How to Start a Mall Kiosk

Whether it's point of sale or location, there are many things to consider when starting a mall kiosk.
Mall kiosks allow for a wide variety of where to sell your product. (Photo: Mike Mozart/Flickr)

How many times have you walked through a mall and noticed a kiosk selling sunglasses, cell phone cases or other various items? Have you ever thought about starting a mall kiosk and running it yourself? Clear-­Coat is one of the largest mall kiosk retailers with more than 100 mall kiosks spanning 19 countries. Eric Griffin co­-founded the company in 2007, and he said everything begins with the initial choice of your product offerings. “Start by finding the kind of products you’d like to sell at your kiosk – ideally something that you really enjoy selling,” he said. “Mall kiosks are typically placed in high foot­-traffic areas and thrive on impulse purchases, so there is a certain criteria in choosing the right product: mass appeal, impulse price and high margins.” What else should you know before starting a mall kiosk? Let’s take a look.

1. Research, research, research
There’s a wide array of options for what to sell and where to sell it, but it’s not as easy as choosing what you want to sell; it’s about what you should sell. Determining that takes careful research. Also, what does the lease cost? What does the lease mean in terms of needed monthly sales? What kind of point of sale service will you use? Surely you’re not going to be cash only, for example, so choosing a mobile option (say, an iPad point of sale system?) might be a smart choice. “Many POS systems now integrate with loyalty programs, referral systems and reviews, which are easy to set up,” Griffin said.

2. Location is key in any business, but you need to choose one that fits your clientele
“We’ve walked around malls where there’s tons of foot traffic, but it turns out they’re all just walking through the mall to get to the train station on the other side,” Griffin said. “You need to really determine who’s in that mall, and why, and make sure these facts line up with your business.” By doing front-­end location scouting, you can save yourself from having to play catch-­up later – or worse, setting yourself up to fail.

3. Come up with a business plan
Yes, a mall kiosk is smaller in scale than a full-­fledged brick­-and­-mortar store. That doesn’t mean you can skimp on tried­-and-­true business practices like crafting a winning business plan. “This may seem like a tedious process, and many future kiosk owners try to skip this step, but it comes with tremendous benefits,” said Griffin. “Trust us, no one ever regretted writing one.”

4. Don’t forget about the red tape
What permits and licenses are needed to operate your kiosk? They differ from state to state and city to city, so make sure you’re on top of everything needed. It could be potentially devastating to have to close suddenly if all permits and licenses aren’t in order. “No matter what, having good general liability and commercial insurance is a good idea, and many malls require it,” Griffin said.

5. Devise a small business marketing plan to attract customers
One of the perks of a mall kiosk is you don’t need to market too much, as mall foot traffic is your primary driver of customers. But don’t neglect the importance of signage. Create signs that are vibrant, informative and get what your kiosk is about, and many turnkey mall kiosk operations include signage in the package. “It’s always a good idea to keep a customer database to send out occasional newsletters and give your customers incentives to come back,” added Griffin.

6. Have proper funding! Remember No. 3 above?
This is where your business plan will come in handy. A good business plan helps ease the mind of potential lenders, opening up more lines of credit to your business, which helps with bringing on staff as well as ensuring you have the capital needed to stock your shelves. “Don’t forget that most malls require upfront first month, last month and one additional month of rent for security deposit,” Griffin said. “So, a good rule of thumb is $25,000­$50,000 should be available in liquid assets to get things started.”

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