In the Face of Challenge, Opportunity Beckons

Every expo gives a reading on the industry’s “temperature,” and the Las Vegas convention in March was no exception. The turnout for Brad Bachtelle’s 5-hour profitability improvement seminar drew a standing-room-only crowd, reflecting the pressure operators currently feel and their desire to meet the challenge.

The show floor once again featured some interesting technological innovations. New this year was a system that dispenses redeemable coupons from vending machines. Besides bringing extra value to the vending purchase, it turns vending machines into direct marketing tools for special retail offers, enabling consumer product marketers to reach audiences in a new and effective way.

Reinforcing this theme in more than one booth were digital video screens imbedded in vending machines, another innovation that allows vending to assume a powerful new marketing role.

OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND

Every year, innovations offer more opportunities for an industry that has become increasingly unprofitable in its current modus operandi. Making the leap from the present to the future will take time, effort and commitment.

The task is daunting, but the possibilities are almost limitless.

Cashless transaction capability and remote monitoring have provided new tools not only for improving traditional vending, but for vending whole new categories of merchandise.

NON-TRADITIONAL MERCHANDISE

Efforts to introduce non-traditional merchandise to the full-line vending industry have been around for awhile. Some manufacturers have developed dedicated machines for products like office supplies, consumer electronics and cell phones.

Some established vending equipment manufacturers recognize that the full-line vending operator is the most logical channel to bring new retail concepts to market.

A few years ago, a manufacturer tested dedicated office product machines on behalf of an office products retailer. The machines were serviced by full-line vending operators.

The road block encountered in this test was not in sourcing non-traditional products, but in securing these products in the warehouse.

This setback, in retrospect, was fairly insignificant.

Such non-traditional programs should be revisited, considering that the traditional business is under pressure more fiercely than ever today.

Operators can begin by joining their equipment manufacturers in recognizing the unique capabilities they offer retail product marketers.

VENDOR, KNOW THYSELF

First and foremost is the unique equity operators have in their account relationships. No other channel of trade can bring new retail concepts to the work place as quickly as the vending operator.

Secondly, vending operators have well tuned inventory delivery systems that no other entity can replicate in a reasonable amount of time. Product manufacturers have no desire to attempt to recreate this.

Thirdly, operators have well trained technical staffs. Some new technologies will require additional training, but the teams already employed have a good foundation.

The keystone for success in our industry has always been service. The application of that service is what needs revisiting. Especially in light of the profitability challenges currently facing our industry.

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