Small Wonders

The Beauty Of Kiosks

Substantially less expensive to open and operate than a traditional store, kiosks can cost as little as 20 percent of the amount it would take to open the same business in a traditional setting, says Ray J. Margiano, CEO of Heel Quik! Inc. in Marietta, Georgia, which has more than 700 units in 28 countries, including 111 express locations.

The amount of money you save by opening a kiosk can be great, agrees David Rosenberg, chair and CEO of Candy Express has 40 stores in operation or under development in the United States and is currently test-marketing the kiosk concept. "For one of our 1,000 square-foot stores, it costs $175,000 to $200,000 to open a franchise," he says. "A kiosk costs half that."

Overhead is low in the small space of a kiosk, and they're much cheaper to build than brick-and-mortar structures. "Cost-wise, there's no comparison between a store and a kiosk," says Morris. "You can buy a decent kiosk for as little as $3,000."

The start-up costs may be low, but the possibility of returns is high. A successful kiosk can be much more profitable per-square-foot than a traditional retail store, says Gin Clausen, owner of a Coffee Beanery Ltd. franchise kiosk in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "The kiosk space overhead is substantially lower, and you have the potential of doing a lot of business," says Clausen, 49, who has projected 1999 sales of $300,000 for her kiosk.

Another advantage of owning a kiosk is, if you aren't making high enough returns on your investment, you can pick up and move to a better location. You can even own multiple kiosks in the same location or use a kiosk to support an existing store. Clausen, for instance, also owns a full-size Coffee Beanery shop at the Woodland Mall and her kiosk sits just 200 feet from it. "Having the kiosk so close to the shop has been a real success," says Clausen. Her store is on a corner and her kiosk is in the mall's center court, so her business gets exposure from two high-traffic areas, which generates further business. Clausen also finds kiosk work refreshing after spending years inside stores. "The walls in a store get confining," she says. "The openness of the kiosk is a wonderful change. It's exciting because you're in the limelight. People react to you differently. They want to chat and socialize, and there's more repeat business."

Kiosk work may be fun, but it's imperative to stay on your best behavior at all times, says Clausen. "There's no back office to slip into, and people expect you to know everything, including where the [mall's nearest] bathrooms are," she says. "It's important that you and your staff be extra friendly and extremely customer service-oriented."

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