By Genie Davis
Bulk vending machines take up very little space, need little maintenance, and sell fun items that appeal to virtually every age group from small children to adults. These machines have been popular since the late 19th century, when they were stocked with postcards and chewing gum. So what are the top selling prizes in bulk vending today? Operators nationwide weigh in on which prizes are hottest and which customers find what items the most appealing.
At SSM Vending in Mesa, Ariz., Owner Sean Dumphy said his most popular bulk vending machine prizes are necklaces, bracelets and rings. “The Jewelry Box line from Flatline is extremely popular. We discussed it at the National Bulk Vendors Association last year, and the line is still very popular. It appeals to a lot of young girls who are a big part of the bulk vending market.” The Jewelry Box line was also his hottest seller for 2015 to date.
In San Diego, Calif., Doug Hutton, co-owner of Heavenly Amusement, cited several prizes as the most popular in his bulk vending machines, including Jewelry Box. “Bulls Eye Toys and the Jewelry Box line, both from Flatline Corporation, are strong sellers. So are Fuzzy Friends, which are small plush dogs from A & A Global Industries. All three of those have been very strong sellers,” Hutton noted. “The Bulls Eye items appeal to boys; they’re a mix of products, with the high value item a duck quacker that the kids absolutely go crazy for. We’ve been running that mix for months without it slowing down. I would say it appeals more to boys than girls. In general, for girls, it’s the jewelry items that do the best; they really appeal to the female market.” Hutton explained that girls actually form the biggest audience for bulk vending. “Traditionally, bulk vending appeals most to girls, and to appeal to them, we need to have items that will grab their attention. Jewelry Box does just that.” His hottest bulk vending toys for 2015 over all were Bulls Eye and Jewelry Box.
In Sweetwater, Texas, at Harp Vending, Inc., Technician and Operator Carl Reeves said standard plush items are his most popular prizes. “We just invested in some Minions toys based on the film, and those look to be very popular, although it’s early to tell just how popular they’ll be for this year.”
At J & G Vending in Johnstown, N.Y., Owner George Loucks said his top prizes include small rubber ducks and graphic balls. “You can’t keep a machine filled with them. Those rubber balls only cost between 17 and 35 cents, and they do super well for us.” Balls were solidly his top toy seller in 2015.
Steve Schechner, president and operator of Capitol Vending in Florence, Ala., said his top vending toy is “not what you’d expect to hear. It’s not one single item, it’s what is called a ‘wow’ or ‘surprise’ mix. Having a mix of toys, providing variety, that does better than any single item for us, and has done very well throughout this year.” Schechner said specific items that most appeal differ for boys and girls. “For boys, it’s Special Forces, military-type toys. Little boys just like the way they look and feel. For girls, it would be Mystic Gems.”
Aerynn Mielke, prize buyer for Amusement Unlimited in Eugene, Ore., said variety is also key for her machines. “We custom make our mixes, and we have really good supplies, so we make sure that it’s not the same prize every time. Our best sellers are small figurines based on cartoons, television shows, or movies and puzzle-type games that a child can enjoy more than once. Dress-up items like fake teeth or moustaches are also very popular,” Mielke asserted. In the past year, her top selling items were “Frozen figurines and tattoos, Jurassic Park and Minions figures. We couldn’t keep up on those; we went through them like crazy.”
Clearly, the right bulk vending prizes may vary, but the results of choosing popular items are the same: great sales and satisfied customers.