A Vending Machine for Every Need

A Vending Machine for Every Need

With an estimated of 20,000 vending machines scattered throughout in Singapore, retailers are switching from bricks-and-mortar stores to vending machines to cut their costs, as well as to maintain and scale their physical presence. When high rental and manpower costs might put a brand out of business, vending machines are the perfect solution for the brand to survive. As a result, you can buy anything from toys to electronics and jewelry from one of the many vending machines spread out in various locations around the island.

You can even purchase gifts from one of these vending machines as Kalms, a gift-shop chain, is one of the Singaporean brands that have embraced vending machines. The gift-shop chain might have shut its last four stores, but thanks to the vending machines scattered throughout the city, the chain remains in the retail business. The brand, which started as a record store in 1964 and then transformed into a household name for greeting cards and gifts in the 1980s, launched a collection of “automated retail machines.” These machines have about 70 percent lower operating costs than a retail store.

Although the gift shop chain's 25 vending machines only display 10 percent of Kalms' bricks-and-mortar inventory - including plush toys, jewelry, and electronics - the benefits “far outweigh the benefits of operating a retail store:, said Kalms' operation manager Masataka Mukai. For instance, the vending machines cost less and they are easier to be relocate to maximize profits. Thanks to the machines' monitoring system, stock can be replenished more efficiently.

Masataka Mukai said: “We used about 18 square meters of space, compared with the 250 square meters of (store) space previously, to generate about 50 percent of our previous turnover in the first five months of our operation.”

Other brands are also finding alternatives to brick-and-mortar stores and one of them is the sporting goods retailer Crazybadman. Kegan Tan, the owner of Crazybadman also shut down his store at Tampines Safra to focus on online and vending platforms. “I saw a lot of repeats in daily purchases, so I put those into a vending machine outside the store and saw a marginal growth in revenue,” he said. Thanks to the flexibility of his vending machine - which sells healthy snacks and drinks, towels and shuttlecocks - he was able to move it to a new more promising location near the upcoming Tampines East MRT station.

Convenience stores have also joined this trend and two launched at the Metropolitan Y hotel and Singapore Management University. An automated retail technology distributor SelfX Singapore houses food, drink and other necessities in glass “cabinets.”

According to Singapore Polytechnic senior lecturer in marketing and retail Amos Tan, vending machines can help to reinvent retail space, if they are well-utilized and well-located.

“It's a very flexible platform, you don't need a lot of space and inventory can be centralized in the cloud,” said Amos Tan. “But for it to work, people have to embrace vending as a new shopping channel.”

According to Spring Singapore - an enterprise development agency - such automated retail solutions are in line with the transformation of the industry, and interested retailers can work with Spring Singapore to adopt them.

What's most striking, though, is that a “vending machine” in Singapore is now offering up luxury vehicles. With vehicles on display in 60 slots, you can buy anything from a Bentley to a Ferrari or a Lamborghini.

This futuristic 15-story showroom was launched by used car seller Autobahn Motors, which marketed it as the “world's largest luxury car vending machine.” From a touch screen display, customers can choose which care they wish to see and within two minutes, the car arrives thanks to an advanced system that manages vehicle retrieval.

General manager at Autobahn Motors Gary Hong said the vending machine format was aimed at making efficient use of space in an already crowded island as well as standing out from the competition.

He said: “We needed to meet our requirement of storing a lot of cars. At the same time, we wanted to be creative and innovative.”

The company's Automotive Inventory Management System is also attractive to developers interested in upgrading parking services.