things, a division of International Games Trade.
“My company, IGT, is in the entertainment business and we have different branches,” Gasperoni said. “We import and export videogames, amusement machines, cranes, vending machines and bulk vending capsuled toys, toys for vending machines and prizes for arcades. The Cool Things division became so popular that I started to sell to chain stores like Wal-Mart and Metro in Europe.”
Based in The Republic of San Marino, a microstate in central Italy, the Cool Things division markets bulk vendible toys, toy fashion accessories and even clothing accessories created exclusively for the company with production overseen by its Hong Kong office. Distribution of Cool Things is worldwide, with the company selling both directly and through a distributor network. In North America, for instance, Allstar Vending distributes the Cool Things product line.
At present time, Cool Things offers bulk vendible products for 5-cm. (2-in.), 6.5-cm. (2.6-in.) and 10-cm. (3.9-in.) capsules. And, as Gasperoni is quick to point out, the firm’s product offerings are typically high-profile licenses with global recognition. According to Gasperoni, quality is the key to success when it comes to bulk vending regardless of whether the product is being sold in Europe or the U.S. Her Cool Things encapsulated products, for instance, are all hand-painted and unique. “I think I found a little space for my toys because they are trendy and original,” she said. “I see a lot of the toys that are sold the capsules in America that just seem very cheap, not very well done, not detailed and not trendy. If I like something that is already made, I review it and may change the look. It has to look special, it has to look cool. I’m breaking into the American market with my capsuled toys under the same philosophy.”
Interestingly, she sees little difference in the basic tastes of young people in Europe and America when it comes to products. “The styles are the same all over the world, so I get worldwide licenses,” she said. “Because of TV and the Internet, what is a trend in Japan, after two days, will be all over the world. And if the trend is in America, everyone would love to have that same item internationally.”
This is a key strategy. With the cost of recognizable worldwide licenses increasing, global distribution allows for larger production runs and lower per-item costs. “When you design it and create it, you need to go into production for very large quantities. That’s what I do,” she explained. “You need to sell worldwide because you have to get down to a very low price point.”
Her latest item to hit bulk vending in the U.S. is the Tweety collection distributed by Allstar Vending. Based on the iconic Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoon character Tweety Bird, the line of cell-phone danglers has taken off. “Tweety is a little bird that everybody knows. It’s everywhere in the world,” she said. “Looney Tunes are cartoons you grew up with. Tweety represents a sweet bird, and if you were a parent you would like your child watching this kind of cartoon. I’m bringing out Tweety Dressables – Tweety dressed up in different ways – and I’m bringing out Baby Looney Tunes.”
However, as Gasperoni explained, there are advantages to selling in Europe and Canada, as opposed to the U.S. Not only is the vend price point typically higher, with merchandise that vends for $1 in the U.S. selling for the equivalent of $1.30 or more via a single euro coin, but the coinage also opens the door for more innovative products in larger capsule sizes.
One example of this innovation is the company’s offerings of larger items with higher perceived values, such as fashion accessories. “This summer, I’m bringing out bandanas with super-cool tattoos; I wanted to match the bandana with the tattoo,” she said. “Then, in the same collection, I’m making beach bags that look more like a backpack for large capsules. Patrons can get a beach bag and a bandana that match, but have to keep spending money to get the matching pair.”
In addition to showing off her line of licensed products at the recent NBVA show, Gasperoni gave operators their first look at her company’s new machine. A dual-head vender, the sturdy steel unit can hold as many as 150 2-in. capsules and 100 2.6-in. capsules. “In Europe, the plastic capsule machines in this style are well known, but the ones I’ve brought to the U.S. are steel because of market requests,” she said. “They’re all mechanical, don’t need electricity and have a back door for easy servicing.”
As far as her debut at the NBVA show, Gasperoni rated it a success. “The operators appreciated the creative things I brought to this show. I had a lot of success because Americans, especially the operators, appreciated this new product style.”