The Last Mile

Dec. 11, 2017

Today our industry is much more than vending machines. It’s much more than micro markets and single-cup coffee machines and point-of-use water filtration systems. None of these words talk about the service or relationships that operators (and their employees) foster. NAMA is attempting to encompass the industry as convenience services, which it hopes includes all the products and equipment the industry delivers to customers, along with the services operators provide. It’s a topic that NAMA CEO Carla Balakgie and NAMA Chair Heidi Chico discuss in Redefining Convenience Services: NAMA 2018 on page 36. In the article, Chico mentions that operators are great at small drop distribution and should use that to find a profitable position in the distribution chain. 

The distribution chain

I thought this was an interesting idea since historically the industry has really held onto a foodservice identity. It has defined itself around edible refreshment and not about the distribution or delivery portion of the business.

Adding to this was an article I read on “Disruption Update: Vending Works Out Its Kinks,” about transformative solutions that take a hybrid honor box, vending machine and micro market into a public setting. The latest is called Bodega, created by ex-Google employees, but there have been others, such as Shop24 and ShelfX. What struck me was that in the article Joe DePinto, president and CEO of 7-Eleven, Inc., considers convenience stores as competing to get goods and services to customers in the last mile of retail. The last mile is a term used in supply chain management that refers to delivering goods to the end point (be it consumers or businesses) from a more centralized transportation method.

Costly delivery solution 

The last mile is often very costly, since it is hard to make it efficient. It’s a struggle familiar to a range of industries from the U.S. Postal Service to fast food delivery. And now, convenience stores, apparently. So if one of our largest “refreshment” competitors is considering itself a part of the supply chain, what does that make us? After all, consumers go to the convenience store. Whereas, we go directly to the consumers, albeit at work. Can operators be a solution to ecommerce retailers like Amazon by delivering products and face-to-face service to the end user instead of trying to compete? I think it might be worth a try. Please share what you think in online comments or in an email to [email protected] 

About the Author

Emily Refermat | Editor

Emily has been living and breathing the vending industry since 2006 and became Editor in 2012. Usually Emily tries the new salted snack in the vending machine, unless she’s on deadline – then it’s a Snickers.

Feel free to reach Emily via email here or follow her on Twitter @VMW_Refermat.


The 2018 NAMA Chair Heidi Chico, left, and NAMA CEO Carla Balakgie see the industry expanding and growing in 2018.

Redefining Convenience Services: NAMA 2018

Dec. 11, 2017
The industry is experiencing a shift and NAMA leaders are blazing the way. The national association’s CEO, Carla Balakgie, calls it the story of “convenience services.” This phrase...