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Call It The Me Registry

Gift registries aren't just for weddings anymore. The Galleria in Edina, Minn., rolled out a mall-wide registry that lets individuals create a wish list of gifts from 40 stores. Shoppers can access it for any occasion all year long. (For more on year-round gift giving, see page 52.)

Minneapolis-based Automated Member Services Inc., which created the MallGiftRegistry, says the firm will place the system in as many as 10 more malls by fall.

Shoppers “can treat us like one big box with all their needs and desires and wishes inside,” says Jill Noack, vice president and general manager at Galleria's owner Gabbert & Beck Inc. It also means fewer returns.

Forty of Galleria's 59 stores pay about $200 a month to be on the registry. About 500 shoppers signed up in the fourth quarter, 50 percent ahead of plan, says ASM.

At Galleria, shoppers register at one of three wireless touch-screen kiosks and then carry a handheld device store to store to scan barcodes of items they want. Friends and family can review the list on the Web or at mall kiosks.

Britt Beemer, president of America's Research Group Ltd. of Charleston, S.C., thinks the multi-store approach addresses consumer gripes about registries limiting shoppers to one store. This registry's challenge, says Beemer, is “letting shoppers know that it exists.”

It hasn't been all smooth sailing since Galleria started using the system in October. When customers ask to see a registrant's list, Rod Hjermstad has to send them out his shop door to a mall kiosk. “There's some missing little links there that maybe haven't been perfected yet,” says Hjermstad, president of tableware retailer t.r. christian. ASM may offer screens for stores.

And not all shops have barcodes, necessary for recording the desire items in the multi-store registry.

Patti Burrets, owner of a casual furniture and accessories shop as well as a contemporary craft gallery is prepared to be patient. “I think something like this takes a great deal of time,” possibly a year or more, to catch on, says the 32-year retail veteran, whose two Galleria shops aren't fully barcoded.

Burrets, meanwhile, is waiting to see if ASM can outperform her own time-honored approach: a wish list that shoppers write out by hand and give to their husbands.

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