The holidays have always been a busy time for bulk vending and cranes. As families head to the malls and shopping districts, parents tend to be more indulgent and children more excited. For better or worse, shopping remains a component of the holiday season, and for most retailers it means the difference between a profitable and unprofitable year.
Yet few bulk vending operators make a plan. As traditional retailers attack the market with all the precision of a finely tuned military campaign, most bulk vendors seem content to sit back and wait for that inevitable uptick at the cashbox. But this cashbox bump is far from maximizing sales potential.
Over the years I have encountered a few operators who make an effort to match retailers' aggressive strategies. Here are some of their strategies.
1) Expand machine density to match foot traffic. Placing just the right amount of equipment in a mall or shopping district has always been something of an art form. Too few pieces of equipment means missed sales. On the other hand, too much equipment can tie up valuable resources. Keeping that in mind, foot traffic patterns very often change dramatically over the Holiday Season. Locations that had just the right amount of equipment, can suddenly find themselves coming up short. The temporary installation of additional equipment can capture those additional sales.
2) Pop up at the pop-ups. The suitably named "pop-up" stores that sell everything from Christmas trees and decorative lighting to discounted housewares can prove profitable, if temporary, locations for a wide variety of equipment, including kiddie rides, bulk venders and skill cranes. (Keep in mind they are only open for business for few weeks.)
3) Reschedule service calls. The busiest locations are likely to increase sales dramatically. A sold-out machine is a good/bad news scenario for operators. Yes, the cashbox is filled, but there is no telling how many sales were missed. Regular service calls may prove difficult for both store management and route personnel when locations are crowded with customers.
4) Seasonal merchandise: Seasonal bulk and skill-crane mixes can increase sales in some of the busiest locations. The trick, of course, is buying in the right quantity.
5) Location, location, location: Something as simple as moving a machine outside from inside a vestibule can boost sales in some locations. In malls, it may be simply a matter of negotiating with management a temporary move to a main concourse. In large stores, machines placed where lines usually form, near gift-wrapping counters, for instance, can be lucrative secondary sites.
6) Charity: It's always a good idea to think of those less fortunate, particularly around the holidays. That rational is more important than ever during tough economic times. In addition to all the standard charitable channels, operators are in a unique position to give. Even products that had very little appeal on location can make a child happy. And most communities have charities that will pick up donations. It's important to plan and not wait until the last minute.
Not all of these strategies are applicable to every operator and location. Some require specific market and operating environments. Just the same, they could get operators thinking about their own strategies.