The costs of establishing a permanent retail location can be steep, you may spend up to AED 200,000 or more, with leases constantly increasing in costs at prime locations. Kiosks can be an easier way to get a foot in the door with a lot less risk.
In Dubai, most kiosks operate within shopping malls or properties held by one of the major developers such as Emaar or Nakheel. There are a few free zone options such as DIFC and Dragon Mart. However, they tend to target a niche audience. Most of the licenses are local licenses through the Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED).
As with all businesses, you should start by conducting due diligence. Scout your location and build a profile of the clients that visit the site. Find out what type of footfall is common in your proposed kiosk area. Things such as the income profile of clients and competition should play a huge factor in what you can charge for your products. You may also discover that your site is subject to seasonal fluctuations.
You should also establish contact with the management of the shopping mall or property early on. Some require you to get a license through the DED while others grant you a special permit to operate under their license. They may also have specific rules relating to what type of kiosks they are willing to accept to avoid having too many vendors selling the same type of products.
If you require a DED license, you will need to have an Emirati national as a partner. A business consultancy firm can help you acquire a local national as a partner as well as facilitate legal documentation to protect your business interests. Depending on the type of products that you sell, you may need further permits from government agencies to start your kiosk business.
Your Kiosk Business
Depending on the location, you may be able to either lease a physical kiosk from the property management firm or purchase one and bring it to your site. If you are looking to buy your own, there are plenty of local suppliers, be sure to factor in transportation and storage costs (if applicable).
You should have a clear idea of what you want to sell, so find the best supplier and order your product to build up inventory. Souvenirs are sure to be a hit with the steady stream of tourists walking through many commercial areas in Dubai. Regional items that are difficult to get elsewhere are also a hit. Sometimes catering to the nostalgia of products from home for expat residents can lead to a profitable business.
Be sure to set up displays that may attract passers-by. Take out demo items and have them ready for customers to peruse. Offer free samples, if appropriate, to entice patrons to try your product. Find other ways to advertise, such as handing out coupons or partnering with other mall kiosk or store owners to promote each other’s business.
Things to Avoid in Kiosk Business
One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a kiosk operator is to compete against big retailers before you’re ready. Sometimes, it just seems right to go against the big guys head-on, but it usually isn’t a good idea. Instead of letting yourself be crushed by the business giants, why not focus on your edge as a small retailer? You have the upper hand when it comes to personalising customer interactions and delivering high-value experiences.
Inexperienced kiosk operators often start their business with cramped-up store displays. They sell items of a different variety, colour, style, design, product type, use – in the misguided hope to cater to every potential client. They populate their inventory like it’s a full-fledged retail store. Sometimes less is more, focus on key products that are popular with your clients.
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