It seems as though Christmas ended just yesterday, but here we are, love is in the air and Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. There are around eleven federal holidays in the U.S. and that’s not even including other holidays and events that excite consumers such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day, the Super Bowl and the Olympics (when it comes around).
Along with these events come seasonal treats by food/beverage companies and manufacturers. Holiday soda cans and candy bars line the shelves of grocery stores and convenience stores. But there is one place from which seasonal treats are often missing: vending machines.
I have heard that operators hesitate to buy seasonal food and beverage snacks for fear of not selling out before the season is over. However, new items appeal to customers, especially if they see these items are only available for a limited time offer. Buy enough to fill one helix and see how quickly that item sells out. The National Confectioners Association recommends promoting seasonal items weeks before the holiday/event. Halloween merchandising should start when the school year starts, while Valentine’s Day products should be put on display as soon as New Year's Eve is over.
This last winter, Mars introduced a classic Santa Claus shape Twix bar in singles or in six-packs. Coca-Cola also announced that they were celebrating the Super Bowl win of the Seattle Seahawks with a limited-edition commemorative can sold in Seattle, Wash. and Washington state retail locations. Obviously seasonal and limited-edition items sell; otherwise manufacturers wouldn’t be making them.
So why not sell seasonal items?
Candy & Snack Today, a National Confectioners Association publication, reported that by thinking like a consumer during seasonal periods, retailers can make the most out of a holiday. Although these remarks specifically refer to C-stores and grocery stores, why can’t they also apply to vending machines and micro markets? If C-stores can display seasonal items prominently, why can’t the vending industry? All it takes is for consumers to know that these new products are in the machine.
As an operator, you follow consumer trends and you put those trending products in your machine and they sell. It should be no different for seasonal products. One way to appeal to a consumer’s wallet is to appeal to their wants. In a VendingMarketWatch exclusive published last March, Paul Schlossberg mentioned the importance of plan-o-grams and offering seasonal items. He noted that operators should be featuring seasonal menus for every product category. Although that may not be possible for each operator to offer one in each category, it is possible to offer at least one helix of a seasonal item.
Coming into this industry recently, I still think like a consumer when it comes to vending machines. I can almost always tell what is going to be in a vending machine before I approach it, but if I were to see a seasonal or limited edition bag or bar of something, it would influence my purchasing decision.