3rd Annual Million-Dollar Ideas

Dolls, T-shirts, cell-phone deals, weight-loss plans, calendars, toy helicopters that whirl into the sky, rings, watches, bracelets, baseball caps and bonsai trees. Kiosks sell it all. And you could be earning it all. Also known as booths or shopping carts, kiosks located in shopping malls or outdoor shopping districts provide a potential gold mine for both established entrepreneurs and up-and-comers trying to gain a retail foothold.

Specialty retail, including kiosks and temporary in-line stores, is a $10 billion business, according to Patricia Norins, publisher of trade magazine Specialty Retail Report. "It's definitely still on the upswing," says Norins. "A lot of malls are clearing out planters and benches and making room for kiosk operators, recognizing the real benefits to consumers and to their own bottom line."

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Visit Specialty Retail Report online at www.specialtyretail.com.

"It's a very strong business," concurs Kathleen Ruesche, director of specialty leasing and sales at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. A single kiosk can bring in as much as $200,000 annually, and many kiosk owners own more than one. During the off-season, a kiosk entrepreneur might pay $500 to $2,500 to lease space; some malls also collect a percentage of sales. Prices between October and January in Mall of America-size malls could run as high as $10,000 a month.

Most operators think the benefits outweigh these costs. One perk: You don't have to keep your store open year-round-you can reap profits during busy months and shut down during slow ones. Kiosks also offer great exposure. "People are likely to practically trip over your store," says Ruesche. But one warning: Don't create an atmosphere that encourages loitering and looky-loos. The highest-performing kiosk retailers, says Ruesche, are those who provide "impulse buys." --Geoff Williams

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This article was originally published in the January 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: 3rd Annual Million-Dollar Ideas.

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