En route to Las Vegas for this week’s NAMA OneShow, I shared a plane with a veteran product broker I’ve gotten to know over the years. He lamented the challenging state of vending sales. He welcomes new technology, but he questions the average operator’s ability to make these investments when the return needed to justify such outlays is not certain in many situations. He welcomes the self checkout micro markets, but he thinks it will be several years before they are numerous enough to bolster operators’ sales.
Later in the day, at the Gratitude Tour at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, I spoke with a veteran Midwestern vending operator. When I asked him what his main goals are in attending this year’s OneShow, he said he wants to know more about legislation that could seriously impact his struggling business. He is specifically concerned about the ADA machine reach requirements and the calorie disclosure rules.
When I asked him what he thought of the Gratitude Tour, he questioned NAMA’s decision to sponsor these events which are designed to educate consumers about vending’s new capabilities.
Given the legislative challenges the industry faces, he wonders if more resources shouldn’t go to lobbying rather than marketing.
Both of these conversations remind me of the difficulty that change is placing on everyone in our industry. Veterans agree the business is harder than ever. There is more competition from other retail channels, consumers are more frugal due to the economy, operating costs are higher, regulatory pressures are harder, and everyone needs to be better educated to use today’s new business tools.
With the changes taking place today, there is no such thing anymore as “business as usual.” To survive in a difficult business environment, a business owner has to take risks.
NAMA, with its new industry growth strategy, is doing some things that it might not have done 10 years ago. It determined there is a need to educate consumers about our industry’s new capabilities.
Accepting change is not easy.
Both the broker and the operator I spoke with agree that the prosperity they once knew will not return any time in the near future. In the meantime, they, and everyone else, need to think about doing things differently.
There is no such thing as an easy decision when it comes to business strategy. This is why industry forums such as the OneShow are so important. These events give us a chance to learn from people with expertise we lack ourselves, see new innovations, compare observations with colleagues, question our assumptions, and gain insight into the difficult decisions we all face.