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Kiosk Crackdown

BY CSA STAFF

If you build it, will they come? Not necessarily, especially when it comes to self-service units in a retail environment. A kiosk, whether it’s a gift registry, product locator or photo unit, has to be inviting to consumers—and it takes many steps to make a kiosk program successful or it will just sit, sad and lonely, taking up space in a store.

Truth be told, many retailers make mistakes that keep units under-utilized. Just having one in a store is hardly enough to make it successful. And complex interfaces are sure to kill any kiosk program no matter how imaginative or entertaining it may be.

Rather than becoming a victim of such pitfalls, consider these suggestions from Francie Mendelsohn, president of Summit Research Associates, who revealed the following points during the 12th annual KioskCom Conference & Expo, held in Las Vegas in April:

  • Location can make or break a kiosk’s success. “Retailers shouldn’t blend a unit into its surrounding space, but rather draw attention to it with signage or even bright-colored arrows on the floor to lead people to it,” Mendelsohn said during the session, “Best Practices in User Interface Design.”
  •  Retailers need to convey the kiosk’s functionality before the customer even touches it. Customers will not approach it out of curiosity and figure out what it does. Instead, retailers need to be mindful about what it does and why it’s worth customers’ time to use it.
  • Don’t overuse “greeters.” The airline industry is an example of an organization that initially provided greeters to assist people with kiosk usage. Over time, once the kiosks became more common, it let consumers use the units on their own.
  • That said, if you need a human to explain how to use every screen or do every task, you have a big problem. Keeping it simple is key. “Consumers don’t want to over-think anything—if it makes life easier, they’ll use it. If not, they’ll move on,” Mendelsohn said.
  • Text size and font should be clear, and the navigation button needs to remain consistent from screen to screen. In addition, kiosks that have a number keyboard should use the industry-standard one, similar to what’s found on a cell phone.

“Although the zero key normally goes under the ‘8,’ some kiosks put the ‘clear all’ button under the ‘8,’” Mendelsohn said. “This may seem irrelevant, but since consumers are so used to seeing the zero under the 8, they often end up deleting all previously typed numbers. Don’t reinvent the wheel; stick to what everyone knows.”

  • When creating content, retailers need to consider why the consumer is at the kiosk. Some units include elaborate descriptions and profiles on company history, but this can often be a waste of time.

“If consumers are interested in company history, they will look it up on the Web when at home,” Mendelsohn said. “While they are in-store, shoppers are standing up and using the unit for a specific reason. Pages like this are never accessed and just clutter the kiosks’ options.”

  • How-to images also create a smoother kiosk experience. For example, don’t assume that a shopper knows how to pay for a purchase through the unit. By placing electronic images that illustrate how to insert a credit card, retailers can avoid frustrating a consumer while paying, and maybe even abandoning the purchase entirely.

So what’s the bottom line? Consumers are only interested in using kiosks when it makes their lives easier—and that’s exactly what each unit needs to do.

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Michaels comps down for the quarter

BY CSA STAFF

IRVING, Texas Michaels Stores reported that total sales for the quarter were $847 million, a 1% increase from fiscal 2007 first quarter sales of $839 million. Same-store sales for the comparable 13-week period decreased 2.9%.

Ceo, Brian Cornell, said, “While our overall comps for the first quarter declined 2.9%, we were very encouraged with the sales of our kids and specialty craft categories, scrapbooking and frame and art supplies. Sales in April showed a reversal of trend with same-store sales up 3.1% on a strong increase in transactions. This positive sales and transaction performance gives us confidence that our new marketing and merchandising programs are connecting with our Michaels customers.”

For fiscal 2008, the company expects same-store sales growth  to be approximately flat given the current economic environment.

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Kirkland’s 1Q sales up 2.1%

BY CSA STAFF

JACKSON, Tenn. Kirkland’s reported that net sales for the first quarter ended May 3 increased 2.1% to $84.1 million from $82.3 million for the first quarter ended May 5, 2007. Comparable-store sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2008 increased 4.3% compared with an 18.8% comparable-stores sales decrease in the first quarter of fiscal 2007.

The company reported a net loss of $2.6 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, for the 13-week period ended May 3, 2008, compared with a net loss of $7.5 million, or 38 cents per diluted share, in the 13-week period ended May 5, 2007.

Robert Alderson, Kirkland’s president and ceo, said, “The first quarter results reflect strong merchandising execution and the benefits of aggressive financial initiatives that have reduced our operating costs, improved cash flow and strengthened our liquidity. During the quarter, we experienced improved customer conversions as shoppers have reacted very favorably to our merchandise mix. The positive comparable-store sales and trimming of unproductive stores led to leveraging of occupancy and distribution costs. Combined with an improvement in merchandise margin and a year-over-year reduction in operating costs of almost $5 million, we were able to post a significant improvement in our pre-tax results.

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