Long time broker Mike Craig, South regional manager at Palm Harbor, Fla.-based G& J Marketing and Sales, is optimistic about the future of vending.
“It’s an exciting time in the industry,” said Craig, the 2011 Automatic Merchandiser Broker of the Year. Specifically, the technology offerings are making it exciting and will be a key business strategy. “We have to have cashless and we have to make (vending) a fun place for customers to shop,” he said. He acknowledges that everyone is having to work extra hard to remain profitable, but it’s also an advantage. “It will make us a better industry when the times get better,” he said. “I’m saying when, not if.”
Before G&J, Craig worked for a frozen food distributor in North Carolina. The distributor carried a large selection of frozen vend food. During his 14 year-tenure, he got to know many of the people in the industry, including Greg Sidwell, owner of G&J, who was representing Pierre to the North Carolina distributor. It was his relationship with Sidwell that got Craig the job with G&J in 1997.
Recently, Craig’s role has changed as G& J became a national company. In 2011, Craig went from covering sales in North Carolina to being regional manager of the Southeast.
“I really enjoyed the sales side because of the relationships you build,” said Craig. “On the management side, I enjoy the strategic planning and working together as a team to reach a sales objective.”
Craig believes part of that strategy has to be technology. At the 2011 Atlantic Coast Expo (ACE), where the trade show floor was sold out, about half of the booths were technology exhibitors. Craig remembers seeing self checkout markets, cashless payment systems, warehouse picking systems, and much more.
“The technology part is what’s going to drive us forward in the future,” said Craig.
“It is a real honor to receive this, but the G&J team is what it’s all about,” said Craig when told about the award. He credits his strong team of sales people, office staff, and even his managers at G&J. “I just can’t say enough about the company — how professional they are. This award should be spread throughout the team.”