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Overcoming Kiosk Qualms

BY CSA STAFF

One frigid winter night in Manhattan I decided to no longer hibernate at home. It was time to hibernate indoors elsewhere. I convinced a few friends to do the same and out into the cold we went.

We joined a brave, ear-muffed group of people lined up around the block to see a new film at a tiny, yet charming theater. Unfortunately, the lone, annoyed box-office operator was creating a similarly annoying ambience. The only thing worse than a long line of cranky people is a long line of cranky people in freezing weather.

After waiting for 20 minutes, and standing behind at least another 20 people, I noticed it. Nestled off to the side, two people were using an interactive, self-service kiosk to purchase their e-tickets.

This place had kiosks!

I jumped off the line, went up to the kiosk, bought our tickets and in we walked. The transaction took two minutes.

Why do kiosks often go unused when they can clearly save time and sanity? Do people not see them or do they just choose not to use them?

Still on my kiosk high, I successfully used a unit at the airport after attending the KioskCom Self Service Expo in Las Vegas in April. However, I noticed that some people still opted to wait in long lines for personal assistance.

“You can’t just put a kiosk out there and hope someone will have the curiosity to find it,” said Frances Mendelsohn, president of kiosk research group Summit Research Associates Inc. Mendelsohn was a speaker at the KioskCom event, as well as a judge for the show’s Self-Service Excellence Awards.

“Signage is critical and this is where a lot of companies fail,” she told Chain Store Age following the conference. “People need to know that kiosks are, in fact, available and what using one will do for them.”

Mendelsohn also suggested that kiosks should include signage with step-by-step information to avoid any surprises.

“Nothing irks me more than a kiosk that isn’t up front with a consumer,” Mendelsohn said.

“For example, some photo kiosks don’t tell you how much prints will be. You’ll go through the whole process before you realize that Wal-Mart is so much cheaper,” she explained. “Customers need to know what they’re getting themselves into before they waste their time.”

Of course, some companies might not want to reveal the cost of a service until the end of the ordering process “because it may be pricey,” she said, “While some consumers may still get the prints after going through the process—despite the price—statistics prove that the majority will not.”

It seems that kiosk placement is also crucial. Let’s face it, I was surprised to find that little treasure at my local movie theater. Mendelsohn reinforced the fact that I am not alone.

“I’ve seen kiosks in major hotels that have self check-in and checkout and I didn’t even realize the option was available. Why have a kiosk if no one is going to see it?”

That’s a good question. I’m sure those who were in line at the movies with us would have liked to have known the answer, too.

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Sears comps hurt by energy costs

BY CSA STAFF

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. Sears Holdings today reported net income of $216 million, or $1.40 per diluted share, for the first quarter ended May 5, compared with net income of $180 million, or $1.14 per diluted share, for the first quarter ended April 29, 2006.

“In part, our domestic operating results reflect the impact of some of the same challenges being faced by our customers, such as rising energy costs and a slower housing market,” said Aylwin Lewis, Sears Holdings’ ceo and president. “However, as an organization, we need to overcome these factors by better controlling costs and developing innovative solutions that better meet our customers’ needs and allow us to generate a more reasonable level of profitability even in the face of such challenges.”

Domestic comparable-store sales declined 3.9% during the first quarter of fiscal 2007. Sears domestic comparable-store sales declined 3.4% for the quarter, while Kmart comparable-store sales declined 4.4%. We believe these declines reflect both increased competition and the impact of external factors such as rising energy costs, a slower housing market and poor weather conditions during the latter part of the first quarter of fiscal 2007. Kmart experienced lower transaction volumes across most merchandise categories, most notably within home goods, health and beauty products, and food and consumables. Similarly, Sears domestic recorded comparable-store sales declines across most merchandise categories and formats, with a notable decline in home appliance sales, which we believe reflects both a slower U.S. housing market and the impact of increased competition.

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Big Lots 1Q net sales up 3.4%

BY CSA STAFF

COLUMBUS, Ohio Big Lots today reported first quarter fiscal 2007 income from continuing operations of $29 million, or 26 cents per diluted share, compared to income from continuing operations of $14.5 million, or 13 cents per diluted share, in the first quarter of fiscal 2006. Including the impact of discontinued operations, first quarter fiscal 2007 net income totaled $28.8 million, or 26 cents per diluted share, compared to $13.7 million, or 12 cents per diluted share, in the prior year.

Net sales for the first quarter ended May 5, increased 3.4% to $1.13 billion, compared to $1.1 billion for the same period in fiscal 2006. Comparable-store sales for stores open at least two years at the beginning of the fiscal year increased 4.9% for the quarter.

For the second quarter 2007, the company expects income from continuing operations of 7 cents to 10 cents per share versus income from continuing operations of 4 cents per share last year. Comparable-store sales are expected to increase 2% to 4%, compared to a 5.2% comparable-store sales increase recorded last year.

For fiscal 2007, the company expects income from continuing operations of $1.25 to $1.30 per share versus income from continuing operations of $1.01 per share last year.

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