MOLLIE STONE'S SHARPENS SERVICE WITH KIOSKS

MILL VALLEY, Calif., -- Mollie Stone's Markets, here, an upscale seven-store independent, is using kiosks to enhance customer service and project a leading-edge image with its customers.The retailer is using Xpress Deli kiosks from InterMedia, Owings Mills, Md., as well as devices from Healthnotes, Portland, Ore., and Tickets.com, Concord, Calif. All have worked well and been well received by customers,

MILL VALLEY, Calif., -- Mollie Stone's Markets, here, an upscale seven-store independent, is using kiosks to enhance customer service and project a leading-edge image with its customers.

The retailer is using Xpress Deli kiosks from InterMedia, Owings Mills, Md., as well as devices from Healthnotes, Portland, Ore., and Tickets.com, Concord, Calif. All have worked well and been well received by customers, although a wine kiosk has been so far problematic, said David Bennett, co-owner of Mollie Stone's.

The retailer has the deli kiosk in all but one store, and that will be installed within a month or two, Bennett said. "One of the main reasons we decided to look at the deli kiosk was to take some of the pressure off the counters at lunchtime," he said. Some of Mollie Stone's stores have very small footprints, with overall square footage ranging from 9,500 to 44,000.

"I'm very happy with it so far, but as to return on investment, it might take a lot longer than we anticipated," he said. Mollie Stone's tracks the deli kiosk's performance by usage, he said. "The technology side is terrific. It could probably give us far more reports than we would ever want.

"Clearly there is a need. There is a group of customers that don't want to wait, or their time is limited. This allows them to 'multi-task,' so to speak. They can do their shopping rather than wait in line. As long as we can demonstrate to the customer that the quality will be exactly the same as giving a verbal order to one of our clerks, I think we will win them over," he said.

The retailer has had Healthnotes for two and a half years, he noted, but lately the kiosk is becoming commonplace. "Healthnotes is okay, but now a lot of our chain and independent competitors are putting Healthnotes in, so it doesn't set us apart," he said.

Meanwhile, the wine kiosk "has been a challenge for us." Bennett did not identify the vendor. It was installed in one store in the spring, but has been out for repair for about two months now. "It looks good. It feels good. When it was there working, it was terrific, but we don't have any data on it yet," he said.

Bennett is still optimistic that these problems will be corrected and targets a rollout of the wine kiosks for about a year from now.