Basic Bulk Mix And Fast Installation Pay Off For On The Ball Vending

Posted On: 11/7/2014

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TAGS: Scot Clayborn, On The Ball Vending, bulk vending, vending operator, regional vending operator, bulk vending machine, gum ball machine, vending capsules, flat vending, Northwestern Series 60s, bulk vending route, 50 cent toys

FRISCO, TX -- Can an operator offering simple bulk vending -- and only bulk vending -- still make it on the street? On The Ball Vending, headquartered here, is proof that it's possible.

Headed by Scot Clayborn, On The Ball provides bulk vending services in 14 states, including Texas, Oklahoma, Arkan­sas, Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa as well as Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, and north to Illinois and Minnesota.

Scot Clayborn, On The Ball Vending, bulk vending, vending operator
KEEPING IT SIMPLE: Route driver Danny Daniels (left) and On The Ball owner Scot Clayborn show off a typical rack configuration. The Texas-based operator has found continued success with basic racks of Northwestern venders throughout his sprawling 14-state operation.

Clayborn started On The Ball in 1973 with just 40 machines. Today, the company is headquartered in a 20,000-sq.ft. facility in the Dallas suburb, with four satellite offices situated strategically throughout its service area.

According to Clayborn, his winning business plan emphasizes the basics. On The Ball's accounts, which are almost all independent businesses, include such high-traffic, high-profit locations as laundromats, truck stops, Hispanic restaurants, all-you-can-eat buffets and dollar stores. These are the kinds of tried-and-true bulk vending locations in which Clayborn applies his proven approach.

A typical installation for On the Ball consists of four Northwestern Series 60s on the bottom tier, stocked with candy and ball gum; two Northwestern Series 80s vending toys on the upper tier and a three-column rack-mounted flat merchandise vender. Where the company provides this versatile basic package is determined largely by a keen eye to route density. Even in Texas, where driving 50 miles to a favorite restaurant is not out of the ordinary, mileage between stops is a crucial factor for Clayborn.

"The only reason we've been able to stay in business is because we have certain areas where we can do 40 stops in a day," Clayborn explained. "We try to do as many locations as we can in a day's time. We may start at four and get home at midnight."

Clayborn also makes it a point to get the machines out the door and on location fast in new accounts. "If you're in business in Texas and you want bulk vending, there are not a lot of operators to call," he said. "And there are even fewer who can bring in machines within 24 hours. We like to keep eight to a dozen racks ready to go at any time. When someone calls, we can go out and set one up."

Scot Clayborn, On The Ball Vending, bulk vending, vending operator
HALF-BUCK RULES: On the Ball's product menu derives from a strategy that relies heavily on tried-and-true bulk products with a top price of 50¢ and strong emphasis on 1" capsules; and 25¢ offerings are still alive. At right, Scot Clayborn models jumpsuit uniform for servicing and refurbishing. He has expanded his operation through hard work and a continued focus on independent businesses.
Clayborn, who mostly operates Northwestern vending equipment, also noted that he sells almost exclusively 1" capsules priced at 50¢. "Our goal, within a year, is to never sell a 2" toy again. Right now we're trying to convert all our 2" vending machines to 1" venders," he said. "The reason for that is the shipping costs for the 2" capsules, and the vend price -- you get a lot more play with the smaller capsule."

The biggest challenge, Clayborn explained, is keeping product costs down around the 30% range. "There are certain things that never quit selling, like high-bounce balls, but new toys keep coming out," he said. "The toy mix is what you have to keep changing."

Everything Old Is New Again

Adding to On the Ball's profitability is the company's refurbishing shop. This facility not only keeps the company's own machines looking good, but also has grown into a profitable side business. "We started selling used equipment in 2008. And that money has helped grow our route business," said Clayborn. "We do everything. We get machines in, strip them down, powder-coat them and put in new coin mechs, new wheels and new globes. By the time we get done, they look like new machines."

Clayborn is well aware that he's bucking several current trends, among them higher vend prices and equipment diversification, but so far his concentration on the industry's traditional core seems to be paying off. In an age when route operators of all sizes are struggling, his back-to-basics approach, coupled with stringent cost control, has proved itself to be a reliable formula for expansion. Clayborn is the first to admit there is nothing remarkable about his approach to bulk vending, except the impressive success that it has afforded him.