Gift Shops - With and Without Walls

Are you a person who likes to be the center of attention ... or do you prefer to deal with people on a one-to-one basis? Are you at your best when lots of people are swirling around you ... or do you prefer calmer surroundings? Are you open to working in an unstructured environment ... or is the more traditional set-up of walls and a door your preference?

Whether you choose to market your items from a Kiosk or a Gift Shop, the basics of each plan are similar. First we'll concentrate on Kiosks, especially the pushcart type wagons that are so popular in malls and other high traffic areas, whether indoors or outdoors. Then we'll add in Gift Shop information.



You've seen the charming wagons in the mall. They're filled with eye-catching items and surrounded by great foot-traffic and you thought they might be a great way to sell your products. You're right, they can be. Of course, as with any sales plan, it's the time and energy you put into it that determines your success.


After you've made the decision to lease one of these attractive carts, the first step in your plan is to decide which mall you want to be in. Malls may vary widely as to foot traffic, leasing costs, and type of merchandise allowed. Remember, due to the lack of storage space, you will be constantly restocking your cart and merchandise will have to be carried in on a regular basis, so you may want to lease one nearby, to reduce travel time.


Every mall has a Management Office that handles cart leasing. After you have decided which malls you are considering, a letter of introduction and purpose sent to the office is a good next step.


Whichever mall or space you settle on, you'll need a business license and a resale number. Business licenses are issued by the city in which you are doing, business. A fee is charged and the license is generally valid for one year. Resale permits are required for all business owners and are free. Check with your City Hall for more information.


After having seen samples of your merchandise, most associations will want to talk with you about the visual concept you have of your planned display. This is to insure that the quality of goods allowed on their carts and how it is displayed is kept at a certain level and the image is consistent with other carts in the mall.

Keep in mind that your merchandise selection for this type of operation will consist of smaller items such as Patchwork pieces, birdhouses, glass ornaments and the like, since storage area in the cart is minimal. With many kiosks, everything that does not fit inside a closed and secured cart must be stored elsewhere or removed every evening at close of day.

Note: Most malls offer some storage area but a fee is charged for the space and the fee varies from mall to mall.


Generally, malls do not allow you to advertise with flyers inside or directly outside the mall, therefore any advertising you do will need to be done by other methods. If you choose to advertise, decide on how and where you plan to do so and don't forget to add this cost into your budget.


The fee structure for cart leasing also varies from mall to mall, however, there are several fees that are common for cart leasing.

1. Base Fee: This is the basic monthly fee charged for leasing the cart.

2. Percentage Fee: In addition to the basic monthly fee, a percentage of your weekly sales will also be charged. Example: $700 per month base fee plus 12% of your weekly gross over $1500.

Note: These numbers are only examples. Fees vary widely based on area and location in the mall itself. Some malls offer a lesser base fee for leases guaranteed for over a certain number of months.

3. Security Deposit: This is usually a refundable deposit.

4. CAM (Common Area Maintenance) Fee: A small fee is charged each month that goes toward the mall's maintenance of the area around the carts.


In addition to the basic and percentage fees, security deposit and monthly CAM fee, there may or may not be additional fees. These fees are at the discretion of the mall association. They may include:

1. A small, one-time, signage fee that covers the making and installing of a sign announcing your business name. This is charged in order to keep all signage uniform.

Note: In some instances, you will only be allowed to display certain signs, (such as "SALE", "We Accept Major Credit Cards," and "Employment Opportunities Available,") and they must be pre-printed. Most malls discourage hand-lettered signs.

2. A nominal, monthly, marketing fee to cover advertising.

3. A small, monthly fee for regular cart cleaning by mall maintenance.


It is generally required that the lessee (you) will provide both general liability and property damage insurance. The mall will stipulate the amount and type of insurance required. Premiums for these forms of insurance will vary according to area. Check with your local insurance agents for information and rate quotes.


You will be expected to supply your own cash register. A secure "cash wrap" area is built into most carts in which the register is stored and secured by locks, which you will provide.

Note: Carts vary, however, each one is designed for security during off-hours and can be closed and secured, usually by locks, which you provide.


Electrical hook-ups are generally provided for lighting and cash register. Telephone service, however, is often not available. Therefore, if you wish to accept credit cards it is suggested that you use a cellular phone hook-up or a radio transmitted device (credit card machine) for these transactions.


Each mall will have their own rules and regulations and these will vary. Applicable rules will be spelled out on your contract and/or on a separate sheet provided by the management. Some of these may be:

1. OPENING AND CLOSING POLICY. Most every mall requires your cart to be open prior to the opening of the mall and close after the mall has closed. A cart not open during mall hours will usually receive a warning followed by a small fine after a second fault.

2. DRESS CODE: Generally each mall has a dress code, which you will need to adhere to in order to present a professional look.

3. NEATNESS: It will be expected that you will keep your cart and stock neat and tidy in addition to the monthly cleaning the cart receives from the mall staff.

4. SEATING, EATING, DRINKING, READING AND OTHER NECESSITIES: In order to present a professional front, many malls do not allow eating, drinking, reading, or listening to personal tape or cd players while doing business. One chair is usually provided (which will have to be secured at night) for the cart operator.

Often, since the cart may be operated by only one person at a time and cannot be dosed during mall hours, it becomes necessary to eat or drink on site. In this instance most malls often bend the rules and allow the cart operator to do so if it is done discreetly and in a short amount of time.

When restroom breaks become necessary it is usually a custom for an employee at a nearby cart to watch your area for a short time.

5. RESTOCKING AND TRASH DISPOSAL: Restocking should be done during hours when the mall is closed and all trash and boxes must be disposed of in marked areas before the mall is opened.


The basics of opening and running a gift shop are very similar to those of a kiosk with a few important exceptions.

There are a number of factors to consider after you decide you want to open a gift shop of your own. A gift shop is a significant personal and financial commitment--- and the amount time and energy you put into your shop will be a big determining factor in your success. It is wise to have some marketing and sales experience under your belt before you take this big step.

TIP: Many successful gift shop owners started out by selling at swap meets!


The first thing that usually comes to mind when choosing a location is to find one with the largest volume of customers and foot traffic. However, you must keep in mind that a high volume of foot traffic does not necessarily mean a high volume of foot traffic "in your store."

If you choose a location in a strip mall near a large department store because the parking lot is always full, you'll might find that the majority of people in those cars are coming to that mall to go specifically to that large store, back to their car, and home again. Yes, you want foot traffic, but you don't want that traffic to walk past your shop ... you want it to come inside.

After selecting several possible locations for your shop, do your homework by spending some time in each area. Watch the shopping patterns of the people. Talk to the other storeowners. Get a feel for what you might look forward to in the future. Malls are also viable spaces for a gift shop but check out the location of the shop inside the mall. There are certain areas in malls that offer a great deal less traffic. These are usually less expensive, but make sure you weigh the rent reduction against the traffic flow.


The square footage you will need depends upon what you intend to sell and what quantities you want to display and keep on hand in your storage area. Determine the space you need by visiting other gift shops. Ask their area measurements. Look at the display furniture and cases they are using. Calculate the amount of stock you would need to fill an area of that size.


As with Kiosks, you will need a business license and a resale number. Again, these are issued by the city in which you are doing business, a fee is charged, and the license is usually valid for one year. Resale permits are required and are free. Check with your City Hall for more information on both these items.