Seasonal strategies: Bacon-flavored lip balm? Just another novelty stocking stuffer at Ypsilanti's The Rocket
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
“The popular things have been bacon items,” he says, things like bacon soap, a bacon board game similar to Candy Land, bacon-flavored dental floss and lip balm and a bacon belt. “You can even wrap yourself up in it if you like.”
Balcom and partner Eli Morrissey are getting ready for what they hope is a busy holiday shopping season. They even ask a reporter to schedule an interview early in the morning to keep the phone lines free during store hours.
They hope to continue last year’s campaign of calling themselves the “stocking-stuffer capital of Ypsilanti.”
“We’re hoping to equal last year or possibly do a little bit better” in holiday-season sales, Balcom said. “We definitely are stocked.
“The Christmas season for a store like ours definitely is last-minute. With the design of the store, we have a lot of small items. A lot of people do their major shopping first and come to us for stocking-stuffers and other things that maybe they’ve seen.”
Those items include other must-haves like Muppets or Hello Kitty key caps, Gin-and-TitonicÂ (as in Titanic-shape) and Ice InvadersÂ (think the old Space Invaders video game) ice-cube trays, and wasabi- and absinthe-flavored lip balm.Â
The store also stocks zombie brain gelatin molds and cowboy throw rugs, plus more than 300 types of candy for those who simply can’t decide on anything else.
Balcom, who formerly worked in merchandise presentation for Hudson’s and Marshall Field’s, said the store offers a bevy of 25-cent and 50-cent novelties and $1 items to try and drum up sales.
“Like for most people, it’s tough,” he said. “You do what you can do.
“A lot of your year’s business does depend on the holiday season as people do have a reason to shop, although some of the minor holidays and birthdays do help. Our responses to that are to try to get a lot of affordable items.”
While most loyal customers hail from Ypsilanti, Balcom acknowledges it can be tough operating a retail store in the city. Most traffic volume comes from outside the city limits.
“We feel that people should be using things from inside their community and using local,” he said. “The whole city of Ypsilanti struggles with that, it’s not just us.”
â€¢ Contact Sven Gustafson at sventg123 (at) gmail (dot) com, or follow him at twitter.com/sveng.