This summer will be significant for bulk vending operators across the country. While the business pages are filled with stories on a steadily improving economy, a large percentage of operators has yet to feel a meaningful positive impact. A particularly harsh winter has kept many customers away from locations. Consumers, many hibernating in front of their televisions and eating junk food, just didn't move around as much. And who could blame them? Temperatures in many parts of the country dropped to zero or below for days on end.
As warmer weather arrives, potential vending customers are out and about in greater numbers, putting the much-hyped improving economy to test. On paper, the economy looks stronger than a year ago, but how prepared are vending operators for a possible rise in summer sales? Improving spring and summer sales still requires careful management and planning.
Out of practice of coping with good news at the cashbox, many operators simply won't maximize the potential of an improving economy. Too many will be thankful for small increases without aggressively making the most of opportunities. They may be wary of the good economic news, as this is the kind of cautious optimism that has not been felt for quite some time.
One of the key points that operators miss is that managing sales improvements is just as vital to a company's well-being as negotiating the tough times. That means keeping a vigilant eye on the bottom line, location by location, and looking for ways to increase sales at the best-performing locations.
Smart operators will find ways to maximize sales by analyzing their locations. That could be done by increasing machine density within a location, expanding product offerings or operating new equipment categories. These are simply calculated risks and planned strategies aimed at boosting revenue.
In addition to looking at the bottom line, shrewd operators will spend more time in the field talking to location management and studying foot traffic. (Call it taking the temperature.) Sales may not immediately show up in the cashbox, however. If equipment and location are mismatched because the customer base has shifted, this may not be immediately apparent. A new attraction or retail outlet in proximity to an already profitable location may draw a new and different customer demographic.
The bulk vending industry is particularly suited to this type of uncertainty. Traditionally more nimble than most businesses, the typical vending operation can bring the equipment to the customers. Even without investing in new equipment, savvy operators have been rearranging their routes for years to build equipment density where it is most needed. Will they manage the potential of what very much seems like an expanding economy with the same eye to efficiency as many of them managed a troubled marketplace? Only time will tell.