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Wing-ding on the Web
SOUTH WHITLEY - Whitley County has become one of the first places people go when planning a party, with the headquarters of Stumps Inc. located in South Whitley.
And with the launch of its latest of seven point-of-sale Web sits last year - Shindigz - it doesn't look as though the parties will be ending soon for the company, which sells party favors and décor and dishes out free event planning.
Last year, 80 percent of all high schools nationwide bought prom supplies from Stumps Inc., said Wendy Moyle, co-owner of Stumps Inc. Schools make up about a third of Stumps' customer base.
Stumps reaped success from Shindigz during its debut year. The company met its 1999 sales goal for Shindigz during the first week of September , about three months earlier than its target of December 31, 1999, Moyle said. As a privately held company, Stumps does not release specific sales figures.
However, Moyle said, the company is hoping to see a 300 percent sales growth by the end of 2000 compared to last year's Shindigz figures.
An ambitious goal? Perhaps.
But it is based on the fact that the entire company has experienced a 500 percent sales growth in total sales over the last 10 years, according to Moyle. She also said the Shindigz division is well on the path to meeting the goal for 2000.
That's not surprising, given Stumps' name recognition and the good economy the nation is experiencing, said James Lowry, a retail expert from Ball State University.
"People have more discretionary funds, and they're using it for fun things like parties," Lowry said. "The Internet gives people a worldwide resource, and people and people are using it a lot."
Moyle said Stumps' on-line endeavors have been profitable because they don't have to dump dollars into the high-priced realm of on-line advertising.
"The company has been building its reputation for about 75 years. Plus, we have everything else in place: distribution systems, call centers, manufacturing centers, everything," Moyle said. "Most other dot.coms are starting from scratch." However, Moyle said Stumps offers profit-sharing and other bonus programs for Stumps employees. Last year, the company paid $264,000 in employee profit sharing and bonus programs, she added.
"I'm a wife and mother with three children. Plus I do volunteer work," Moyle said. "It was late one night, and it had occurred to me that someone could be planning an event like this on-line. Shindigz is targeted more toward the individual, someone who doesn't have time to go to four different stores and shop around."
All of Stumps' Web sites have had about 250 million hits so far, with about 10,000 visitors daily.
Stumps has competition on-line. The competition includes iparty.com and birthday.com.
"People celebrate about 24 different events a year, birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, picnics, work- and school-related events," Moyle said.
The company offers free advice to consumers regarding party planning and décor via the telephone and on-line at each of the company's seven Web sites.
A nickel's worth
Stumps Inc. had its humble beginnings in 1926, when Hubert Stumps started the business as Stumps Printing Co., doing commercial printing and local newspaper publishing.
According to a local legend, Hubert Stumps put his last nickel in the church collection plate and later developed the concept of a prom memory booklet for juniors and seniors. The booklet was successful, and Hubert Stumps started producing other printed materials for schools, such as lunch tickets, menus, athletic schedules and award certificates.
He added crepe streamers and balloons to his product line in the 1940s.
His first large area party theme kit was titled "Evening in Paris."
Hubert Stumps died in 1949, and his widow, D'Maris, ran the company for eight years before selling it to Hamilton "Ham" Green.
Wendy Moyle's inlaws, Paul and Mary Moyle, eventually purchased the company from Green.
Paul and Mary Moyle expanded the product line further with various prom and party favors and décor while maintaining the existing school products.
When Paul Moyle retired in 1990, Wendy and her husband Shep, left their jobs with Frito-Lay in Dallas and bought the business.
There are few, if any party favor and décor businesses that have as many different segments as Stumps. But Stumps has competition from specialized companies. For example Stumps vies with Anderson of White Bear Lake, Minn., for the prom and homecoming business.
New ways, old values
There has been speculation about whether doing business on-line will be the only form of commerce transaction.
Speaking for her family's company, Wendy Moyle said that won't happen, and doesn't see it happening in other areas of business.
"By 2003, about 6 percent of all sales will be done on-line," Moyle said, quoting a prediction from Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft. "At Stumps, we're already meeting that at about 5 percent for all divisions.
"Still, it's worth having an online site," Moyle added. "That's the direction the whole world is going in. And we're in the dinosaur stages of that."
Retail expert Lowry predicts businesspeople, like Moyle, will maintain both physical buildings as places of business and on-line sits as points of sale.
"The brick-and-mortar will unite with the dot-coms," Lowry said.
"One will not outdo the other. People like looking each other in the eye when doing business. But they also like the ease of doing it on-line."