Vending machines are nothing new for most of us. Chances are we've bought a snack or a drink or maybe even rented a movie recently from one of them. In places like Japan, the vending machine has been known to offer just about anything under the sun, including some things you'd never expect. But for one man, former Los Angeles Rams player Shannon Illingworth, vending machines have taken on a whole new life.
Illingworth's venture, called Automated Vending Technologies, aspires to be one of the big names in automated retailing, and considering that the International Business Times ranks his company as the third-fastest growing company in California, it looks like he's well on his way.
Automated Vending Technologies' offerings, meanwhile, start from the basic – a vending machine that dispenses health and beauty products in much the same way a standard vending machine operates – to the wholly unexpected, like a vending machine that comes equipped with rolls of wallpaper. One vending machine showed what appeared to be gift bags in the midst of an upscale clothing store. The list didn't stop there, with other offerings listed including things like books, magazines, electronics, food and beverage items, and more.
This is, of course, a game-changer in terms of the way that many small businesses, especially those that focus on retail, operate. Vending machines do not require employees to be on hand, just an occasional restocking and regular maintenance exams to ensure that the machines are working to their fullest capacity. They generally don't require store fronts, just a comparatively small strip of real estate on which they can sit, maybe only the size of a master bedroom closet. They can take payments by a variety of methods, starting with straight cash payments and going all the way up to mobile-to-mobile payment schemes in which you use a phone handset equipped with Near Field Communications systems to scan your phone and make payments directly from your account.
A retail operation can suddenly be scaled down to the size of an old-fashioned photo booth, in which one employee is on hand to answer any questions about the products and services offered, as well as to maintain the vending machines that handle the actual business. Theft becomes nigh-impossible, especially with a security camera to watch the vending machines' cash drawers, if it even takes cash in the first place. And a store's hours can effectively become 24-7, without the necessity of having a real person on hand.
The ramifications of such a system go far and wide--the impact of increased unemployment on an already shaky economy are sufficiently large to merit a book's worth of study--but with businesses looking for ways to save, many businesses may at least partially take on the vending machine concept as a way to boost their available hours without boosting their labor costs to match.
Edited by Carrie Schmelkin