By Carla Balakgie
Last week, NAMA celebrated the third annual National Vending Day – a day recognizing the business and people in convenience services and highlighting the corner stone of the industry, traditional vending.
It was also, however, a somber reminder of the difficult year we experienced and the toll the COVID-19 pandemic has taken – almost one year to the day since shutdowns began and our day-to-day lives were disrupted. Throughout March 2020, like dominoes, governors issued stay-at-home orders, businesses and schools shut their doors, and many industries scrambled to adapt.
It is impossible to overlook the incredible contributions made by so many essential workers over the last year. Doctors, nurses, and hospital staff toiled around the clock to care for a vast influx of patients. Police officers, fire fighters, and first responders pushed on uninterrupted, performing vital services for their communities. Food, beverage, and consumer packaged goods manufacturers increased production to meet heightened demand. Truck drivers ran extra routes to get those goods to store shelves. And, when needed most, the convenience services industry delivered those products to their customers in every facet of business and society.
Behind the scenes the industry did what it does best. Operators worked diligently to keep vending machines and grab-and-go breakroom markets stocked with necessary fuel to keep America’s essential workers going. Around the nation, waiting rooms, breakrooms, truck stops and rest areas, continued to provide access to meals, snacks, coffee and beverages with 24/7 availability. Unattended retail proved once again to be an indispensable resource for so many at a time when social distancing has not only been encouraged but required to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The industry also pivoted to meet the needs of a nation in crisis. In airports, on college campuses, and many points beyond, you now find needed solutions to meet the times. Vending machines expanded access to rapid tests, personal protective equipment (PPE), and other items that provide comfort and security in an uncertain world.
Convenience services is something that so many Americans consider a part of everyday life, but we rarely stop to acknowledge the industry’s nearly 160,000 hardworking employees. Through traditional vending and unattended micro markets, workplace coffee and pantry services, product and equipment manufacturing, and small-drop distribution – convenience services meets the needs of over 40 million American consumers daily at work, home, school, and play. That is why NAMA celebrated National Vending Day this year by recognizing the great men and women who kept critical locations stocked, their workers nourished, and the economy moving.
At NAMA we are always grateful to be trusted by our members to provide advocacy, education, and research for the convenience services industry. But this year – on National Vending Day – we were honored to represent our industry’s front-line heroes.
CARLA BALAKGIE is president and chief executive of the National Automatic Merchandising Association. Founded in 1936 and based in Washington, DC, NAMA is the association representing the $31 billion U.S. convenience services industry. Balakgie has led NAMA for the past 10 years.