Convenience services could see its greatest expansion since the period after the Second World War

March 17, 2021

At long last, COVID-19 vaccines are being shot into arms in significant numbers and it’s possible that by the end of May there could be a dose available to every American adult who wants one. “When” those vaccines make their way into enough arms – it’s no longer an “if” – most of the nation’s businesses could be looking at an agreeable summer followed by an almost normal fall.

While parts of the U.S. economy still remain tied up in the COVID-19 knot, Wall Street and Washington see a likely and imminent post-pandemic boom. From the start of the pandemic, academics and businesspeople have always predicted that a period of economic growth would follow, but now many expect a supersized recovery. Some say the U.S. economy is poised to be stronger than ever over the next few years.

Last month the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia assembled a panel of 39 economic forecasters who predicted that real GDP would grow at an annual rate of 3.2% in the first quarter of 2021. The economists agreed that the remaining quarters this year, and the following two years, will see an even stronger rebound in output growth. On an annual-average over annual-average basis, the forecasters expect real GDP to grow 4.5% in 2021 and 3.7% in 2022.

The economic growth predictions are almost as high as actual GDP growth during the post-World War II expansion period.

A former colleague often reminded me that anyone trying to understand the modern vending and workplace refreshments industry needs to place it into historical context. You’ll be struck by the parallels between extreme economic difficulties and considerable technological developments, he emphasized.

In the second half of the 20th century, wars, conflicts and recessions were often followed by advances in vending. The emergence of full-line vending to provide hot and cold beverages, food, snacks and confections, among other products, to hungry factory workers was a result of the industrial boom immediately following the Second World War. Other economic factors led to the development and adoption of glassfront merchandising, banknote validation, frozen food equipment, cashless payments and telemetry, and vending management software, as well as adjunct delivery models like coffee service.

This past year, public officials, reporters and commentators sometimes compared the pandemic to World War II, often juxtaposing the two historical events to scale the virus’s death toll. (Let’s not forget each death is unique, a devastating loss to a family, a community, a company.)

While it’s easy to get mired in making comparisons, it stands to reason that convenience services could see their greatest expansion period since The Big One. For micro market operators, who were the go-to resource for food and beverage in essential workplaces, that expansion is already underway.

So, it’s time to get back to work – for me. This is my first issue as Automatic Merchandiser’s editor and I look forward to telling your stories.

About the Author

Nick Montano

Contributing editor Nick Montano is passionate about covering news in the vending, office coffee service and micro market industry. He brings more than two decades’ experience to AM and VMW as a business journalist. His industry roots go way back; his first jobs were managing the stockroom of a full-line vending company and filling in for vacationing route drivers during his high school summer breaks. 


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