Canadian Vending

Features Equipment Technology
Dispensing Strategies: Transients


May 2, 2008
By Michelle Brisebois


When my father confessed to me that he’d sold his beloved slide ruler
at his “downsizing” garage sale, I gasped in horror. “What about all of
those stories, memories … how could you give those up?” He thought for
a minute and replied, “Well, I figure I’ll get the same effect if I
open up the empty drawer and say, ‘gee I wish I had that darn slide

When my father confessed to me that he’d sold his beloved slide ruler at his “downsizing” garage sale, I gasped in horror. “What about all of those stories, memories … how could you give those up?” He thought for a minute and replied, “Well, I figure I’ll get the same effect if I open up the empty drawer and say, ‘gee I wish I had that darn slide ruler.’”

Ah, it’s not the item – it’s the emotion attached to the item that counts. Consumer trends suggest that many of us are cottoning onto this strategy and it’s revolutionizing the marketplace. The stable, stagnant consumer of days-gone-by has been replaced by a more transient consumer – “the transumer.”    Transumers tend to approach their consumption in two ways. First, they’ve shifted their focus from “buying stuff” to “buying experience.” Secondly, they’re moving about farther and more frequently, so we need to intercept them.
It’s important to understand what’s driving this change and where it’s headed. As with any trend, the recipe is two-thirds demographics and one-third environmental. We are an aging population with most Canadians ranging from their early 40s to their 60s and taking a less materialistic view of life is part of the maturation process. The ’80s were all about conspicuous consumption – designer brands, logos and spending big. It made sense because so many of us were in our  20s and 30s, traditionally times of accumulating “stuff.”  By the turn of the millennium, “designer on a dime” had become chic and “value” came back in vogue.
As we continue to age, shedding our material possessions will accelerate – we will be downsizing to smaller households as empty nesters and simplifying life by thinning out the clutter.

As we age there is more time and money for travel. Canadians are travelling abroad in record numbers. Statistics Canada confirms that Canadian residents made 2.2 million overnight trips to overseas countries during the first three months of 2006, a first-quarter high and a 6.8 per cent increase from the previous record set in the same quarter 2005. We’re also traveling more on a daily basis as we commute to our jobs.


Statistics Canada reported this year that, “Canadians are spending more time commuting, with 25 per cent logging 90 minutes or more a day travelling to and from work. Clearly the days of walking to work are over as we spend more time in transit. We no longer stay at the same job for years and years – downsizing, mergers and changing technology have forced us to change careers, work on contract and often start our own businesses to survive. Throw in a few terrorist attacks, global warming and suddenly it becomes clear – non-permanence has found us and we’ve learned to embrace it.

So, exactly how is this trend manifesting itself?
One big trend is pop-up retail. Pop-up retail describes temporary retail spaces erected to create short-term buzz and a unique experience. It’s designed to intercept the consumer, draw attention and then disappear. “It’s still relatively new … I’m expecting to see a lot more,” said Stan Sutter, editorial director for Marketing magazine.
“If the consumer won’t come to the mountain, take the mountain to the consumer,” Evian used pop-up retail in Toronto recently by setting up a spa at Bay and Bloor Streets, during the Toronto International Film Festival. Customers were invited to book an appointment or walk in for a bottle of water, a hand massage, a hot stone treatment. The minimalist white spa had a fountain of Evian water and televisions that showed features about the history of the French water company. Lineups on the first day, for the spa were almost a city block long even before the doors opened.

We’re also starting to bring our travel experiences home. Home entertainment centres, and home spas are both examples of this trend. “Hotel Chic” is one dominant theme in decorating. The emergence of boutique hotels similar to One King West in Toronto have meant that our hotel rooms were suddenly nicer than our real bedrooms. We wanted to bring this pampered experience home and from sheets to towels, the trend is evident. The focus is still on the experience rather than the item.
“Luxury consumers are spending more, in many cases lots more, on life-changing experiences, while their need for luxury goods is waning. Spending on luxury experiences in the U.S., including travel, dining, entertainment, spas and beauty services and home services, nearly doubled, from an average of USD $11,632 million per household in 2004 to USD $22,746 in 2005: a 95.5 per cent increase” (Source: Pam Danzinger, Unity Marketing).
In fact, we’re often choosing to “lease our luxury” as many people have grown tired of watching that designer purse gather dust in the closet because the novelty had worn off. “Bag Borrow or Steal” is a U.S.-based company that specializes in “leasing” designer handbags. Items can be borrowed for a few months or a year for a variety of “membership” price points. Jewelry and cars are other luxury items being purchased under a “time share” system.

It’s surmised that the acceptance of eBay auctions as a means of buying and selling items has allowed us to liquidate our stash of junk and turned us from a nation of horders into a nation embroiled in the de-cluttering process.
There’s no question that the Internet has trained consumers to accept a world without bricks and mortar. Those of us with mp3 players such as iPods can enjoy a music library condensed to a small hand-held unit that used to take up several shelves of space as CDs or (gasp) record albums.

This trend is good for the vending industry because we’re already adept at intercepting and having a more fleeting interaction with our target market. Vending is uniquely positioned to capitalize on a more transient, experience focused customer. Think of ways to target the transient consumer and your profits will definitely be less transient.

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