The BBC has today published an entirely positive story about the UK Vending and Automated Retail sector. In a major coup for the AVA and its PR team, the story went live this morning, writes PV Editor Ian Reynolds-Young.
The BBC article begins by focussing on the success of a milk vending operation in Louth, Ireland, that is operated by three enterprising farming brothers. Inspired by the constraints of the lock down, the Smyth’s Milk Shack sells the family’s Wholey Cow brand of milk in half-litre and litre recyclable glass bottles. It’s interesting that the business cites ‘guaranteed freshness’ as one the the major selling points, contradicting the old fear of vended products turning out to be past their best.
‘…innovative and niche machines, often boasting upmarket, healthier and specialist products.’
As a participant in the sector, you may lose interest in the article before you get to the good bits of The BBC story: after all, we’ve all heard about farms using vending machines and all the world loves a cuddly story. But hang in there and it gets more germane. ‘Traditional machines serving offices, schools, and hospitals saw their business evaporate as workers, students and visitors stayed at home’, the article continues. ‘In the UK, of the 24,500 employees servicing these machines, some 5,000 were made redundant. But innovative and niche machines, often boasting upmarket, healthier and specialist products, tell a different story.’
It’s interesting to get a view on how our sector is perceived by the general public, especially through the lens of ‘The BBC. ‘Innovative and niche machines’? We’d have taken that result at half time, wouldn’t we?
automated micro markets saw 367% growth last year
‘David Llewellyn, chief executive of the Vending and Automated Retail Association, says automated micro markets saw 367% growth last year. These are small convenience stores, without staff and where customers pay using a smartphone app or at an unattended till. Meanwhile sales of healthy snacks (less than 5% fat and 0.2 grams of salt) grew by 147% from vending machine in the last year, he says.’
That kind of copy acknowledges that vending / automated retail is riding the crest of technological advancement to move ahead of other retail options in consumer popularity, which has got to be a good thing for any evangelist of automation. Few news portals are more widely trusted than the BBC, despite what you might have heard…
The emergence of cashless – the end of rooting in your pockets for coins – is clearly seen as a positive development. David is quoted as saying ‘one big change has been the way vending machines accept payment. Today in Britain 47% of machines offer cashless payment, double the proportion of a year ago’. The writer applauds the machines themselves: ‘vending machines are increasingly smart devices, which communicate with central management systems. So before route operators leave a depot, they know what has to go into every machine.’
No wonder there’s currently a clamour of capable would-be suppliers eager to claim their cut in an exploding market.
Other vending luminaries are name-checked. Nish Shah of Aeguana – currently emerging as quite the thought leader – and Westomatic’s Andrea Goswell, both make cogent, pertinent points around automated retailing’s potential to reduce drastically the amount of packaging required to bring a product to the people. It’s another indication that our sector is ahead of the retail curve.
Finally, The BBC report applauds the industry’s move into new, more environmentally friendly coolant systems – Evoca has been blowing that trumpet, so well-done them – before issuing an encouraging parting shot: “There are a number of challenges, and the solutions are not so easy to find. But our technology can bring benefits and change what we’re doing in a much better way.”
Great stuff. And some arresting images to go with it. So credit where it’s due: good job AVA. Keep it up.