Newsbit

"Consumer News" Friday, Jun 11,1999

Insert card, buy gift certificates at H-E-Bs

By Vicki Vaughan
Express-News Business Writer

An Austin-based company has teamed with H-E-B to offer time-pressed shoppers something new: a kiosk that sells gift certificates from San Antonio merchants.

The kiosks, which look something like automated teller machines, have been installed at five local H-E-B supermarkets.

But instead of cash, the machines spit out gift certificates in amounts ranging from $10 to $500. Users purchase the certificates with credit or debit cards.

Gift certificates are available from more than 25 merchants, including such well-known San Antonio businesses as Biga, Crumpet's, La Fonda on Main and Silo restaurants; Jim Cullum's Landing; Splashtown water-thrill park and the Twig Book Shop and Booksmiths.

Also selling gift certificates are: H-E-B; Dinosaur World and Playworks; Medlar's jewelry; Sail & Ski Center and Good Sports; and apparel stores Kathleen Sommers and Joseph's.

QuickGifts, the company that owns the kiosks, is optimistic that San Antonians will be as enthused about the chance to buy certificates as were shoppers in Austin, where the kiosks have been set up in eight H-E-B supermarkets.

"With little or no promotion, the kiosks were extremely well received in the Austin market," QuickGifts President Eric Hansen said. "Consumers love the idea of buying a gift in a convenient location."

Hansen said he believes San Antonio "will be a wonderful market for us. It has the right demographics and the right retailers."

Over time, QuickGifts hopes to expand the number of kiosks in Austin and San Antonio.

"We're looking for high traffic locations where people like to work and shop," Hansen said, "such as large office buildings and corporate campuses."

QuickGifts is pursuing a big and growing business. About $10 billion worth of gift certificates were sold in 1997 and sales are growing at an estimated 10 percent a year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Four H-E-B locations in San Antonio have working kiosks: 11551 West Ave., 12777 Interstate 10 West, and the Broadway Central Market at 4821 Broadway.

A kiosk at the H-E-B at U.S. 281 and Loop 1604 has been installed but isn't yet ready to use, store managers said Friday.



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