APPLETON, WI -- L.M. Becker & Co. Inc. is going out of business after nearly seven decades in bulk vending.
"I'd like to thank our loyal distributors and customers for your continued business over our many years together," said president Jonathan Becker. In an email message to the company's clientele, Becker expressed his gratitude to everyone who has contributed to the ongoing success of the bulk vending industry and the National Bulk Vendors Association.
Lyle M. Becker founded L.M. Becker & Co. in 1941, initially running bulk peanut machines and soon adding ball gum. He is credited with the idea of working with locations to build traffic by including "winner" gumballs in the mix; patrons who got one received a premium when they redeemed it. Becker also is remembered for his pioneering sale of novelties ("charms") through bulk machines, thus helping to inspire the development of capsules to widen the variety of toys and sundry items that could be vended. At the time, he simply intermixed them with ball gum.
These concepts were among a number of innovations launched by the young, rapidly growing bulk vending industry in the immediate postwar years. That innovation and growth caught the eye of governments at all levels, prompting threats that vending "winner" items would be considered gambling, as well as the danger that federal authorities would ban bulk vended mixes that included both confections and novelties.
Existing trade associations were grappling with other legislative and regulatory issues, so The National Vendors Association (now the National Bulk Vendors Association) was organized to represent the interests of bulk operators and to counter the peril of heavy-handed government intervention.
Becker determined to give up operating and turn to bulk merchandise development and distribution. He invented the "Toy 'n Joy" machine as the cornerstone of a nationwide equipment leasing and service program that widened opportunities for bulk operators.
By strengthening the market for the company's toys and novelties, this business model increased L.M. Becker's purchasing power and its ability to procure a wider range of attractive bulk merchandise.
As son Peter entered the business in the early 1990s, it began marketing the first 50¢ capsule items, and made another transition from equipment manufacture, distribution and leasing to specialization in vendible product supply. L.M. Becker acquired Kid Zone, another bulk merchandise innovator that had been founded by industry leader Neel Clark.
Peter Becker left the organization in 2003 to undertake a new venture, which sourced and marketed premium bulk merchandise commanding higher vend prices. At the time, L.M. Becker promoted executive vice-president Marlene Campbell, a 33-year veteran of the organization, to president; Lyle's youngest son, Jonathan, succeeded her as executive vice-president and became president upon her retirement.
In his parting message of appreciation to the company's customers, Jonathan wrote: "May the operators and suppliers of our industry work cohesively to achieve a common goal of survival through these difficult times."
L.M. Becker Runs Clearance Sale
L.M. Becker & Co. is conducting a one-week sale of its remaining inventory as it wraps up through Wednesday, Aug. 11. All orders must be placed online, and all sales are final. The firm's e-commerce site -- noveltiesagogo.com -- is experiencing heavy traffic as a result of the sale, and customers are urged to be patient when navigating through it.