How to get into a Mall – A Beginners Guide

So, you have a mall near you right? Indoor shopping centers are some of the greatest places for vendors- they have a large, diverse, captive audience, and this equals many vends. However, getting into these places can be a daunting task. However, even towering obstacles can be overcome with a little ingenuity and the right tools. In this piece, I hope to guide you to your new mall account!

To begin, what should you expect? Well, for starters, you will need insurance. I have yet to hear of a Mall that does not require insurance. Though it varies from place to place, the going rate is  $1-2 million general aggregate liability protection, so that should disaster strike, the mall cannot be held liable. In this business, insurance is a great investment in your business and the well being of your locations. The best place to secure this is through an independent insurance agent- they are better equipped to shop around and get you the best quote. A ballpark figure should be between $200 and $600 a year, depending on your area and the number of machines you are covering. Obviously, some areas like California, New York, Florida, and even Texas will be more expensive compared to other places like Iowa, Washington, Ohio, etc. Once you have your insurance, it’s time to approach your mall.

Mall’s will either have you talk to the Mall Administrator, the Leasing Administrator, or the Amenities Administrator, depending on the size of your particular mall. Getting a meeting with these people can be rather difficult, in my experience mall administrators tend to keep odd hours, and be unavailable at the most inopportune times. Plan accordingly for this, persistence is key. When you get an audience with the right person, remember that Mall personnel know how vending works- they know for a fact that there is money in this, so you won’t get much resistance unless they’re contracted out (more on that later). However, they will also use their knowledge against you. They will charge a hefty Commission, probably 50%. Fight this if you can- strive for something like 30% or less, and negotiate as best you can. Some are legitimately forced into these percentages, others are not, and they aren’t going to tell you that. I believe it’s better to try getting a better quote than to suffer needlessly under a 50% commission. You can try a charity approach, but I have never heard of a charity vendor getting into a mall successfully.

Another thing to note, some larger malls will want you to lease floor space of a kiosk. It is my recommendation to turn these offers down. Unless you have a larger route that can support the volume of machines and offset the potential losses, forgo these locations for more traditional spots. If you can, reengage them with a commission approach, and see if they respond. Depending on who the administrator is, you may just get a yes.

Now, the last thing you want to hear is they have a contract. However, contract vendors are everywhere these days, and you may have them in your mall. Typically, the only way to get around these is to wait for the contract to expire, and hope to take over. However, there are other ways around this “insurmountable” obstacle. Depending on the wording of the contract, it may only be a general non-compete. This means you cannot vend anything that would be deemed “competition” with the existing vendor. However, this leaves you open to any other forms of vending they may not have covered. Some vendors have gotten around this by pitching “Impulse Games” like those sold at Impulse Industries ( which do not sell anything more than fun. Similarly, arcade games, coin op pool tables, and pinball machines would not count as vending. Other options include coin-operated rides, coin-operated massage chairs, “wishing well” coin funnels (, crane games and redemption machines, and other coin operated novelties, like the Hurricane Simulator (, so the sky really is the limit- you just have to think outside the box.

Finally, expect some odd placements. The mall is going to dictate where your machines are positioned, and you will have to deal with that. Some of my machines have done very well in some spots, and terrible in others. The beauty of this is that the machines move every so often as shows come and go and mall personnel move them to and fro for various reasons. Sometimes you will do very well, sometimes not so much. It really is a roll of the dice, but I’ve gotten lucky enough times to make it well worth my while.

Malls are some of the most profitable vending locations out there. With the right attitude and some persistence, you will go far! If you have a particular situation that’s giving you trouble, ask the professionals at the VENDiscuss forums, and hopefully you too can succeed.

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