Mall Cart Yes Or No? Does Any One Operate One Currently?

Business By tmcakes Updated 8 Jul 2012 , 3:52am by myslady

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tmcakes Posted 6 Jul 2012 , 4:38pm
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Hello everyone I was just recently asked by one of my clients if I had considered doing a Mall Cart with some of my cup cakes, cake pops, etc I never really wanted a store front but currently looking to spread the word about my cakes I never advertised so word of mouth has been working however I am still working full time and would like to do cakes full time with out holding my current job. I am licensed, board of health approved and carry liability insurance. I looked at several malls in the area and thought the mall cart might be a good idea to test the waters and drum up business. One mall is open to me doing a weekend lease to see how everything go. My question is has anyone been successful at running a mall cart if so what type of issues should i expect if any. I am looking at baking the product in my rented kitchen and transporting the goodies to the mall. Only thing i can think would be a problem is the long hours the mall is open. I can't afford to hire anyone. Please chime in a please give me some suggestions, was it a success or total waste of money. I need reassurance. Thanks everyone

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jason_kraft Posted 6 Jul 2012 , 4:47pm
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How much is the monthly cost of the lease, how much of a net profit do you currently make on each of your baked goods, and how many hours per week would you be keeping it staffed?

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kelleym Posted 6 Jul 2012 , 6:15pm
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Only thing i can think would be a problem is the long hours the mall is open. I can't afford to hire anyone.

This sounds like an enormous problem. How could you be at the mall every moment that it is open, while producing your baked goods, and having a life outside work?

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scp1127 Posted 7 Jul 2012 , 3:26am
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I started a large mall kiosk for my husband several years ago. We found the dynamics to be just as expected. Malls make money three months out of the year. The rest is maintenance of the space. Weekdays the mall has the unemployed, stay at home moms, and old people... none of whom come to the mall to spend money. Weekends do have traffic, but the spending climate will be what the mall attracts. For example, a mall with anchors of Sears or JCP will attract a bargain crowd. Anchors of Nordstrom and Saks will attract higher income clients, but at a higher rent.

A weekend is a better deal than all week, but can you make enough product and man the kiosk and make it worth your while? Also, if the mall is not upper income based, the customers will be looking for a bargain.

We finally worked out a deal to be in only for the three months. That meant higher rent per sf and tearing down a custom cabinet structure, about 12 x12, every year and storing it.

I have posted this before. Does your mall have individual retail vendors or are they all chain? If they do have individuals, how many who were there a year ago are still there? How long have the current vendors been there? Chances are that the individuals don't do well in the mall as it is not designed for small business.

I know a lady who has a profitable mall spot (storefront), but it is an extension of a 20 year successful retail cake business. She is a great business person and has the proper number of employees. She tried the food court as an experiment but found food court people are looking for cheap food. She bakes from her other storefront which she owns. Renting a commercial kitchen and also renting mall space will greatly impact your COGS.

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tmcakes Posted 7 Jul 2012 , 1:16pm
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Thanks jason_Kraft, Kellym, scp1127. I would consider the mall cart just to basically advertise and allow people to taste the cake.Im sorry i didn't make that clear in my last post. Im not looking to run it daily only 1 weekend a month just to see if i pick up any leads for the cakes I currently make. The mall leasing office offers a weekend only cart rental for $300 per weekend. I would be able to choose what weekend I would like to be there so if i only wanted to do a holiday weekend or just one weekend a month I could. I was thinking on the terms of the way I get orders now which is word of mouth and party goers I have never advertised and I have been pretty consistent with order every weekend just by people tasting someones cake at a party. I have considered doing a print ad but for the money I will spend on a print ad i was thinking the cart would be more effective allowing people to taste what they will be getting. I'm wondering if anyone that has a cart do you get return customers placing actual cake orders? If i get just one or two cake orders from this cart it would cover the cart cost. Im ok with working the cart for the one weekend a month im there with back up from my husband, mom and friend if need.

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scp1127 Posted 7 Jul 2012 , 7:20pm
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I hope I discouraged you because the mall may not be the best way to get the word out. It is not a target market, it is targeting the masses.

I'm sorry, but I can think of many, many, different ways to advertise for $300/wk. In this economic climate, there are better ways to market that cost less than that.

Look to donate cakes to causes attended by your target market.
Send samples out to area businesses.
Do complimentary cakes for business Grand Openings if the target market applies.
Send complimentary cupcakes to new mothers in the hospital.
Join your Chamber of Commerce and always bring something even if they have refreshments.
Send a small welcome cake or cupcakes to new doctors offices, insurance, etc.
Send your own doctor, insurance agent, dentist, a small cake.

In each of these situtions, have a few business cards with you.

These are a few but I could think of a hundred more. Think of your marketing dollars in terms of "highest and best use". This means looking for the most return on your dollar. The mall will fall under the least return.

Use that money to optimize your website and it position. I didn't look at your site or even look to see if you had one. This is general. Optimize your branding from business cards to packaging.

Also, each of my suggestions is cheaper and requires much less time. The fact that you will be targeting your market is the real bonus.

The mall plan, even if you got cake orders, requires you to work 30 hours a week and give away two cakes (to cover the cost). Now that doesn't sound like fun at all.

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jason_kraft Posted 7 Jul 2012 , 7:50pm
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Originally Posted by tmcakes

If i get just one or two cake orders from this cart it would cover the cart cost.

Only if the net profit (not the selling price) from those 1-2 orders is greater than $300 or you've already built in the additional overhead into the price of your orders.

You would probably get more impact from $300/month in targeted online ads than $300/week at the mall.

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myslady Posted 7 Jul 2012 , 11:31pm
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Do your research on the mall. I would take the time to check out the mall during the time you would be renting the cart to see what type of crowd is there at that time. I would also see if people are interested in cupcakes at the mall and you may capture people who are looking to buy a cupcake in addition to a sample depending on where you are at.

There have been countless posts about giving away free product only begats more requests for free product so I wouldn't go with those options.

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scp1127 Posted 8 Jul 2012 , 1:41am
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There are plenty of research and stats on malls already, and they are not conducive to individual businesses. How are you going to do your own mall research? Ask the old people and unemployed if they like cupcakes? Sure they do.

Get the stats and decide, but even the pretzel place has to make its year in three months.

Hickory Farms comes in for three months in a kiosk. I doubt any individual can come near the revenue they bring in. Not even they stay any other time.

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myslady Posted 8 Jul 2012 , 3:52am
post #10 of 10

Why cite that research has been, done but that it is not conducive to individual business. Wouldn't that be the point of doing your own reasearch to see what type of environment it is and determine if you want to introduce your business in it?

While I agree that if the OP only wants to give away product then it would not be profitable for her, but if she is open to selling product in addition to giving away samples, then she would need to look into it to see if it is a viable option her her.

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