Bulk Vending Report: Operators Buck Bulk Vending Challenges

While no one is certain exactly of the cause, the bulk vending business has slowed down somewhat over the past year or so. However, bulk vending companies continue to focus on best sellers, as well as to follow other strategies aimed at bolstering the performance of machines and merchandise geared toward customers of all ages.
For Blue Bar Vending in Irwindale, Calif., the top performers in a less-than-ideal market is the Gacha machine, said Fred Chiang, CEO. Imported from Japan, the machine holds a wide variety of licensed toys and collectibles. Currently, Nintendo and Hello Kitty spark the highest volume of sales, a trend Chiang attributed to two distinct factors: “They are well-made, and not only kids, but also teenagers, are buying them.”
Chiang, whose business is 21 years old, finds that in general, he fares far better with bulk vending items that are not sold in volume at retail stores. He cited candy as a category he tends to avoid. “Candy sales are not as good as they were 20 or 30 years ago because the large retailers are selling candy at very low prices,” he explained.
Like Blue Bar Vending, Deltona, Fla.-based East Coast Vending garners much better results with bulk toys than it does with candy, stated Anita Erzybysz, owner. This, she said, stems from the fact that children comprise a significant portion of the customer base of locations served by the company, and parents prefer that their offspring not consume the smaller candies, gum and mints typically sold in bulk vending machines.
“Some things are fads and they do great while they’re fads, but our overall best sellers are sticky-mixes,” Erzybysz said. “They look like oversized hands or animals with long tails, and anything they touch sticks to them. Kids like to sling them around, which is why they never go away and they never get old. They’re also easy to vend because they fit into a one-or-two-inch capsule.”
“Generic” products, Erzybysz continued, seem to do better than licensed and name-brand products. Nickelodeon and SpongeBobSquarePants “go through phases.” Nine months ago, Angry Birds stickers were so hot that East Coast Vending could not keep up with demand, but the trend has run out of steam.
Still, Erzybysz prefers to be flexible in terms of the types of items she makes available to her firm’s bulk vending customers, so that she neither alienates existing customers, causing them to order less product from East Coast Vending, nor sacrifices new accounts.
“Certain customers have certain preferences despite what might be popular in general,” Erzybysz said. East Coast Vending honors these preferences to avoid sacrificing revenues, with the caveat that the outcome may not be as favorable as desired based on the less-than-optimal popularity/product “match.”
Meanwhile, at Baltimore, Md.-based Cardinal Distributing, Dan Paszkiewicz, president, pointed to “flashy items – jewelry, toys, bracelets, rings, collectible figures and the like” as perennial bulk vending favorites.  “Children want something with ‘play value’ that they can interact with,” and these options fit the bill, Paszkiewicz noted.
The executive added that one way for bulk vending operators to sell more product in a slow market is to seek out alternative locations, like Mom-and-Pop stores and pizza shops, that might be interested in adding machines to attract customers’ attention. However, he does not advocate attempting to boost sales by pushing poor performers on unwitting customers, be they “alternative” locations, arcades or leisure entertainment facilities.
Flashy product also outsells other bulk vending merchandise available from Big Apple Vending in Farmingdale, N.Y., reported Anthony Scarpella, president.  Big Apple Vending offers the Northwestern Super 60, Super 80, Two Column Sticker and Triple Play machines, along with encapsulated prizes, candy and gum. The Super 60 and Super 80 are currently its highest-earning machines; while Scarpella isn’t sure why, he says confections have less of an appeal these days than such prizes as the “super-popular” new glow-in-the dark and flashy lines. Hot glow-in-the-dark selections encompass glow sticks, mouthpieces, and glow-stick cross necklaces. Popular flashy selections include laser beam rings and colorful hair extensions available in blue, pink, green and orange.
For its part, Video Amusement and Music Co. in Ontario, Ore., does do well with edible bulk vending items, specifically, different varieties of candies and nuts. “We have none within these categories that are top performing,” observed Greg Duke, manager. However, he deemed placement of bulk snack machines in locations where there are no nearby stores, for example, hotels and resorts with or without a leisure entertainment component, a major contributor to sales on this front.
“Bulk vending machines are slow, steady earners,” Duke said. “(Customers) want a big selection” to feature in their units, “and that is where our strength is. While it takes a lot of work, we try to rotate our products so it doesn’t get boring. Products themselves bring sales, but you still have to work at it in other ways.”

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