What is a Retail Kiosk?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2019
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A retail kiosk is a small structure that can be found in shopping malls and other places with a lot of foot or car traffic. It’s usually dedicated to selling a certain kind of item like sunglasses, wind-up toys, or specialty foods (candy, ice cream etc). The structure of each kiosk may differ, but it often has surrounding walls that are about waist high and that serve as display cases. Customers don’t enter the kiosk, in most cases, but instead shop from outside of it.

Many sellers have found the retail kiosk a good alternative to renting a storefront. It could be used by independent sellers or manufacturers and those associated with much larger companies that have strong storefront businesses elsewhere or that provide much of their merchandise via mail/Internet order. Additionally some companies operate a kiosk for a few months during holiday seasons to sell items geared toward holidays or that are in high demand at those times of the year.

One of the principal advantages of the retail kiosk is that space rent usually costs much less than what it would cost to rent a complete store. Rent may vary based on time of year. Those setting up holiday-geared kiosks may pay the most because space is in higher demand when shoppers are most likely to be present. Moreover, some leasers (malls or other places) might ask for a small percentage of retail kiosk profits.


Under many circumstances when kiosks or smaller carts are located in malls, the mall, as part of a leasing agreement. provides them. This is the mall’s way of controlling and streamlining appearance. Some people prefer to design or make their own kiosk, but then they’ll be responsible for moving it in and out as needed. Not all malls allow this and at least renting a kiosk tends to be less expensive than building and transporting one.

In addition to lower rents, guaranteed foot traffic can make using a retail kiosk an attractive concept. Many are located in the direct center strip of malls, and that means customers must pass them in order to move from one space to another. Merchandise is displayed in the open and the customer doesn’t even have to enter a store to see what it is; it’s right there in front and some items can be demonstrated continuously to engage interest of passers-by. Open merchandise display does have a possible downside; sellers must keep items secure to avoid the greater ease at which things can be stolen.

Of course sometimes a retail kiosk or cart is operated in places other than malls. A number of tourist attractions let independent venders come in to sell tourist related items. Coffee carts are quite popular in large or small buildings and can served a population of workers in the building. A number of ways exist to make use of a retail kiosk or cart.

While some kiosks are fairly permanent fixtures, others come and go quickly. For the consumer, this would suggest finding out what type of consumer protections exist if an item needs to be returned. Customers will have weigh purchase, reliability and need of purchase against any return policies. For workers, getting a job at a retail kiosk often means working part-time on a temporary basis. Again, this can vary, and some companies that have storefront stores too, rotate employees into staffing a kiosk. Any type of temporary store, though, usually means a temporary job.


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