Automated Kiosks: The Retail Floor Space Game-Changer

Large format vending machineLocalism alert: While shopping at the downtown Chicago Macy’s the other week, I noticed a small line of customers queued up in a corner of the store.  The line led not to a counter and a salesperson but to an automated kiosk for a skin care product.

Maybe I’m not the most dedicated shopper, but I had never seen anything resembling a large vending machine in a top-end retail store before.  I was curious, so I came back to Macy’s a few days later to take another look.  Same line – if anything, it was longer.   Ladies and men were feeding credit cards into the machine – more like an automated booth –  and watching branded video displays on skin care as the machine dispensed packages of product.

With no salesperson, and (apparently) no Macy’s stock-keeping requirements, plus a modest space requirement in a off-center location in the store, I imagined the net revenue dollars per square foot on this approximately 3×8′ kiosk was a pretty impressive number — even more so when compared to what stood there before: effectively nothing.

The product was Proactiv.  You can find these kiosks around the country here.

What also struck me about the  machine was how little it clashed visually and experience-wise with the surrounding sales floor.  Situated at the edge of the cosmetics section, the kiosk’s video display and favorable lighting reflected the kinds of tones you expect from a cosmetics counter. The fit was excellent.

But still: a vending machine?  In a top-end store?  It nagged at me for an explanation.

In the end, I thought what I was seeing was in part explained by the nature of the product.  Because Proactiv is aimed at skin problems, maybe, I thought, the kiosk afforded shoppers a kind of privacy.

And that’s what I imagined until I saw this today: luxury menswear kiosks.

Quattro Clothiers, a Toronto-based luxury menswear shop, is using an automated retail kiosk by Signifi to dispense designer Italian shirts, according to a news release.

The SpotShop kiosk uses a tray system to carefully handle the shirts, which carry price tags ranging from $225 to $395. The solution can be custom designed to each brand and features a digital display screen to promote the products. Quattro intends to use the machines to drive traffic back to their brick-and-mortar store by placing units within a three-to-four-mile radius, according to the release.

Well, there goes the idea that privacy alone drives kiosk sales.  There’s nothing sensitive about designer Italian shirts.

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  • I’ve never seen a kiosk like this in a retail environment either, but we do use them in self storage and they’re quite effective. I wonder if this is something we’ll see more of in the future.

    • Wayne Grohl

      May 9, 2013

      I bet we do – whenever space is tight and revenue per square foot is the important number — e.g. central business districts — this kind of presentation has got to look attractive. At least the numbers.

  • Janice Moffatt

    May 16, 2013

    I wonder how much the kiosks have to do with preventing shop-lifting. The machine doesn’t look too different from a regular shirt center with different sizes & colors at the local store. Just a different kind of access.

    • Wayne Grohl

      May 17, 2013

      Hi Janice,

      You know, I never thought of that. I’m no retail operations professional, and it would sure help answer this question if I was!

      Thanks for the contribution!



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