Dell to Open Kiosks in Sears

Dell is looking to expand its kiosk program into larger retail stores.

Dell Computer Corp. is looking to expand its kiosk program into larger retail stores.

The company, which has opened up 57 kiosks in malls across the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan, is running a trial at 10 Austin, Texas-area Sears, Roebuck & Co. stores to see if the kiosks can be as successful in retail stores.

"The single pilot were running is an extension of the mall kiosk program," Dell spokesman Venancio Figueroa said Thursday.

The goal is to extend the Round Rock, Texas, companys direct-sales model, Figueroa said. As in the malls, Dell is setting up 8-foot-by-10-foot kiosks in the stores that will feature display models of desktop PCs and notebooks. Along with the kiosks, a Dell representative will be available to answer customer questions, and customers can make their orders either by phone or online at the 8-foot-tall kiosk.

"Other than the kiosk being located in Sears, all transactions will be between the customer and Dell," Figueroa said.

The pilot program began Wednesday.

Figueroa declined to comment on a timetable for the pilot program or whether Dell would be expanding the program to other retailers, saying only that "there are a lot of people who want to partner with Dell."

In a time of declining demand for PCs, Dell—the second largest PC vendor in the world—has aggressively pushed to expand its business, both in what it sells and where it sells. The mall kiosk program was rolled out last year to take advantage of the back-to-school and holiday seasons, but Figueroa said Dell has made that program permanent.

The company also is branching out in what it offers. For example, officials have announced plans to begin selling PDAs and printers under the Dell name.

Dell is the not the first computer maker to hit the retail stores. Both Apple Inc. and Gateway Inc. have opened retail stores. For example, Gateway, of Poway, Calif., has 272 Gateway Country Stores nationwide. However, some analysts have questioned whether the sales made through the Gateway stores make up for the expense of running them.

During a conference call with analysts on Wednesday to discuss earnings, Gateway Chairman, President and CEO Ted Waitt said that while the company was determined to keep a retail presence, how many of the stores will remain open this year was unclear.