During a recent conversation, I was reminded of the fact that vending has always been tied to labor. If you read the news, you know that the employment statistics aren’t great. Unemployment has gone down, but the percentage of people working hasn’t increased. Companies just aren’t growing their staffs. Yet, the upcoming Automatic Merchandiser/VendingMarketWatch State of the Vending Industry report shows positive growth in 2012 operator revenues (yes, I’m leaking that news). But how?
The best explanation is that vending operators have adjusted to the new workplace. It has fewer people and many aren’t even at the location. An estimated 3.1 million employees primarily work from home and a total of 20 to 30 million telecommute at least once weekly, according to Telework Research Network. Successful vending operators have adjusted product and service to account for this, because this is nothing new and, as one industry member said, “an employee who works from home 1 day per week (20 percent of the work week) can't buy from the vending machine. This is huge and greatly affected our Industry over the past few years.”
Adjusting to multiple generations
It’s not just that people aren’t in the office or facility anymore, but also the diversity of the employees there. The last time I chatted with a human resources professional, she mentioned that this was the first time in history four generations have worked in the same workplace. That’s one of her challenges in facilitating smooth co-worker communication, but it is also a challenge for vending operators who have to figure out how to meet all these different people’s needs. And with names for the generations like baby boomers, the lost generation, generation X, Gen Y and recently the millennials that all incorporate shifting age groups and buying trends, the challenges expand. Vending is a more difficult business than it ever was. And yet, there is still growth. That growth is proof that operators aren’t defeated. They’ve gotten smarter, with advanced technology to fight against lower revenues. They have updated their strategies and are working hard to battle the shifting workplace. I congratulate them. They are winning this war on vending profits.