News Flash: Convenience Stores Are Not Your Main Enemy; You Are!

One of the most significant pieces of information released at the recent National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) Oneshow is that consumers do not view convenience stores as the maincompetitive threatto vending. This was one of several interesting findings from a consumer survey NAMA sponsored, which VendingMarketWatch reported yesterday.While there were other important findings, I find the information about c-stores most interesting because it defies a widespread belief by vending operators that c-stores are the primary threat to their business.The research, presented by Healy Schulte of Chicago, found that both users and non-users of vending see grocery stores, drug stores and mass merchandisers as the top alternatives to vending when it comes to buying snacks; c-stores and brown bagging tied for third place.Drug stores, grocery stores and c-stores tied as alternatives to vending when buying cold beverages.The findings were especially prevalent for Generation Y consumers, age 18 to 27.When asked where they would buy a snack or cold beverage if all were equidistant, Gen Y consumers said they would choose vending over c-stores, grocery stores and drug stores.Vending operators may find a lot of this hard to believe. C-stores, after all, are the main convenience retail channel besides vending. C-stores are the only retail channel besides vending that focuses on single-serve products.Vending operators need to be careful about rejecting the research. By doing so, they give themselves reason to ignore what the research indicates is the real threat vending faces: that vending products are not a good value for the money. The research found over half of non-users and a third of users believe this.The research notes the vending industry must overcome consumers view that vending products are more expensive than products in other convenience channels.This wont be easy. Overcoming decades of conditioning will take time and effort.One reason consumers expect vending prices to be low is that the vending industry educated consumers to expect this. No other retail channel has done this.The research outlines several areas the vending industry can focus on to re-educate consumer about vending, as noted in VendingMarketWatchs report on the research yesterday, 5-10-11. There are some great opportunities to do this, given the benefits provided by vending technology.The research forms the basis of NAMAs new industry growth campaign. Vending operators should embrace it.

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