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Nov 01, 2016

Rise of the machines

by Gary Rapps - Managing Director

Rise of the machines

Earlier this year our friends at the IGD set out to identify the hottest trends in UK food and grocery retailing over the coming months. Number four on their list was ‘Making missions possible’ and highlighted the increasing importance that retailers are giving to saving shoppers’ time. The example used, by Toby Pickard, IGD Senior Retail Analyst – Multichannel, when summing up the report centred on the introduction of a self scanning only store in Amsterdam by Dutch retail giant Albert Heijn.

An actual store without humans... well, checkout assistants anyway, is an interesting concept but one that has been around in various guises for many years. Just take vending machines.

These illuminated metal boxes have been a familiar sight at stations, cinemas, leisure centres and even schools; filled with an assortment of drinks, confectionery and more latterly, healthy meal alternatives.

Visitors to a recently relaunched All Bar One outlet in London could even enjoy a mini bottle of Moet and Chandon, courtesy of the Captial’s first ever champagne vending machine. Now how’s that for a liquid lunch?

When it comes to such innovation, Dr Morgaine Gaye, a food futurologist and guest academic lecturer, says vending is moving into new areas in the UK. “We are accustomed to buying a can of coke from a vending machine on a railway platform. Now you can buy bread or a bag of potatoes. It is part of the 24/7 lifestyle”.

Even dairy farmers have got in on the act and are using vending machines to bypass retailers and sell direct to the consumer at the farm gate. See here.

Vending also seems to be moving into other non-consumable areas as shoppers appreciate the simplicity of the concept and ease of usage. Take t-shirts for example!

I spotted this unit from Lee Cooper in a Mall in Thailand earlier this year which not only allowed you to select a limited edition shirt design but one in your required size too.

So where will this take us?

Well just ask Russian inventor Semenov Dahir Kurmanbievich. He has applied for a patent to create a complete drive-through supermarket which, according to his application, increases choice, reduces queues and lowers costs.

Certainly an interesting idea but sadly one that is still to get off the ground. Less a case of patent pending, more one of patent vending !

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