According to the most recent NAMA tradeshow, mini retail is a 7 billion dollar opportunity, which is about 17% of the vending market in the U.S. 5.1 billion of this is in a micro market.
You will soon see them in apartment complexes, retirement homes, frequent flyer clubs, and especially in the workplace.
What is a micro market?
A micro market is a small, self-contained store in a location without an employee to monitor it. It's comprised of freestanding storage, such as shelves, that hold a product and a checkout system installed nearby. This means that there is no machine that vends the product, but the system is autonomous like a vending machine. Most micro markets are honor-system based and thus must be in a secure location, but there are new technologies such as pressure-sensitive shelves that record when product is taken off them. For a price, these technologies give vendors the option to use a more secure vending system.
Benefits of the micro market to the consumer
Micro markets don't need employees to work them and they are much smaller than an entire store, so they can be set up in locations where customers otherwise wouldn't be able to easily purchase these goods, such as an office complex. In addition to this, since the system does not require a machine to vend the items, consumers can easily acquire the items they need. No more calling the vending company because their chips got stuck in the machine!
Related to the above, the system allows for items beyond food and beverages. Consumers can also purchase sundries, small electronics, travel gear, and much more.
Using a micro market is a novel experience, which may cause them to return or choose your micro market over a more conventional means of acquiring the same goods.
Benefits to the vendor
Not everyone likes using vending machines or placing them at their work, but micro markets are much more user friendly and versatile. This opens up many more opportunities for locations and thus more markets. In addition, you could offer a much larger variety of products, reducing the amount of products that expire.
Higher profit per location
Though you may have a higher overhead since you can provide so many more products, you'll also have greater targeting. This means that you'll have less product waste. In addition, a micro market will likely serve an affluent population and the goods you sell will have a higher price point.
You can leverage technology
Unlike many vending machines, a micro market can leverage cashless systems, analytics, so you can know exactly what and when to stock products, and branding/marketing opportunities at the point of purchase. These can be built in to the system when you install it, instead of having to retrofit old vending machines.
Where should I put a micro market?
Generally you want to install them only in places that are highly secure, have high prestige, or both. A secure location, such as a workplace that utilizes facial recognition, ensures that your goods won't be stolen. A high prestige location, like a casino or airport frequent flyer club, will allow you to sell items at the highest price point.
Should you invest in the technology?
In addition to the normal questions posed by your vending machine business plan you should ask yourself:
How secure is the environment? How many people cheat? This will determine how much you need to spend on security.
What is the amount of traffic? This will determine if the cost of the security devices is worth the potential profit.