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Spring 2014
Big on Branding

Over the years, national retailers and celebrities have been discovering what specialty retailers already know: a shopping center kiosk or RMU is a great sales vehicle.

These new common area units serve more of a marketing function as well—to spread the retailer’s or celebrity’s message.

This phenomenon was especially visible over the holidays with kiosks for comedian “Fluffy Guy” Gabriel Iglesias in Texas, California and Nevada. The kiosks featured an exclusive assortment of Fluffy merchandise including T-shirts, dolls, and action figures.

These sales and marketing outlets are precisely what companies like JBC & Associates deliver. As president and CEO of the Toledo, OH-based retail management company, James O’Neill is responsible for delivering on its mission of providing exceptional retail sales and operations services to its clients. The kiosk management arm is vital to this mission, and Fluffy Guy’s kiosk is a good example of this strategy.

GabrielIglesias-Photo-3-copy“Whether on TV, in the movies or on radio, celebrities are brands. They have dedicated fans and want to find new ways to reach their fan base,” O’Neill says. “For a celebrity like Gabriel, who already sells his branded items at his comedy shows and online, the mall kiosk was a natural extension to his marketing strategy.”

Fluffy’s team contacted JBC after hearing about the company’s success with other brands. “We had a few conference calls and flew to L.A. to meet their team and we got to work with them soon after,” O’Neill says. “They had the markets chosen before we got involved, based upon his fan base and concert traffic data. We were able to provide them with demographic data and help them assess the locations being presented by the developers.”

Claim to fame

Other celebrities and studios are starting to see the value of mall kiosks as a marketing branding tool, and O’Neill is actively pursuing them as a growth channel. For example, to complement the David Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, department store Selfridges added a concept retail space, featuring a selection of merchandise such as T-shirts and Bowie-inspired original vintage ’60s and ’70s garments. Meanwhile in Australia, a Pink pop-up store opened in central Melbourne as the pop singer’s “The Truth About Love” tour wound its way through the country.

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“Although we did not work with these celebrities, as they were located in Europe and Australia, the examples illustrate the growing interest in kiosks as a viable option/solution for celebrities and their brands to reach fans in malls here in the U.S. and around the world,” O’Neill says.

The formula to get celebrities and national retailers interested in a mall kiosk is one that JBC has been perfecting for years. It includes handling all of the following tasks: Employee training, site selection/leasing, asset management, POS utilization, sales management, brand recognition, brand reach and interaction with millions of mall shoppers.

“We have the ability to test new products and concepts without committing to a long-term lease or store build-out costs,” O’Neill says. “Our costs are variable in nature, so they do not have to take on full-time headcount for a project with us to happen. The employees that work in their stores are ours, so they do not have any employee related issues to deal with, such as EEOC, WC, unemployment claims, payroll or taxes. Our program is scalable to operate five regional locations as a test or 500 nationwide locations for more established companies.”

Working with malls to make the liaison happen isn’t too difficult if you have strong relationships with the developers. “Developers are always looking for new and exciting programs to offer their customers and we are a company that can bring those ideas to them,” O’Neill says. “We use our database of malls to match client’s target demographic profile with properties; then reach out to our developer partners for availability and costs.”

As for national retailers, JBC operated Duck Brand RMUs for Shur Tech Brands during the last holiday season. These stores sold licensed (NFL, MLB, NCAA, NBA) and designer-pattern duct tape products geared toward everyday users and crafters. The company also has plans to be a year-round operator for Lumber Liquidators.

“If there is strong marketing support, any product will work year-round in the mall kiosk space,” O’Neill says.

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Keith Loria

Keith Loria is a seasoned writer who has written about business, entertainment and sports. When not writing, he enjoys spending time with his daughters Jordan and Cassidy. He can be reached at freelancekeith@gmail.com.
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