CHICAGO -- Increased operator attendance and plaudits from exhibitors characterized the National Automatic Merchandising Association's 75th anniversary, celebrated at the 2011 OneShow at McCormick Place in Chicago from April 27 to 29.
A highlight of the event was the unveiling of NAMA's Industry Growth Strategy, a detailed campaign map designed to restore the vending industry's image as an innovative and satisfying source of convenient refreshment.
The message is being carefully crafted to reinforce the favorable view of the industry that the association's market research has shown to be held by a majority of "Generation Y" consumers. It will be backed up by a wide variety of initiatives aimed at engaging consumers, especially younger ones, with vending equipment, vendible products and one another.
NAMA board chairman Craig Hesch, A.H. Management Group (Rolling Meadows, IL), explained that the object of the new strategy is to establish "vending" as a brand in its own right, rather than a commodity. Plans include a Facebook campaign (which, among other things, will invite visitors to "like" their favorite vending machines and, by encouraging their comrades and followers to do the same, qualify for attractive prizes and acclaim.) Machines also will be taken on a traveling road show, accompanied by festive activities.
Technology and politics were at the top of the educational agenda at this year's OneShow. Showgoers thronged the annual membership meeting to hear keynote speaker Rudolph Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City during the terrorist attacks of Sept.11, 2001. The always-well-attended business session led by Dr. Michael Kasavana, NAMA endowed professor at Michigan State University (East Lansing), had operators standing in the aisles, and featured an overview of the ways in which the industry's new wireless communications and payment systems, backed by increasingly sophisticated network architectures and management software, are improving operator profitability while the economy slowly rebounds from the nadir reached three years ago.
Showgoers also had the opportunity to get the latest and most authoritative information on a variety of critical issues. Government officials and industry experts probed the new nutritional labeling requirements, and compliance with the latest revisions to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which impose new standards on the height of payment systems, controls and peripherals. | SEE STORY
The federal government's eagerness to work with the vending industry to minimize disruption caused by future changes in the metallic composition of coins also was reviewed, as was the probable impact of the healthcare reform law as it is phased in through 2014. Last August, Hesch testified before members of Congress that any modifications to coins or paper currency would cost the industry more than $530 million. The U.S. Treasury is exploring new ways to mint coins using less expensive materials. | SEE STORY
An innovation in educational programming was a series of Operator Perspectives, half-hour presentations with question and answer periods conducted in the exhibit area. These were extremely well attended and covered a range of very timely topics.
The trade show followed through on many of these themes, highlighting the latest engineering advances from touchscreen user interfaces to self-service pick-and-pay retail concepts that have proven to be profitable adjuncts to full-line vending in suitable locations. A wider variety of products, many of them formulated to appeal to today's opinions about health and nutrition, were on display, insured that trade show visitors had much to see and assess.
The industry also paid tribute to members for outstanding achievement over substantial spans of time. The awards ceremony, hosted by fabled MSU basketball coach Tom Izzo, recognized the vending and coffee service operators and suppliers nominated by their peers as exemplifying the highest qualities of character and professional excellence.
Singled out as Industry Person of the Year was Dr. Kasavana. He coined the phrase "v-commerce" to describe unattended points of sale including (but not limited to) vending and a tireless educator and catalyst for change. Chris Lilly of Best Vendors, chairman of the Vending Data Interchange Standard committee, also received the association's thanks for his continued success in rolling out a new series of protocols designed to maximize the interoperability of components of the new technological solutions.
Next year's OneShow will be held in Las Vegas and operators can obtain a foretaste of its pleasures at the upcoming NAMA CoffeeTeaWater show there in October.