"Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, get your robots here...
Come on down to iRobot, get the Roomba here!
You're going to need that
If you've a dog or a cat..."

 -- from Schoolhouse Rock (with liberties taken)

Following in the footsteps of giants such as Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Dell (NASDAQ:DELL), and Motorola (NYSE:MOT), Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT) last week boldly went where so many tech leaders have gone before: Into retail.

For years, we've heard CEO Colin Angle muse wistfully on conference calls about how much better the margins are in selling robots directly to the consumer, rather than via such retail intermediaries as Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), Sears (NASDAQ:SHLD), and Target (NYSE:TGT). As a first step, the company tried selling over the Web (as have all the others.) But with the Christmas season already upon us -- wait, did I miss Thanksgiving? -- iRobot is getting serious about retail. How serious? It's setting up shop in the mall.

OK, "a" mall
One particular mall: The one in Burlington, Mass. -- at least at first. If you will permit me to read between the lines of iRobot's press release announcing the Burlington kiosk-opening, and add italics as necessary, then the phrasing "opened the company's first retail kiosk" suggests to this Fool that there may well be a second. And a third. Assuming all goes well with the first, of course.

First or last?
From here, I see two paths iRobot can take. Dell, after making a pale imitation of Apple's trendy stand-alone stores by opening mall kiosks a few years back, famously closed them all back in January. But Sprint's kiosk concept is still going strong. And Apple is of course doing gangbusters business at its stores. Could iRobot enjoy similar success?

Judging from the success of its home robots division last quarter, it can. In the middle of one of the worst recessions anyone can recall, iRobot sold more than 50% more Roombas, Scoobas, and Verros this year than last, and raised guidance for the rest of this year.

Opening a single kiosk in far Burlington may not do much to ensure that iRobot meets its new sales goal. But it demonstrates management's confidence in the popularity of its products -- and its intention to capitalize on that popularity to the max.

For more on iRobot's future, and the future of robotics itself:

Fool contributor Rich Smith owns shares of iRobot. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Sears Holdings, Dell, and Best Buy are Motley Fool Inside Value selections. iRobot is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick. Best Buy and Apple are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy.

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