Newsbit

February 8, 1999

Retail Report

Kiosks may mark beginning of interactive wave

Caroline Hubbard, Atlanta Business Chronicle

NCR Corp.'s retail division, which is based in Duluth, is testing its new interactive kiosks in Wal-Mart, K mart and Brooks Brothers stores. The touch-screen kiosks allow a customer to check prices, compare and locate merchandise, and access information on particular products.

NCR (NYSE: NCR) has been researching the kiosks for two years, betting that they will catch on with retailers, said Des Martin, vice president for general merchandising markets at NCR.

"Kiosks are the optimum for retailers," Martin said. Kiosks provide the informational advantage of Internet shopping with the instant gratification that comes with shopping in a traditional store, he said. "We are bringing the point of offer and the point of information closer together," he said.

NCR, based in Dayton, Ohio, had $6.5 billion in revenue last year. Its retail division had revenue of $1.4 billion.

Consultants for GlobalShop, the world's largest retail design exposition, also think kiosks and other uses of in-store technology are the wave of the future. To promote its upcoming trade show, GlobalShop recently released its "Top 10" list of emerging trends in retail design. No. 1 was interactive technology.

Why is interactive technology catching on? Self-checkout systems provide safe and secure transactions, and touch-screen kiosks allow customers to get help without having to seek out hard-to-find sales representatives, according to GlobalShop. Some technology, like video games, is designed just to be fun and draw customers to a certain area of a store, said Greg Gorman, a St. Louis-based retail design consultant who works with GlobalShop.

In order to succeed, the technology must have a specific purpose and be easy to use, Gorman said. It is a mistake to put computers with regular Internet access in the middle of a retail store. A customer can sit there for hours and not really accomplish anything, he said.

The NCR kiosk is "great," he said. "It is short, sweet and you walk away. It is a very easy information tool."

Each kiosk costs a store $5,000 to $7,000, which includes the cost of the server and installation, Martin said.

SOTHEBY'S ONLINE. Atlanta art gallery Vaknin Schwartz will begin selling its contemporary art online through a new Web site that Sotheby's, the world's oldest international auction house, is launching.

Sotheby's Holdings Inc. (NYSE: BID) announced the Web site (http://www.sothebys.com) in January. The site will sell art, antiques, jewelry and collectibles.

Sotheby's said that it expects to invest more than $25 million in the initial development phase of the new venture. Sotheby's said that its Internet business will be distinguished by the fact that it will source property not only from its existing business, but also from selected professionals, including art dealers and other members of the art community.

Vaknin Schwartz has been open for about a year at 1831 Peachtree Road. Owners are Uri Vaknin and Carolan Schwartz.

HOG WILD. As Cousins Properties Inc. (NYSE: CUZ) readies for the August opening of its first specialty retail center, The Avenue at East Cobb, the developer is looking for ways to make the shopping center unique.

Joel Murphy, who heads Cousins' retail division, wants the center to be fun. So, he has commissioned 11 bronzed statues, which he thinks children will play on. The statues will be life-size models of children and animals -- Murphy's favorite: a monstrous hog that will be at least six feet tall.

The artist is Jane DeDecker.

The Avenue at East Cobb, which will feature mall stores in a small shopping center, is just one of several "Avenue" projects under way. Cousins is opening one in California in November, is planning one in Peachtree City and is looking for a location in North Fulton, Murphy said. Other local developers, including Selig Enterprises Inc. and Thomas Enterprises Inc. are developing similar retail concepts in the Atlanta area.

NEW TO CUMBERLAND. Richard Murphy has been appointed the new general manager at Cumberland Mall on Cobb Parkway. He has previously served as general manager for malls in Missouri and Illinois. Cumberland Mall is owned and managed by General Growth Properties Inc. (NYSE: GGP).

OOPS. In the Jan. 22 Retail Report, we incorrectly reported that the city of Atlanta offered tax incentives to Magic Johnson Theaters when it built a complex at Greenbriar Mall. In fact, the city waived impact fees worth about $117,000, but offered no tax incentives.





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