Kiosk carnage becomes indicator of gold's top

New York (Nov 2)  Wall Street didn't call the top in gold—the neighborhood mall did, Buyers may want to be cognizant of that before the next craze takes hold.  It used to be that kiosks had cornered the market on retail bullion. All you had to do is follow the growing number of gold kiosks offering to buy used jewelry and coins in 2011. That's the year when gold prices were on a tear and hit fresh highs in the $1,900 range.

As big investment firms were hiking their forecasts to more than $2,000 an ounce, Main Street was trying to cash in by convincing people they could be missing the opportunity of a lifetime.

Yet even if that was true, was the place to sell your used jewelry really at a booth between a Forever 21 and Macy's?

"At that point, the smart money is out the door," said Huntington Asset Advisors senior portfolio manager Peter Sorrentino, who warned three and a half years ago that kiosks signaled a mature phase in gold's rally.

Going long silver and short gold was one of the most profitable ways to play the record run-up, according to Sorrentino. It wasn't doing a transaction in the middle of a shopping mall.

He notes kiosks face a lot of overhead, and those costs factor into what they will pay for gold. Rents per square foot are very high, there are sales taxes and the operators aren't established dealers.

"I wouldn't buy Beats headphones from a random kiosk at the mall. Those things (kiosks) are shady." said retail expert Brian Sozzi, Belus Capital Advisors CEO and chief equities strategist. "Shopping malls add kiosks into the mix because they're trying to squeeze every amount of blood out of its floor space as possible."

Just like the record prices that peaked around August 2011, the life span of the gold kiosk didn't last very long either. And, that's not surprising given the business model. There's such a high turnover rate for kiosks, it's hard to even track how many are open for business right now.

"You are really given an opportunity to go into a shopping center to get amazing visibility. You are coming in at times that are strategic for your business," said Patricia Norris, vice president of specialty programs at the International Council of Shopping Centers. She is also the founder of Specialty Retail Report.

The popularity of kiosks has been rising in the past decade. Now, however, you'd be hard pressed to find ones devoted anymore to buying your gold.

"Gold kiosks have been trending down since 2011 and being replaced by other product and service categories. This replacement is a natural progression in the specialty retail industry," Norris added.

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She said food kiosks are now the hot commodity.

Franchises such as French Fry Heaven and Caviar and More are opening up kiosk locations at malls and airports at a high rate, Norris said.

It may be a bit outrageous to call the top in the potato market. But there's always a new craze brewing somewhere.

Source:  CNBC