Not a month goes by when there isn't an announcement in the business press about some dramatic or interesting change in the retail sector. Putting aside all of the bad news we've endured over the past three or four years about store closings and failings of long-established chains, it's not difficult to find so-called "trend" stories that feature retailing innovations. Competition is tough, and even small stores are looking for an edge
Some trends are more long-lived than others. For instance, there was the recent story regarding chain restaurants moving into prime mall spaces vacated by well-known retail tenants. Then there is the more established movement of pop-up stores taking up temporary spaces in the vacant storefronts of busy shopping districts, either to move slow-selling merchandise or cash in on holidays like Halloween or Christmas. And there is an increasing number of clothing stores, with moderately priced goods, attempting to add value for consumers by creating a shopping experience through novel designs and artful fixtures. (That one actually baffles me. I don't want an experience when shopping for a shirt. I just want a shirt.)
The savvy bulk vending operator would be well advised to pay close attention to retailing trends that appear in the business news and to observe them at local shopping centers and malls. There may be profit potential embedded in what I'll call the "new retailing." That's not to say pop-up stores will entirely replace traditional mom-and-pop stores served by small operators, nor will giant mall-based chains vanish overnight for larger operators. What I am suggesting is that many bulk vending operators are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the trends currently underway in retailing as another piece of business. Ancillary perhaps, but still profitable.
Never before in the long history of bulk vending have operators had so much access to such a wide range of equipment or merchandise. Operators who once simply filled gum, capsule and peanut venders now possess the expertise to operate skill cranes, prize merchandisers and other equipment types. Whether they took on these new equipment types to aggressively expand density within existing locations or defensively to block other operators from taking over accounts, they have expanded their knowledge and equipment bases.
To be sure, bulk vending operators know how to market. A good operator can size up a location and quickly determine the key demographic. It's just a matter of matching the equipment and merchandise to potential costumers.
For small and midsize operators, these valuable capacities combined with the readiness to act and react are powerful business advantages. A pop-up store can turn equipment sitting idle in a warehouse into profits, if only for a few weeks. A sports bar taking up a large mall space can prove highly profitable for a nearby rack of bulk heads or skill crane filled with licensed sports products (Sammy's Sports Arena proved just how successful this strategy could be).
While the bulk vendor's move into new equipment categories over the past several years has been much discussed, very little has been said about how that change can be profitably applied to an evolving retail climate.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of operators will drive by these opportunities on their way to the next mom-and-pop location. However, there will be an innovative few who ask a simple question, "How can I apply my equipment and expertise to that business model?"