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Olives have been used throughout the ages as a natural beautifier: a symbol of strength and longevity, olives have anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidizing and regenerative properties. Which means consumers by now understand the healthy benefits of cooking with olive oil or rubbing it onto their skin, but how about drinking the stuff to further improve health and beauty from within? Yuck? Just take a look at the proliferation of ‘beauty’ drinks containing aloe vera, amino acids and biotin, and suddenly South African H2Olive (owned by South African Languedoc) doesn’t seem to be that far fetched. H2Olive is said to be the first drinkable olive-based beverage for ‘inner and outer beauty’, with raw materials coming from the company’s own mineral water source and olive farm. The drink combines cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and olive leaf extracts, with an olive oil content of 12%, and comes in four flavours: a straight olive oil and water blend, a rooibos tea drink with a hint of wood, a lychee and pomegranate combination, and a white wine twister that has an alcohol content of 4.8%. Worth emailing them to see if they need any distributors in your country of residence? Cheers! What’s better than confetti? Personalized confetti, of course! Enter Confoti, who sell confetti and stickers that consumers can customize with their own photos. The process is straightforward: customers use the Confoti website to upload their photos, choose their accent colors, and crop each photo the way they want it to appear on the confetti. 3,200 pieces of confetti, using 1-30 photos, cost USD 19.95 (EUR 16.25 / GBP 11.20) while 48 customized photo stickers sell for USD 6.95. Manufacturing and delivery takes anywhere from one to twenty days depending on shipping options. Founded in 2001, Confoti now seems well positioned to reap the benefits of a fully online, fully digital, fully GRAVANITY obsessed world: the market for photo-customized products is worth USD 450 million in the US alone. Not to mention the USD 30 billion corporate promotional and gifting market, and the emerging international vanity postage market, which is forecast to reach USD 20 – 40B in sales. Confoti has established partnerships with Kodak, 1800Flowers and The Wedding Channel, while corporate clients include Anheuser Busch, HBO, Veuve Clicquot, NBC, Disney and Stanford University. Confoti is headquartered in San Jose, California. (Sources: Laurent Edel, Wisconsin Technology Network.)

Opportunities

Want to get involved? Confoti is nearing profitability and is actively looking for more affiliates, distributors (think event and party planners) and large volume resellers. Or talk to the company about licensing their technology. Bigger lesson to be learned: there is NOTHING that eventually will NOT be personalized! From Down Under with sweet love: Suga Candy Kitchen in Melbourne and Sticky in Sydney take the candy experience economy to the next level by turning rock candy into a personalized, name-embedded feast for the eyes and stomach. Candy is hand-made on the premises (a serious case of retail-theater), with crowds forming in front of the shop windows. The experience continues inside the store: customers can try out the various sweets, or partake in candy making contests, enticing GENERATION C and CUSTOMER MADE enthusiasts to not only become part of the experience, but also to co-create it. Special events (birthdays, weddings and the like) are also being addressed: customers can choose their own colors, flavours and message. Corporate clients, which include Kylie Minogue, Ralph Lauren, Toyota, MTV, Optus, Westpac and Revlon, can purchase a bag of 10 kg customized rock candy for AUD 30 (USD 23.90 / EUR 18.75 / GBP 12.90). Capitalizing on the powerful combination of entertainment, high quality and niche focus, Suga Candy now has 6 shops in the Melbourne urban area, while Sticky has two shops in Sydney: one in The Rocks, and one on Bondi Junction. What’s next? Well, the owners of Suga Candy have already expanded into chocolate: Melbourne based Koko Black, featuring Belgian chocolatiers doing their thing in full view. How about cookies? Licorice? Ice creams?

Opportunities

In a world of global blanding and a Sea of Retail Sameness, every marketer should spend a day at a Sticky or Suga Candy or Koko Black store, to shake off the belief that commoditization is now a given. Creating a sticky audience is still possible, healthy margins included. (Koko’s chocs retail for AUD 89 a kilogram, and Sticky’s rock candy demands a pleasant premium, too.) Sweet! Spotted by: Kelly Spinks Another sticky retail-experience, this one not brand-new, but now slated for mass expansion: Dutch Oil & Vinegar, a culinary Mediterranean gift/lifestyle shop, selling everything from more than 25 varieties of olive oil to numerous kinds of vinegar, dressings, olives, dried tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, pesto, herbs and spices, and so on. The experience part? Besides the distinctive SNOBMODDITIES appeal, consumers can sample and taste the goodies, have their own oil and vinegar containers (re-)filled at Oil & Vinegar, and get expert advice while meandering through the store. Sure, a variety of small shops around the world occupy this same space, but Oil & Vinegar is the first one to succeed in building the concept into a true brand, without losing the magic normally associated with small niche players. Witness franchisees lining up to spread the pressed virgin olive gospel: the company now has over 100 stores in 11 countries: Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the US. As almost half of these shops are concentrated in the Benelux countries, there is still plenty of opportunity in major markets around the world. Next up is the US: after a recent investment into the company by Hampstead Holding, Oil & Vinegar now plans to open up 124 new stores in the States in the next few years. Franchisees, on your marks!

Opportunities

As with the aforementioned Sticky and Suga Candy concepts, Oil & Vinegar successfully ups the ante for standard formula-driven retail outlets. Closely following food trends, and offering the niche approach of specialty stores (25 kinds of olive oil) while profiting from the economies of scale and scope only a global entity can achieve, Oil & Vinegar is doing something right. If you’re in the US: they’re going to need a lot of entrepreneurial franchisees. And if you’re in a market with a tiny Oil & Vinegar presence (or no presence at all): this is your chance to set up a competing chain or join forces. For those of you working for a retail or B2C company that’s currently stuck in the middle (and if you are, you know what we mean!), why not hang out for a morning in an Oil & Vinegar store near your office? Don’t forget to take notes! With a name like Sparschwein, it has to be good! Indeed, Munich-based Sparschwein (German for piggy bank), is a new direct seller venture encouraging Germans to go on a domestic treasure hunt, exploring their basements, attics, cabinets, and garages for valuable items, especially fashion accessories, antiques, baby products, computers, electronics, cameras, domestic and garden appliances, design furniture, and certain financial contracts. Unearthed items will then be sold by one of 1,000 Sparschwein agents who will later this year go door to door in German cities and villages to collect the items, and sell them on eBay and other auction sites on behalf of the owner. The proceeds (minus a finder’s and handling fee*) will go straight into a newly opened savings account. Sparschwein cooperates with the Deutsche Kredit Bank, a daughter of the Bavarian Landesbank, offering up to 2.35 percent interest on an account. Hence Sparschwein’s compelling claim to be world’s first financial institution that allows people to build up savings without money. The agents will also advise the owner on how to make the most of this money for specific goals (like a new car, a holiday, education, etc). Through S-broker, a German discount broker, proceeds can also be invested in securities, or be exchanged for coupons and discounts, as a host of B2C companies have teamed up with Schwarschwein to even serve consumers with an aversion to piggybanks. * If an auction raises less than EUR 200 (USD 266 / GBP 143), Sparschwein charges a EUR 10 commission plus 20 percent of the selling price, capped at EUR 20. For more substantial auctions, the maximum fee is EUR 500.

Opportunities

An interesting twist on drop-off stores, what Sparschwein really sells is the cashless realization of consumer dreams. It’s also yet another new FEEDER BUSINESS for sites like eBay, and would do well in virtually every mature consumer society. Who’s going to start up the next Spaarvarken, Tirelire or Piggy Bank Inc? When did the luxury-for-all craze really start? According to the Saison Research Institute of Japan, a whopping 94.3 percent of Japanese women in their 20s own Louis Vuitton goods and 92.2 percent of them own a Gucci product. Numbers for the US and the EU may be somewhat lower, but there too millions of consumers crave the latest luxury brand shoes, skirts and bags. The ‘problem’: most women can’t afford to own a large collection of all these pricey wares, let alone keep up with the new fashion styles that are introduced each season. To the rescue comes Bag Borrow Or Steal, an online based membership program that offers a broad selection of original designer handbags and other contemporary fashion handbags, for their members to ‘Borrow’. They also offer a purchase option that they call ‘Steal’. Members can borrow bags for as long as they want; when they are ready for something new, they return the bag and borrow the next one. Fashionistas are thus guaranteed that they’ll always be carrying the ‘must-have’ handbag. How do they make money? Bag Borrow or Steal’s business model resembles that of Netflix: customers can sign up for three different membership levels, with a minimum three-month commitment: Trendsetter, starting at a monthly USD 19.95 (EUR 16.25/GBP 11.20), Princess, and Diva, as well as 3 deluxe levels of membership (Trendsetter Deluxe, Princess Deluxe, and Diva Deluxe, the latter costing USD 149.95 per month). Deluxe memberships allow members to borrow 2 bags at once. There is no time limit on ‘borrowing’ needs: bags can be kept for as long as members want. There is a USD 9.95 round trip ticket charge each time a member ‘borrows’ a bag. Springwise thinks Bag Borrow or Steal makes total sense: with status anxiety-driven consumers depending on luxury more than ever before, we expect to see more and more new-style rental and shared ownership services, making strictly UBER PREMIUM goods available by limiting the actual usage time. From renting a Segway for a month to a Mercedes CLS for a day to De Beers diamonds for an hour, the luxury rental concept can be applied to virtually every business segment. More beauty-based ideas, of the Metrosexual kind no less (ah — how 2004), as male beautification continues its waxed & plucked victory march. Male grooming salons and spas are seeing brisk business (as Springwise reported before). Men now make up 29 percent of all spa goers, according to the International Spa Association, while many European spas even report that men comprise 50% or more of their business. Here’s a telling update (and hopefully a source of inspiration) of some recent salon/spas/barber spottings in this field: The Dandy House Men’s Beauty Day Spa is a Japanese chain offering everything from eyebrow trimming to body hair removal to weight-loss programs. Dandy House plans to expand from its current 54 salons to 100 by 2010. (Source: The Star.) JOQ Day Spa for Men is an Atlanta day spa designed and devoted exclusively to men, offering manicures, pedicures, facials, body wraps, massage, microdermabrasion, waxing and tinting. Nickel, the French male cosmetics brand, is now big in spas, too: Nickel Spas for Men have several treatment rooms, manicure and pedicure stations and a lounge area. The design and decoration of the spas makes them ‘very masculine and yet sophisticated environments’. There are spas in Paris, in New York and in San Francisco. G.room is a “cool retail space where men can feel comfortable and consider their total appearance, in a no-nonsense masculine environment”. The store can be found on London’s Carnaby Street. Three more stores will be opened by 2006. http://www.sharpsusa.com/ (more…)