Retail Kiosks - Retailing Storefront Alternatives

Empty retail kiosk in a mall with a sign that says, "Make this your business."

 Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Mall or retail kiosks are a popular storefront alternative for retailers looking for a temporary, or inexpensive, location with high foot traffic. These small carts can be found in malls, airports, large sporting events or even other retail stores. And with the advent of mobile POS systems, it has never been easier. 

In many cases, the entire retail store is simply a kiosk. In others, the kiosk is an extension of the main store and serves as a brand ambassador as well as selling space. While small in size, kiosks can produce large volumes. On one retail project I worked, we put kiosks inside malls and had some of those locations do over $1,000,000 per year - now that is some $/square foot numbers to get excited about. 

The temporary nature of mall carts and kiosks may attract a retailer looking to test the market before committing to a permanent storefront. I have used this stager with some of my retail clients over the years. It works great since you can sign a short term lease and see if the location (geography) is right for you. Spending a few thousand dollars on a test like this can save you a ton of money compared to trying to exit a lease for a storefront (not to mention the costs to build the store you have to eat as well.) 

Stocking a small retail cart with the product is much more affordable than trying to fill a 2000 square foot building. Many kiosks are franchised through a larger retailer and may be a perfect solution for entrepreneurs wanting the support and expertise of a parent company. I am amazed at the number of people opening retail stores who have no retail experience - they simply want to own their own business and be their own boss. While this is a good goal indeed, retail is much harder than people realize. Working through a franchised opportunity may get you the training and equipping you with the need to get started. While it's not your unique name over the door, the risk is much less. 

Possibly the best advantage of this type of retail location is the ability to capture more shoppers and therefore, more impulse sales. Impulse is the name of the game for kiosks. You can advertise your business, but it's very hard when it's a kiosk. Most of your sales are people who "happen" by your location. So, you better staff your kiosks with strong salespeople and not clerks. 

It's not all positive with kiosks. With rents ranging from $5000 to $30,000 per month during the holiday season, some mall kiosk locations may be out of budget for a new retail business. Plus, consider the products you are selling. Selling products that do not appeal to the average mall shopper would make a kiosk a bad choice for a storefront alternative. The same is true for any kiosk. If it's in an airport full of "busy" people, products that take a long time to explain are a bad idea.

The bottom line on kiosks is that people do not have the time or attention span for you to be successful. You may love your product, but if it cannot be explained in 30 seconds, then you have little chance of success in a kiosk. Make sure your products fit that window. This means that it takes a skilled sales employee and not a distracted high school student.