For the past several years we have seen the number of vending machines decline as micro markets replace them in large accounts. Many people outside the industry ask me if I think micro markets will replace vending machines entirely. The answer, of course, is no. While I don’t think we have seen the end of diminishing vending machine counts, they will never go extinct. Part of the reason is that technology is making equipment even more profitable in today’s business environment. Ask the Ray brothers who own and operate Healthy Generation Vending in Texas. They offer micro markets but consider vending the main service they provide and have invested time and money in using technology to aid profitability. Read about it on page 34.
Part of the reason micro markets are replacing vending machines is because of the convenience of cashless payments and the opportunity for promotions they offer. Vending machines fall short in comparison. However, as it turns out, today’s cashless terminals offer some of these same advantages for the vending machine, turning them into sophisticated pieces of equipment and part of the popular “Internet of Things,” such as smartphone controlled lights and thermostats. Take a look at what is possible with your connected machines in the article “Unexplored Benefits Of Cashless” on page 28.
Even if you don’t have cashless terminals yet, there are still plenty of advantages to technology. Consultant Mike Ferguson breaks down technology and when it should be added (page 16) with the ultimate message that technology is important because operations buying competitors want companies who have already made the technology investment.
Why else do I say vending machines aren’t dead? Because they are still a large part of the annual trade show held by NAMA. This year’s event will include all kinds of new products ready for vending machines and even more technology to make them exciting to the customer. We include a preview of the NAMA show on page 26, but I encourage you to stay updated on the latest show news by reading our daily Vending Today enewsletter.
It’s a fun time to be in vending as we watch the perception of automated merchandising change. What was the wheel of death is now a highly used Farmer’s Fridge vending machine full of fresh salads in the Chicago airport. What consumers eyed with suspicion before inserting a quarter is now how new cars are displayed and delivered in urban areas. What once caused endless frustration when it refused to take a dollar now offers multiple payment options including using loyalty points. In the end, this industry is more relevant than ever, not just because of micro markets, which are exciting, but also because of what was and will always be the backbone of so many operations, the vending machine.