Planning to attend this year’s National Expo in St. Louis, Mo.? If the opinions of your more progressive minded colleagues means anything to you, you’ll go. Successful operators make it a point to attend national expos because there are always new products, equipment and technology to see, and there is always a lot to gain from networking with colleagues and suppliers. Not to mention the educational seminars.
All three of these areas, seeing what’s new on the show floor, networking, and educational seminars, are interrelated.
Oftentimes it’s through networking that an attendee hears about something new on the show floor. In many cases, subjects come up during seminars that attendees follow up on with one another while networking.
If you come prepared to learn, you will. At a national expo, you get out what you put in.
Some operators are concerned about the cost of attending the expo. Operators have to scrutinize their expenditures in order to remain profitable. But consider that one cost saving idea learned at expo can easily cover the cost of the trip.
This year’s program contains a wealth of educational opportunities.
If you can make it in a day early, the category management seminar by consultant Brad Bachtelle from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 14 is back by popular demand. This subject is especially important today because many operators are making the mistake of adjusting product mixes based on manufacturer pricing, not customer demand. This is an area where Bachtelle has been outspoken, and operators need to hear his views if they want to compete successfully against the retail competition.
Many operators are reducing their candy facings in favor of more salty snacks. Our State of the Vending Industry Report, published in August, confirmed this. Bachtelle sees this as a good reason for a refresher on category management, which bases product selection on consumer demand, as indicated by previous sales.
Less service? Product mix is key
Dual candy spirals, Bachtelle notes, tend to have less frequent out of stocks than single spirals. Operators should keep this in mind if they are trying to minimize service frequency, which many currently say they are trying to do. In cases where operators plan to reduce service frequency, it is especially important that they make the best use of their facings.
Product selection is always important, but if operators are going to service the machines less frequently to save on labor, they need to maximize sales in order to sustain their return on labor.
Bachtelle’s biggest problem with the move to fewer candy facings is that it is not consumer driven. Instead of reducing candy facings, he urges operators to raise their candy prices.
Come to think of it, have you noticed convenience stores, drug stores, supermarkets, warehouse clubs or theaters reducing their candy offerings? Maybe there’s something to what Bachtelle has to say.
Bachtelle has also updated his category management material to address the new categories coming into the market; namely healthier offerings and higher priced items. Some of these products don’t fit the traditional vend product categories, so operators need to know where they should go in the machine.
Supervisory development progam
If you can bring some of your supervisors to the expo, the supervisory development program will be held Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings. The supervisory development program is taught by college professors and industry experts.
Supervisors are instructed in strategies and skills ranging from decision-making, time management, communication, personal selling, leadership and working with customers.
Quality coffee certification
If you are in OCS, the Quality Coffee Certification Program is one you won’t want to miss. Everyone who has taken this 4-hour training has become more knowledgeable about what makes a good cup of coffee. What a great confidence builder in a segment of the industry that is growing!
Attendees learn the fundamentals of brewing a quality cup of coffee, which includes with the history of coffee and continues from the bean to the cup.
During another session on Wednesday morning, Oct. 16, Bachtelle will address ways to protect profits through immediate, aggressive management. He gave a similar presentation at last year’s expo to a standing-room-only audience, and the attendees found it extremely helpful.
This seminar will examine adjusting routes, service frequency, and inventory, while controlling margins, cash and commission rates. Bachtelle will even explore tactics like partnering with locations.
Vending management software
In the afternoon, Michigan State University Professor Mike Kasavana, Ph.D., will lead two panels on understanding vending management software. One panel will consist of software providers, while the other will consist of vending operators who have used one or more systems.
Vending software has changed a lot over the years, and all serious operators need to have a good system to manage effectively. Software is a very challenging thing to learn. Each one of the different systems available has their own unique strengths.
Kasavana moderated a similar panel discussion during the Coffee Summit back in February, focusing on OCS software management. It was well received.
Surviving a recession
On Thursday morning, Bachtelle returns as the keynote speaker for the general session, where he will specifically discuss the difficult decisions that need to be made to survive a recession. He will address staffing decisions and streamlining opportunities.
He will also remind operators of the importance of being ready for an economic turnaround when it does come, which it will. Operators cannot manage as if the operating environment will never change without getting hurt when it does.
‘Fit Pick’ healthy vending program
On Thursday afternoon, Jackie Clark, NAMA’s public relations director, will give a seminar on the “Fit Pick” program, which is also known as “Balanced for Life.” Operators continue to field requests for healthy products, from both account decision makers and end users.
The NAMA healthy vending program has evolved over the years, and it now offers more options and support materials than ever. The “Fit Pick” program is a turn-key program that even the smallest vending company can use to better meet customer needs.
Be environmentally responsible
Friday morning includes a seminar on a topic that every operator should be interested in learning more about: incorporating environmental responsibility in your business practices.
Sandra Cummins, president of an organization called Southeast Green, is an expert in helping businesses “go green,” and she has been asked to develop suggestions specific to the vending industry. She has a long list to present, so this seminar
is a “must.”
Cummins will summarize a case study at The University of Buffalo, Buffalo, N.Y., where 132 energy efficient vending machines were installed and reaped $21,000 in savings the first year.
Cummins will also offer insight into the emerging opportunity of LED lighting. She will also cover various ways to reduce energy use in the office, introduce recycling in the warehouse, and introduce container recycling programs to customers.
If that isn’t enough, Cummins will also offer tips on how to market environmental protection programs to customers. Environmental programs can be the basis for networking in the community.
These are some of the highlights of the educational portion of the national expo experience that complement the trade show and networking activities. This year’s program is not to be missed.