Kiosks Add Spice To Holiday Shopping

By Abe Hardesty
Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Some entrepreneurs see mall kiosks as a relatively inexpensive way to operate a retail store, especially during the holiday season.

Anderson Independent Mail, S.C.

To Christmas shoppers, those kiosks in the middle of mall hallways offer an extra dose of seasonal energy.

For mall operators, they provide what Anderson Mall Marketing Director Christie Eller calls “another dimension to our eclectic retail mix,” one that gives shoppers more options under one roof.

For those who pour two months of 12-hour workdays into the Christmas season, they represent genuine entrepreneurial spirit.

For Tina Flaherty, who operates one kiosk year-round at the Anderson Mall and two others during the Christmas season, the mini-stores are also a classroom of sorts for her teenage boys.

“They already have the entrepreneurial spirit,” she said of sons Liam, 17, and Evan, 13. “Liam is already on the payroll; when he needs some money, he asks about working some hours at the kiosk. This truly is a family business.”

Flaherty and husband Chuck, who mans the Cellairis kiosk at the Haywood Mall in Greenville, are lifelong entrepreneurs who see kiosks as a relatively inexpensive way to operate a retail store.

“In retail, you have to work hard, and hopefully you make ends meet and maybe turn a profit,” she said Friday from the middle of Anderson Mall, where her three kiosks are among 10 this season in the hallway near the Food Court. “Working in retail definitely shows children that you have to work hard for what you want, that you have to try something new now and then, and sometimes you have to take a risk to make a living. It teaches a lot.”

The Cellairis kiosk, which the Flahertys opened in December 2014, is a year-round fixture at both malls. It offers cases and accessories for cellphones and tablets in addition to on-site device repair. This Christmas season, for the first time, the family added a 100-square-foot Christmas ornament kiosk and a large, hard-to-squeeze-into-the-hallway Go! Calendars and Games kiosk which covers about 325 square feet.

The kiosks are open any time the mall is open — which is more than 12 hours a day during the Christmas shopping season — which means long workdays for Flaherty and her staff of seven. “I think I’ll be glad when December is over,” Tina Flaherty said, referring to a month well-stocked with long workdays.

She’s also glad she added the two seasonal kiosks, which fit nicely into the 60-day lease which many kiosks use. In the first five weeks of the season, both have generated more sales than she expected.

“The ornaments have done well. We didn’t know what to expect, because it’s the first time for that here in the mall. And the calendars and games sales are up 37 percent over what they were in a different location (and different operator) at the mall two years ago,” Flaherty said.

The Go! Calendars and Games store, which offers board games, puzzles, calendars, magnets and card games, is the largest of Flaherty’s three operations. It took a full week to build, at a time Flaherty was skeptical.

“We decided to try the games and calendars because there was nothing else like that in the mall,” Flaherty said. “I didn’t think calendars would sell because people have calendars in their cell phones. I’m surprised at how many people still want the calendar they can put on the wall and mark doctor’s appointments and family events.”

Some of the toys have also brought surprises. “One of the toys was a Rubik’s Cube. When I saw that, I thought it was an ’80s thing that wouldn’t sell now,” she said, “but they did.”

Down the hallway, closer to Santa, Royal Toys operator Ozkam Bozroy enjoys December days with plenty of time to play with toys. His kiosk features high-end toys such as drones and remote-control helicopters, which he demonstrates throughout the day.

“Everybody is happy when they get to play with toys,” said Bozroy, who has worked two Christmas seasons at the mall and a dozen with the company overall. “We’re in a good spot, close to Santa. For me, a kiosk is better than being in one of the side (inline) stores.”

Bozroy, of Anderson, plans to maintain the kiosk location in January, but switch his product line from toys to sun glasses.

Down the hallway, Christmas shoppers will find a familiar store in kiosk from — Hickory Farms, a 65-year-old national retail entity which once operated inline stores year-round but made the switch to seasonal kiosks more than a decade ago. It now operates seasonal stores in 650 locations in North America.

“The product is familiar. We have customers who came every season and say, ‘We were waiting for you — it’s Christmas now,'” said Cayce Morrow, a co-manager at a kiosk that operates for the last two months of the year.

“it’s a terrific seasonal job,” the Anderson resident said of the kiosk, which is owned by a North Carolina couple. “It’s a a great way to earn some extra Christmas money. And by dividing the time with another manager (Angie Ocampo), it’s enjoyable for both of us.”

Ray Hertgen, an analyst with California-based, said kiosks “are an emerging strategy in retail,” one that appeals to entrepreneurs because initial costs are a fraction of those incurred by a business that leases and stocks a permanent location.

The smaller investment is critical, he said, at a time when traditional stores are feeling competition from online retailers.

“The retail industry is pretty unanimous in its feeling that the United States is ‘over-stored.’ The U.S. simply has too much retail square footage for today’s new retail reality,” Hertgen said. “The result is, many established brands are closing storefronts or ‘rightsizing’ into smaller footprints.

“Physical stores can be expensive, not just in regards to long-term leases, but also with inventories and outfitting spaces with fixtures to create the brand’s desired look and feel,” he said. “Pop-ups and kiosks offer an alternative, and are a great way for brands to experiment with the physical retail channel. The temporary nature of both eliminate the need for long-term leases, and kiosks, in particular, are so small as to require relatively little inventory investment.”

There are downsides, Hertgen said. Because they are in high-traffic areas, kiosks are expensive in terms of rental per square foot. And they often require more proactive effort by the operator.

“To capture and keep shoppers’ attention, a kiosk retailer must be able to fully explain its product and its value in 10-20 seconds, and it helps if that can be done non-verbally. If not, a shopper is well past the kiosk and on with her shopping journey,” Hertgen said.

“As brands experiment with the right sized physical footprint for their businesses, I see kiosks as a very viable platform,” Hertgen said, “particularly with fast-moving consumer goods, food and beverage, fashion accessories and services.”

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