Allstar Vending, headquartered outside of Montreal, is celebrating 20 years of service to the bulk vending industry. The company has made remarkable strides since its inception in 1989, and has grown from a quaint supplier of flat merchandise and machines into an international organization that is now regarded as the one of the industry's most vertically and horizontally integrated. "We now do just about everything," said Allstar president Adam Dorfman.
The company designs, develops, manufactures, markets and distributes vendible toys for capsules in five sizes, along with self-vending novelties and high-bounce balls. It carries more than 50 bulk lines at any one time. It supplies products for redemption and plans to expand into crane merchandise. In addition to its sticker and tattoo pedigree, the company also offers bulk confections and nuts, carrying 50-plus products from seven manufacturers in its inventory.
PHOTO: Allstar Vending president Adam Dorfman is, from left, flanked by staff members Pamela Sonier, Kim Segal, Sharon Shlien and Rasha El Bakly at the company's Pointe-Claire, QC, headquarters.
Allstar specializes in licensing properties for the bulk vending channel and currently is the only North American supplier that works directly with Disney. Rounding out its offerings is a manufacturing division that builds venders for flat and capsuled merchandise, along with machine stands, racks and bases. It also distributes Beaver and Northwestern machines.
Evidence of merchandise know-how was found at the recent National Bulk Vendors Association's convention, where the industry presented the Best 2" Capsuled Product award to Allstar for its Funky Face Disguises. "We were honored to be recognized," Dorfman said. "But to borrow from an old saying, 'you are only as good as your latest product,' and in today's market, in this industry, perhaps a more fitting expression should be 'you are only as good as your next product!' That is what we are focusing on now."
The company's new shipping center in San Jose, CA, began operating almost a year ago, enabling the delivery of goods to western U.S. clientele at lower costs. The center has also witnessed a brisk walk-in business, Dorfman reported. A growing number of international distributors represent the company's products, too. Allstar's headquarters in Pointe-Claire – located on the Island of Montreal in southwestern Quebec – serves the eastern states.
Dorfman noted that the shipping center not only facilitates faster and cheaper order fulfillments, but also strengthens the bulk vending supplier's commitment to the U.S. market. "We're a North American company," he said. "While it would have been cheaper to open a shipping center in Vancouver, we felt it was important to reinvest where our business is."
A DIFFERENT WORLD
When the North American supplier arrived on the scene two decades ago, the flat vending sector, bolstered by new printing technology, was about to enter a period of rapid growth. This interval was accompanied by new innovations in bulk toys. Today, however, suppliers are struggling with diminishing wholesale prices for flat goods and prohibitive safety rules required for bulk toys.
"We're in a very challenging market today," Dorfman said. "Increasing costs for freight and insurance, combined with tighter credit conditions and saturation in some areas, have made it difficult for operators to grow their businesses. Smaller operators selling out to larger ones seems to be the trend. Higher vend prices, more sophisticated product and imaginative POS displays make a difference. The intermingling of amusement businesses with classic bulk vending also is more common these days."
In a bulk vending environment in which severe safety regulations threaten all tiers of the industry, Allstar might be the only large supplier that has never had a product recalled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. "I believe we are the only company of our size to have never had this problem," Dorfman said. "We are very careful when it comes to product safety, but also a little lucky."
He observed that it could be difficult to monitor Chinese factories. "We've brought in items that were switched from the samples several times. Luckily, our testing program was able to detect them." To prevent untested products from entering Allstar's supply channel, the company requires its overseas factories to hold shipments until production lots are fully examined. "They now know how serious Allstar is about product safety," Dorfman said.
"Unfortunately, recalls are a part of the toy industry these days," the Allstar executive added. "We are very satisfied with our program to date. But one product recall can happen to anyone. It happens to Wal-Mart. It's those suppliers who consistently have recalls that you have to wonder about."
Allstar was founded as an equipment distributor by Dorfman's mother, Myrna. She came across a company in Brooklyn, NY, that made trading card machines, put in an order and set up Allstar Distributing as it was known in its earlier days. The company moved from baseball card to sticker equipment, which created an opportunity to sell machine content.
In April, Myrna Dorfman appointed her son president, officially transitioning the company's leadership to the second generation. Dorfman now runs Allstar's day-to-day activities, while his mother, who retains a majority ownership and the title of chairwoman, focuses on special projects. As part of the transition, Dorfman, who once ran his own vending route between Montreal and Toronto, has promoted two key employees. Sharon Shlien became vice-president and Rasha El Bakly succeeded her as international sales manager.
A series of sales promotions based on the number 20 is being planned in conjunction with Allstar's anniversary. Visit allstarvending.com.