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Spare Change: Six ways to mine the common area of your mall for money.

Generate extra income, lengthen the time shoppers stay and roam the mall, and enrich their experiences with entertainment and added convenience. By creating alliances with a host of entertainment and service providers, you can find more money in your retail centers with little effort or investment on your part. Here are five companies that promise to help you fatten your wallet and endear your customers to you.

1. Americall (

Dial for dollars without lifting a finger. Believe it or not, not everyone totes around a cellular phone.

This is why installing pay phones can be a new source of revenue. For you, it is a low-maintenance proposition: Americall installs and maintains phones in your common areas and offers a variety of ways - a percentage of gross, or commissions on net revenues, for instance - for you to receive a cut of every call a customer makes.

The company's phones could be described as "smart" because they are microprocessor based. For instance, every night a computer calls each phone to be sure it is up and running.

If something is wrong, the computer automatically notifies a maintenance person, who attends to the phone the next morning.

In addition, if a normally high-volume phone, say in a food court, has not been used for hours, the computer recognizes that fact and dispatches a maintenance person to find out if it is out of order or has been vandalized.

In addition, phones feature a variety of payment options - credit cards, calling cards, coins and a card reader - eliminating shoulder surfing, a tactic criminals favor for getting card numbers and selling them. The company is just starting to market new telephone enclosures that feature space for advertising, another source of revenue-sharing for you.

According to Jerry Burger, Americall's owner, the average pay telephone call lasts three and one-half minutes, which means a potential advertiser has a person tethered to a phone and staring at an ad for close to five minutes.

2. Retail Details (

Why pay salary and benefits for an in-house advertising and marketing staff when you can hire those brains on a freelance basis?

Rather than staging just-for-fun events, Diedre Bird, a Retail Details principal, says the company's parties and openings are aimed at generating trackable results and sales.

For instance, one tactic used at grand openings is a vacation drawing. Shoppers can not enter the drawing unless they have spent a certain dollar amount at the center first. In addition, the approach yields valuable marketing information - the shoppers' name, address, amount spent, and the stores where they shopped.

Another Retail Details strategy to generate traffic and dollars during slow periods involves gift certificates it mails to clients. Customers must spend a minimum dollar amount, $25 to get $5 off their purchase, as an example, and the certificate is only valid for a certain number of days during a period when mall traffic is historically slow.

Retail Details asks merchants to track gift certificate usage so the mall can measure the success of the program and capture the customer information for its database.

Thus far, Retail Details has specialized in California and Arizona markets, but will work in other parts of the country.

3. Smarte Carte (

Don't buy 50 strollers and hire staff to maintain and corral them every night. Smarte Carte will come into your space and install a vended stroller system that lets parents schlep one less thing with them from the car.

Rather than creating one rental and return station in the middle of the mall, Smarte Carte's return centers can be situated around entrances.

This approach makes it easier for customers because they don't have to carry their packages and their kids all the way from the middle of a retail center to the exits. Rental costs can range from $3 to $4. But, a small refund - about 50 cents - provides an incentive for customers to return strollers to a concession, rather than abandoning them.

The company estimates that a one million GLA mall would generate approximately $3,500 in commission payments. Smarte Carte is also developing a stroller advertising program, whereby advertising will appear on side panels attached to the strollers and the mall will share the revenue generated by such advertising.

In addition, the company's Smarte Lockers provide electronic lockers that do away with the problems associated with lost keys. The lockers work with an ATM-like screen where customers pay for the rental and receive instructions. The system assigns a locker and generates a PIN number, which customers use to open the locker. Users can also re-enter the lockers to stow additional packages without paying an extra fee.

The bottom line: Customers will stay longer and spend more if they can ditch heavy winter coats and packages in a convenient, secure spot.

4. Omnitech Communications (

Net fanatics can get their surfing fix at iPort kiosks.

The user-friendly kiosks are free to mall customers, and although they do not provide unrestricted surfing, they allow people to send and receive e-mail, as well as access information and perform certain tasks - view movie trailers, purchase merchandise, get coupons, and news, weather, and traffic updates - easily and quickly.

Mall owners can use the kiosks to offer coupons, mall maps, gift registry, promote store sales and capture customer data for future marketing. Omnitech takes care of the nitty-gritty details, such as the installation, wireless connectivity, maintenance and monitoring at no cost to developers.

The 13.5 sq. ft. kiosks also feature plasma screens and back-lit panels for advertising opportunities, and mall owners can do some co-marketing through the kiosks. For instance, if members of a sports team come for an autograph signing, advertising opportunities can be offered to a men's clothing company with a pitch along the lines of, "We'll have 5,000 men between the ages of 20 and 35 - your target market - in the center on Friday night. Here are some promotional opportunities through the kiosk you can tap."

Another income stream includes affiliate marketing relationships: For example, a flower company or an online stock trading firm can buy advertising and sell through the kiosks, and mall owners receive a cut of each bouquet ordered or each stock trade executed through the kiosks.

Individual retailers can also benefit through iPort. For instance, a video store can install a kiosk that allows customers to search for the availability of a particular movie, genre or star. The kiosk will automatically recommend other films to match customers' tastes and possibly generate more rentals.

5. BigFatWow (

When shoppers get weary or need an entertainment fix, BigFatWow steps in with its Wow centers, an interactive entertainment environment, featuring four to 12 computer stations (not stand-alone kiosks) with T-1 lines for speedy connections and 17-inch individual computer screens; six 27" T.V. screens; up to eight 42" flat-panel gas plasma screens with HDTV capabilities; and a technical and maintenance staff to keep things humming and to help customers.

The fun is free to shoppers and to you, and you share in the revenues generated through such things as billboard ads, TV commercials and online advertising.

In addition to receiving a percentage of ad revenues, mall owners also benefit by boosting mall traffic and lengthening visitors' stay times. At a month-old Wow center in a Decatur, Ga. mall, BigFatWow has seen all six of the terminals in use 70% of the time, according to the company. Last month, BigFatWow started installing four Wow centers per week in retail centers around the country.

6. Koala Corp. (

Before the kids have a meltdown, parents can stop at a Koala Play Center and run their little darlings around themed play areas including traditional playground elements such as slides, tunnels, and climbing stations.

Koala's play areas are composed of shiny, soft and indestructible material that can be placed indoors or outdoors. Included among the themes the company has created are breakfast, where a slide looked like a piece of bacon and a climbing station resembled a waffle. The inclusion of colorful helicopters, animals, dragons and flying birds are all possibilities.

Although the play stations do not generate income directly, the company says such an amenity tends to increase the number of visits parents make to a retail center.

In addition, they are apt to extend their stays because they do not have to worry about paying a babysitter every time they need to shop. Koala also offers parental convenience items - baby changing stations and diaper dispensers - for common area washrooms, as well as for individual retailers.

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