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HOW TO SELL ANYTHING

Distribution: Mother of Invention

A quick look at how a children's T-shirt company found a niche market in resort gift shops.
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When you think you've exhausted all possible avenues of distribution, think again. Divorce -- and a noncompete clause -- led Linda Rubel down a different road. Going head-to-head with the T-shirt company she and her ex-husband had once run together was off-limits for Rubel. So when she started anew, in 1989, she focused on the less crowded kids' market and targeted the travel-and-leisure industry.

Kid-U-Not's colorful T's are now available in the gift shops of such destinations as Yellowstone National Park, Opryland, and Fiesta Texas. Last year the Sanford, Fla., company's sales topped $3 million. "I really like the stores I sell to," says Rubel.

Doing business with the resort crowd is no stroll along the beach, though. Kid-U-Not's development costs are high because each store wants something unique. "What I sell to Sea World I can't sell to Busch Gardens or Universal Studios," Rubel explains. But given the whims of department stores, she prefers the resort channel. "This niche is more stable. There's a better chance for rapport. At the old company," she adds, "I once had seven windows in Macy's, but apparel buyers are too faddish."




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