Canadian Vending


The Tidal Wave

April 29, 2008
By Cam Wood

Without a commitment from North American operators, there is a real fear that the Asian economic tidal wave will pound the bulk vending industry into the sands of time.

The Tidal Wave

Without a commitment from North American operators, there is a real fear that the Asian economic tidal wave will pound the bulk vending industry into the sands of time.

At the 56th annual National Bulk Vendors Association conference, Beaver Machine Corporation president Bernie Schwarzli made it perfectly clear that the bulk industry is in danger, and without the commitment from those on home soil, the manufacturers will eventually disappear.


This position is not unlike what many North American manufacturers are dealing with. The automotive market is still clinging desperately to life, as Asian producers have almost toppled the big three with their imports.

And now, the “Wal-Martization” of the retail economy is making an insidious dent in the impulse buy world of vending … cheaper, cheaper, cheaper, and offshore. The company that championed the 1980s’ slogan “Buy American” has rebranded their own image in a more “global” vision as they push suppliers for smaller and smaller margins, and annual cost reductions.

According to Fast Company magazine, North American consumers have been “lulled … into ignoring the difference between the price of something and the cost. (The) unending focus on price underscores something that (consumers) are only starting to realize about globalization: Ever-cheaper prices have consequences.”

It might be nice for the lower-wage North American consumer to seek the kind of bargains offered by the big box stores … but for how long can that last? Sooner or later, the method of how those North American consumers earn their dollar will vanish as manufacturers continue to outsource production to even lower wage markets.

Add to that, while the corporate retail giant prefers to sugarcoat the ideal as a “price roll-back,” the consequence mentioned is North American manufacturers are backing away from innovation. They are backing away because they are tired of investing millions of dollars in engineering, research and development, only to see their traditional customer base cut and run to the shady world of import knock-offs.

Backing away from the foundation of innovation across the continent means shutting the door on the employees.

Schwarzli warns that some of these new Asian competitors invest nothing in North America, have become “pros” at duplicating and selling the designs of the domestic manufacturers, and have even gone as far in their knock-off models as to include logos and parts serial numbers matching those of the equipment they have plagiarized.

And the fact that the business community has also embraced the idea of “cheaper” has meant North American bulk vending machine manufacturers are now re-evaluating their decision to continually invest and develop new products.

In bulk vending, it’s a tenuous relationship. A lot of the product in the machines bears a Made in China statement; responsibly acquired equipment features a Made in Canada or Made in the USA stamp … and the coins that are fed into them are the derivative of a healthy North American economy. The question is: how much longer will our workers have those extra coins if we continue to surf the Asian tidal wave? o

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