You’ve no doubt seen them in malls: Carts and kiosks filling the crowded aisles, selling everything from phone service to silver jewelry. It’s good business for the vendors and it’s extra revenue for the malls. At one time, people were used to seeing these temporary outlets only during holiday seasons, filled exclusively with holiday gifts. These days, anything goes. Helped by the rapid proliferation of large-scale outdoor malls, starting smaller versions of your concept is a cost-efficient and smart way to expand your chain.
Besides malls, other venues for placing “pop-up” versions of your store are airports, sporting events (large and small), county fairs, swap meets, and whatever your imagination can think of. How about going mobile? Take a minivan or utility vehicle on the road to sell your scaled-down concept. Pet washing services do it, why not your business? More ideas: How about rotating retail? Set up shop in a seasonal storefront location like a Halloween and Christmas store.
If you’re not sure about a location, this is a great way to test out an area to see if your concept would hold. Before entering into a costly lease agreement for a storefront, create a buzz first with a cart or kiosk and then make your decision. Also, if you’re an online store, consider these pop-up options for expanding. Let the customer get a taste of your business at the cart or kiosk and then point them online for more.
In any venue, your first step is to contact the specialty tenant leasing coordinator. They’ll have all the information you’ll need such as space availability, signage requirements, kiosk size and design criteria, and more. Make sure you ask how they determine charges, such as base rent plus a percentage of sales. You’ll need to make an appointment so you can describe your products or service. Like everything, there’s no lack of competition for space, so you’ll need to convince the director why you think your concept will make money. Present your plan and evidence of success from your current business.
Before you go out and buy a kiosk or cart to house your business, check with the mall/event coordinator. They may have them for rent, or they may contract with a cart vendor and get you a deal.
If you decide to go mobile with a cart at events, make sure you contact the event coordinator for any permits and costs to park and sell your wares. Most likely they will have an idea of whether a concept like yours works well with their event or not.
When it comes time to hire for your cart or mobile business, you may need to hire a different kind of employee than you have in your storefront. For starters, in your current location, it’s likely customers come in knowing what they need and what you do. Luring in walk-by traffic is more of a salesperson’s job, so look for people with outgoing personalities who can attract customers and get them curious about what’s for sale. Chances are your location will be close to other carts and kiosks with those employees also trying to attract customers, so your staff needs to be enthusiastic. You’ll also need to make sure you have coverage for the entire event or the mall’s open-to-close hours. Split up the workday into 4-hour shifts, if possible to keep part-time workers engaged and energized.
Maria Valdez Haubrich is Chief Liaison Officer of GrowBiz Media (www.growbizmedia.com), a content and consulting company that provides information, advice, and resources to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.