A complete travel store

elling Samsonite luggage and other travel accessories since 1998 has represented a small windfall for CompuTravel, a Port St. John, Fla., agency which posted nearly $1.4 million in gross sales last year, owner Dave Ivey reported.

When United instituted the international commission caps in 1998, recalled Ivey, "I tried to put myself in my clients' shoes and wondered what it'd be like buying a ticket from my agency.

"I came up with the idea of not just being an agency but a complete travel store -- which is our motto.

"People are coming around to the understanding that we really do fit their every travel need," he said.

It was the commission cuts that opened Ivey's eyes to the true "value of my agency," he said.

According to Ivey, the "profit potential" for selling luggage is much greater than selling air tickets, as the usual markup on luggage is 40% to 50%, compared with a 5% markup on tickets.

"I make $50 on a sale of a $120 piece of luggage vs. a $6 profit on the same sale of an airline ticket. It's a no-brainer."

Last year, CompuTravel rang up more than $5,000 in luggage sales, he said.

Focusing clients' attention on the luggage is not a problem. Ivey positioned sample pieces in a front area of his 1,700-square-foot agency.

Having a client ratio of 70% leisure/30% business has been good for luggage sales, Ivey said, adding that cruise passengers are the big spenders on baggage, with aircraft carry-on pieces among the best-sellers.

In addition to luggage, the agency sells Samsonite travel accessories.

These include travel irons, shoe covers, luggage locks, suitcase straps, money exchange calculators, alarm clocks, neck pillows, pouches, raincoats and document holders.

"I thought about selling books and maps but decided against it because the inventory ages, and I didn't want the worry of having to move inventory," Ivey said.

"We tried disposable cameras, but they didn't sell very well -- too much competition at the local drug store and Wal-Mart."

However, the agency sells foreign currencies and travelers checks, racking up about $10,000 in sales for those two items last year. Ivey said he expects to surpass that figure this year.

Texas-based EZForex supplies both the foreign currency and American Express Travelers Cheques. The profit from each category is about 6%, Ivey said.

CompuTravel also sells Travelguard insurance.

Moreover, Ivey said, EZForex sends the currency and checks directly to his clients, unless they specifically ask the agency to receive it, so safe storage is not a big problem.

-- Henry Magenheim

A case for selling luggage

f you're thinking of adding a luggage line to top off earnings, Dave Ivey, owner of CompuTravel in Port St. John, Fla., who sells baggage and travel accessories out of his agency, has some advice.

To advertise the product, Ivey uses ticket stuffers, runs ads in the local newspaper aimed at people buying gifts for graduating students and uses direct-mail pieces.

But word of mouth is the best form of advertising, he said.

The agency, located on U.S. 1, has an estimated 35,000 motorists driving by it daily. To draw the attention of these potential customers, Ivey uses big banners (at $100 each) to announce his luggage sales.

The banners resemble mini-billboards and provide "more daily exposure than the Yellow Pages and are much cheaper," Ivey said.

"Cruise passengers are perhaps my biggest luggage clientele because they have to pack for seven days or longer, and they always need a new piece of luggage."

Ivey said he selected Samsonite (which owns American Tourister) because "I wanted my agency to be affiliated with quality.

"All our luggage is sold off the floor. If I don't have a particular piece, it takes about three or four days to get it in my office from the Jacksonville (Fla.) storehouse," he said.

The prices of the luggage Ivey sells range from $39.95 for carry-on totes to $189.95 for 36-inch roller bags.

In addition to a floor display, Ivey has devoted a portion of the agency's window display to the luggage.

The agency's three consultants are qualified to sell luggage, and they earn a commission on each sale.

But there are some negatives to luggage sales, according to Ivey. "Sales tax is a slight burden, but it's not bad if you have a good recordkeeping system," Ivey said.

"The only [real] negative is rearranging the office every few weeks so clients get a new view every time they come in."

Selling: More than a numbers game

ou've heard it said: "Selling is a numbers game." Make the calls, make the presentations, work your way through enough people and eventually you will make a sale.

I'm not saying this is totally false, but volume alone does not necessarily produce success.

And even if it does, it's the hard way.

I like to think of sales as a game of darts. By aiming your effort (the dart) at a defined target (your dartboard) your chances of hitting the mark (a sale) are greatly enhanced.

Contrast that mind-set with a pure numbers game, like throwing a handful of marbles up in the air hoping one or two land in a paper cup.

If you want to save time, money and frustration, know who you would like to do business with.

Your chance for success is much greater if you direct your efforts toward a list of defined prospects. This concept is called "targeting."

Targeting in sales involves channeling some effort in the direction of a specific goal (your specified prospects).

Then watch what happens, make an adjustment, and try it again.

Keep on tweaking until you have a method that results in the prospect becoming a client.

Here is a specific sales targeting exercise you can try:

• Make a list of five qualified prospects you have decided you would like to do business with.

• Write down three ways you can improve awareness of your products or services among these prospects.

• Initiate the awareness program and record your results from the first-round attempt.

• Now, make some adjustments to the program and try again (either on the same five prospects or on a new set of five). Record and adjust again. Continue until you are, as the pros say, "in the zone."

• Finally, apply your refined method to a new group of targeted prospects.

Let others waste their time chasing raw numbers. Identify your target and make it your business to go get 'em.

There will be very little luck to your sales campaign.

Mike Marchev is a motivational speaker and author of the sales book "Become the Exception." To receive his free Monday Morning Marketing Messages, e-mail him at [email protected] and include the word "list."

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