Vending is the perfect business: money is entered, the product is received, and every transaction is in cash.
In Japan, where vending is almost an indispensable part of life, the vending industry is booming. The country has some six million vending machines (making it the world leader in this context) which works out to one for every 21 people. With their nose for innovation, the Japanese are even teaching their young about nature through vending machines. In Tokyo, where wild habitats are disappearing, a company has started selling live horned beetles to teach children about these insects.
Vending is doing well everywhere right now, after a sluggish few years during the economic downturn. The UK refreshment vending market turnover is about £1.65 billion per annum through half a million machines. With over 550,000 machines operating, the ratio of machines to people is 1 to 139. Retail sales of vended products grew by 0.5% last year and they are are expected to grow by 1% in 2015. Continuing advancements in technology will help the development of new vending machines such as those with cashless, touchscreen technology.
For entrepreneurs, vending machines offer a low-cost entry into a business that can potentially earn revenue 24 hours a day, given the right location and right product. And with new businesses popping up every day, there is always plenty of room for a savvy vending entrepreneur. The major advantage of vending franchises is that a vending machine usually doesn’t require much of your own time, so you will be able to have a second job. On a typical day, you might just need to check your machine once, to pick up your money and refill stock as necessary. Customers always pay in cash so fraud is never an issue, and the industry has a very low cost of entry in comparison with businesses that involve retail space etc.
It’s important to bear in mind that there are some downsides too. Theft and vandalism could be an issue, and you do risk being saddled with a product you are unable to move.
Before you invest
Start out by thoroughly researching the vending industry. Check out the wide range of vending franchises and business opportunities currently on offer in the UK here. Antoine Cameron’s How to Start a Vending Business is a good read for those interested in opening a vending business and Planet Vending is the main magazine for the industry.
In the vending machine business, it’s all about location. A vending machine stocking mediocre merchandise in a prime location will actually make more money than one that is full of wonderful goods that nobody ever sees. So, compile a list of potential locations and vending options in your area. There are loads of options, e.g. establishing snack vending machines in a local office or an energy drinks vending machine in a local gym.
Visit your potential locations to check the customer traffic, the demographics of the customers, and to make sure the business currently doesn't already have a vending service. Write down all of your observations to utilise in your pitch to the owner of your chosen venue(s).
Develop a personalised presentation to pitch to each owner and make sure to include any specific details about each particular business to show that you have done your research and are serious about the endeavour. You might need to give them an incentive to allow you to place your machines in their venue. This is usually done by offering them a percentage of your earnings.
Find reputable vending machines suppliers if you decide to go it alone. However, Franchise Direct has lots of ready-made vending opportunities that you can check out here.
Once you’re up and running
- Consider getting training in the mechanics of vending machines. If you are able to repair the machine yourself, this will save you the cost of hiring a technician each time it breaks down.
- Experiment with different products in your vending machines. If you can come up with items that sell well and provide variety, you will reduce the competition from other vending machines and make more money.
- You might also consider branching out from food items to offer personal care items, small toys, stamps or basically anything that could potentially be sold from a machine. Be imaginative.
- Keep your machines consistently stocked and maintained or you will end up losing sales.