You've been there -- late for a business flight, you forget your cell phone charger. Or, with a six-hour family vacation flight staring you in the face, the kids need something to keep them busy. You can relax: Chargers, Sony PSPs and even digital cameras will now be easily available in 12 U.S. airport terminals, courtesy of Best Buy.
Best Buy has announced a pilot rollout of electronic-gear kiosks at major U.S. airports. Nine are already in place, with the remaining three to be deployed by September 1. Airport terminals already sporting the bulky vending machines are: Atlanta (ATL), Boston (BOS), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), Minneapolis (MSP) and San Francisco (SFO). "These are similar to kiosks consumers are already familiar with," said Jeff Dudash, spokeperson for Best Buy. "Consumers are already comfortable with buying cosmetics and other items like this from vending machines." The company hopes people will flock to vending machines that deliver SD cards, MP3 players and USB cables, as well.
The Price Is Right
Unlike $3 bottles of soda and ridiculously expensive hamburgers, Best Buy promises to keep prices low in its vending machines. "These are not airport prices," said Dudash. "Customers can expect the same type of price on items that they'd find in our retail stores."
The kiosks were developed by ZoomSystems, maker of the popular iPod kiosks. ZoomSystems claims it has 61 "ZoomShops" in 11 major U.S. airports already. Other locations that sell kiosks with everything from cosmetics to iPods include hotel lobbies, shopping malls and department stores. The company recently signed a deal with Macy's to set up iPod vending machines in many of its department stores.
Terminal Vendor Void
A number of electronics players have tried and failed to sell their wares in airport terminals. In January of 2008, Palm decided to close all of its PalmOne branded stores, including those that operated in airports, according to a source working with Palm. The stores sold not only Palm devices and Palm accessories, but also chargers, batteries and even portable DVD players for passengers.
Another airport terminal vendor with multiple outlets was Sharper Image. The stores were built for business travelers, primarily focusing on cell phones and accessories. The company went into bankruptcy more than two months ago and shut down all its stores, including airport venues.
But these latest failures were storefronts, not kiosks, with the weighty overhead of running a full walk-in establishment. Kiosks require only floor space, electricity and maintenance. A ZoomSystems source said kiosks cover an average of only 32 square feet.
The key to success for the Best Buy kiosks will be their product mix, according to some analysts. While Best Buy is a brand name with positive recognition with consumers, if the products people need are not on display, the operation could be a bust. The sheer number of cell phones alone makes the selection of which accessory cables and chargers to sell a daunting marketing task.
Best Buy did not have data available on how it will choose products for sale in the terminal vending machines.