Vending � Identify The Right Vending Machines & Follow The Basics To Increase Your Profit Potential

Friday, November 10, 2006

As a car wash entrepreneur, you should already know the value of vending to your business � especially at self-serve sites. Vending is convenience-based sales. You provide care products to your customers for their automobiles on-site. They don't need to stop at an auto center to pick up supplies or bring them from home. They can get them right at your car wash. For this convenience, they are willing to pay a higher price for those products. Over the years, the old standby has been the mechanical drop-shelf vendor. These machines are simple, time-tested, low-maintenance, and can dispense anything that can fit on their shelves. They are great for vending the popular products, including towels, protectant packaged in packets, window wipes, and air fresheners. The next step up are electronic drop-shelf machines that allow higher price points, introduce vend accountability in the form of counters to track sales of products, and offer LED displays that inform the customer of correct change and sold-out status. These machines are more costly than the mechanical type but offer more sales features.

Finally, the latest in merchandising equipment � which has become more and more prevalent � is glass-front vendors. These units have their roots in traditional snack-food vending, and offer the sales features traditional food-vending operators have had access to for decades. What is right for your location? It depends on how involved you want to be in your business, and how much real estate you can afford to devote to the equipment. If you are happy supplying the tried-and-true products and are just supplementing your wash business, then the mechanical drop shelf machines are a good start. For those wanting to maximize their revenue potential, the electronic machines have the features that make sales and tracking easier and more effective. Drop-shelf vendors � because of their single-product design � generally require more linear space. It is not uncommon for operators to have whole walls devoted to these machines. Some are surface-mounted and some are recessed depending on location. Recessing of these machines is a long-term commitment to that machine, whereas surface mounting or standalone locating allows more flexibility for future change. The most flexible equipment for the sale of car care products is the electronic glass-front vendor. These machines are usually based off a coil- or helix-driven vending mechanism common in snack-food vending. The primary advantages of these types of machines are their abilities to display the exact product being vended and the versatility to change out the selection coil to accommodate the size of the product being vended. MAXIMIZE VARIETY The benefits of a glass-front merchandiser to the operators who want to maximize their versatility and marketing capability are numerous. The numbers of products you can effectively market in a small amount of space are much greater than a drop-shelf unit can provide. Glass-front machines provide a larger number of selections in a compact space, and usually take up no more than 42 inches of wall space. They allow for a greater ability to measure sales and reduce wasted inventory though visual and electronic tracking. This gives the operator quick information on what products are the fast sellers and what they need to remove from their product offerings. And let's face it, the number of products available to the small operator just 10 years ago pales in comparison to the number available today.

Greater availability means more choices and greater potential for revenue for the smart operator. These operators understand the basics of marketing. A product won't remain long in their machine if it is not selling. They will monitor sales and if the product is not moving they will replace it with one that will. They will also maximize their revenue by offering name-brand products their customers are familiar with.

Name-brand products typically command higher prices. Older mechanical drop-shelf vendors are limited in the pricing they set and usually cap out at $1.50. Electronic drop-shelf vendors allow for pricing up to $9.95 and glass-front vendors can be priced as high as $999.95. Operator will set pricing to meet their set margin, but the electronic vendors allow greater flexibility to do so. PAYMENT METHODS Currency acceptance and change making in today's market is becoming a larger concern due to higher price points and the growing acceptance of credit and debit purchases. You probably already know of one or more competitors who still have their bill changers at a central location but are also using bill acceptors in each wash station. Some are now even installing credit card acceptors. Remember that vending is about convenience. The easier you make the acceptance of your customer's favorite form of currency, the more business you'll do. How does this affect your vending sales of car care products? Again, the more options you give the customer for money acceptance, the more likely they are to purchase. The glass-front merchandiser is uniquely capable of incorporating multiple payment systems within one machine. These machines have the space needed for the mechanisms as well as the on-board electronics to integrate them. Most glass-front vendors have coin and token acceptors as well as bill acceptors capable of up to � and surpassing � $20-bill acceptance. Add-on credit-card acceptors are available for most applications. DURABILITY Survivability of equipment � with regard to both the elements and to vandalism � is yet another factor you should take into account when choosing the right machines. Most drop-shelf units have stainless-steel exteriors that stand up well to rain and sun as well as vandalism. Quality glass-front machines are built from galvanealed steel painted with protective powder-coat paints. These vendors also include theft- and vandal-deterrent design features such as shatter-resistant plastic windows and panels covering key pry points.

PLACEMENT When choosing the right machine for your application, questions sometime arise as to where to place the vendors. The most obvious place is a centralized location easily seen from the entrance to your facility. The best location is of course by your bill changer. Most often, a centralized area where the foot traffic will be the highest is your best location. However, don't overlook your remote sites. Areas like your vacuum stations are possible sites as long as you have good mounting positions and security measures. Again, convenient access to products means increased sales. Now that the locations are identified, it's time to bring marketing into play. Just because you have a vending machine does not guarantee stellar sales. You need to make sure your customers know what you have to offer. Make it easy for customers to identify what products are for sale and at what price. The most effective signs are at eye level. Simple, clean signage works best.

You don't need to be a marketing expert to capitalize on increased revenue. Follow the basics and you'll see excellent profits from your vending: Choose a well-lit, centralized location Choose the best machine for your application Keep the machines well stocked with products most desired by your customers Make sure your customers know what products are available with current signs Make it as easy as possible for them to purchase via coin, token, bill, credit card, etc. Keep your machines clean and functioning.

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