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Summer 2012 Innovation is Key

A self-serve concept looks to eliminate key duplication hassles.

Randy Fagundo has seen that until recently, small retailers have been ambivalent about offering key duplication services in their store.

“They loved offering the service to their customers, but hated the product returns due to miscuts, machine maintenance and inventory management issues,” says Fagundo, the CEO of minuteKEY, a self-service key duplication service, headquartered in Boulder, CO.

The minuteKEY machine, which, as the name implies, duplicates keys in about a minute, is designed to overcome such hurdles. An initial test run with machines in 10 retail locations proved successful and minuteKEY decided to expand its reach. Seed funding from prominent venture capital investors in the San Francisco Bay Area helped. Now, after making inroads in America’s hardware stores, the self-serve concept is stirring up interest in malls.

“The company’s growth potential has proven itself, as minuteKEY has installed more than 800 [machines] nationally, and continues to grow with nearly 150 kiosks installed per month,” Fagundo says. minuteKEY can be found in Lowe’s retail stores throughout the country.

Machine mechanics

MinuteKey2-copyminuteKEY offers standard brass key replicas for $2.99 or a more decorative key for $3.99 with designs such as “Home Sweet Home” written across the key’s face. Most keys are accepted; car keys cannot be duplicated.

The state-of-the-art technology utilizes robotics, electronics and software engineering to read the house or office key that is inserted into the machine. Within a minute, the key is accurately duplicated. The original can even be left on the key chain as the duplicate is being made. Key chains can also be purchased. Fagundo says the minuteKEY service is faster and more accurate than traditional key duplication services. It offers 100% customer satisfaction and a guaranteed return if the cut is not accurate.

Retail attraction

For retailers too, the machine is a complete turnkey solution requiring no trained operators and very little inventory overhead. Because of quick and accurate reproductions, retailers don’t have to process returns either. “It saves employees’ time, additional labor costs and reduces inventory,” Fagundo says. “It saves the business money and the hassle of returns or refunds from unhappy customers.”

The minuteKEY machine has a footprint of six square-feet and plugs into a standard 110-volt outlet. The key for malls is that it turns unmonetized floor space into a revenue generator.

The self-serve machine is entirely owned, installed and serviced by minuteKEY. A percentage of the revenue generated by the machine is shared with the mall.

The machine is located in 11 different malls with hopes of expanding rapidly in this retail segment. Fagundo believes it’s a particularly great channel for the minuteKEY kiosk.

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Kerry Weir

Kerry Weir is an honors graduate from the University of Alabama. She writes about specialty retail and is a new contributor to Specialty Retail Report. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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