Canadian Vending

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The New Economy – Out With The Old

Remember a few years ago when we were all up in arms about low-carb dieting? How about trans fats? Remember that trend? We sure were worried.


February 2, 2009
By Michelle Brisebois

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Remember a few years ago when we were all up in arms about low-carb dieting? How about trans fats? Remember that trend? We sure were worried.

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Remember a few years ago when we were all up in arms about low-carb dieting? How about trans fats? Remember that trend? We sure were worried.

With the current economic slow down looming, oh, what we wouldn’t give to have the luxury of worrying about such trivial issues again. Each New Year begs for a wee bit of introspection and crystal ball gazing. What’s the next big thing? What products and services will be hot? What lines of business should we get out of – fast?

Now more than ever before, we need to make sure we’re on trend. It’s simply a matter of reading the tea leaves.

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Frugal is the new black
This is the mother of all trends right now driving many of the other sectors. Toting designer bottled water around may have been tres chic last year, but next year it will be seen as a flagrant waste of money.

Most consumers know that bottled water is often nothing that special. Campbell’s Soup has weathered wars, recessions and one Great Depression because it’s a quality comfort food. Sales of condensed soup in Canada, a category where Campbell is the market leader, rose 14 per cent in the quarter ending October 2008.

Look for solid brand names offering value for money.

Fish where the fish are
When you’re fishing and suddenly you’re not getting any bites – it’s not that the fish are gone, they’ve likely relocated.

Look at the types of business surrounding your machines. Are they businesses that thrive in a tough economy or struggle? Sectors especially hurt include upscale retail, cosmetic surgery, travel and manufacturing.

Types of businesses expected to thrive include: libraries, shoe repair and tailors, movie rentals, post secondary schools and grocery stores. Have machines in locations close to the second type of businesses to ensure there’s more traffic to capture.

Business Week magazine predicts that the economy will take off again mid 2010 and that when it does it will be swift. Traffic will likely shift back to the luxury retailers somewhat. You may want to have a few machines poised to capture the upswing as well.

At least we’ve still got our health
There are some positive health benefits to a recession. Christopher Ruhm, an economics professor at the University of North Carolina reports that a one per cent rise in unemployment actually reduces the mortality rate by 0.5 per cent.

It could be less smog from commuting cars and factories now sitting idle or it could be that folks now finally have more time to exercise and eat a healthy diet. It may also be a defensive strategy in terms of being healthy enough to work. Look for consumers to continue to seek out healthy food options and smaller portions.

Give the dog a bone
We’re in love with our pets – especially dogs.

According to a recent Business Week cover story, Americans now spend $41 billion annually on their pets. That amount is greater than the combined amount Americans spend on the movies ($10.8 billion), playing video games ($11.6 billion) and listening to recorded music ($10.6 billion).

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, 42 per cent of dogs now sleep in the same bed as their owners, up from 34 per cent in 1998. Their menu has now gone far beyond the dog food of years ago, reflecting the variety of the diets of the humans they live with. Half of all dog owners say they take into consideration their pet’s comfort when buying a car.

Finally, almost a third of consumers buy gifts for their dogs’ birthdays. Hey Buddy (heybuddycanada.com) is a company specializing in vending machines filled with goodies for our four-legged friends. Roller blading-parks, rest stops and malls are all recommended as great locations for these types of machines.

We may scrimp on our own treats as the economy tightens but not on Fido’s. Market researcher Euro-monitor International, which tracks sales of pet food and accessories (excluding the cost of animals, grooming, training and other expenses), puts this year’s animal expenditures at $23.9 billion. Euro-monitor forecasts the pet segment’s sales to grow more than 13 per cent by 2013.

Map your own destiny
Maps are hot. Google maps, MapQuest and GPS (Global Positioning Systems) units of all shapes and sizes allow us to navigate our way through unfamiliar territory with certainty.

Technology will now allow customers to type the name of a business into their GPS unit to find the closest location of that business. Another benefit of GPS to the vending industry lies on the business management side of the equation. Global Positioning Systems can provide a vending machine operator with up-to-date information on driver and vehicle activity. The unit can monitor service stops and variations in route.

Vending operators could experience faster response time and improved customer relations, improved employee accountability, improved overall efficiency, reduced liability and insurance costs, reduced fuel costs, more efficient route management, decreased vehicle wear and tear, automation of vehicle record keeping functions, and improved driver safety.

So much has changed within the last few months that predicting the future almost seems to be pointless. The trick is to ignore the “flash in the pan” fads and focus on longer-term trends. Maybe next year, if we’re lucky, we can start worrying about trivial things again.