What a disruptive and scary time we are living in over the past few weeks. We wanted to reach out to our community and encourage Bulk Vending Machine owners to connect online and reach out to us. Below are some questions I was recently asked, which we hope in some small way will encourage other owners to stay positive.
Q: Has there ever been a time in Beaver Machine history that a crisis would have impacted the bulk vending machines that you recall?
A: There were two incidents we had – one was a recall of the toys that go into the machines; they had lead in them. They had to do an entire recall in their whole industry for all the toys and trinkets that went out of those bulk vending machines. It was a huge, huge issue.
The other was phthalates that was in plastic, a lot of the little toys with plastic, kids would put them in their mouth, capsules that product goes into, we had to ensure they were phthalate-free – those were the two major issues from a health standpoint that we had to deal with.
Q: Have we ever had another economic or worldly crisis that affected our industry?
A: I would say the closest was SARS. It wasn’t as much of a pandemic as what we’re dealing with now. Sales from bulk vending had slowed down, but a lot of operators were able to switch more product over to capsules which, in turn, increased the capsule sales.
Q: What do you see as short term impacts over the next 30 days for different countries?
A: If people aren’t going out they aren’t using self-dispensed products. Anyone who is operating vending equipment is going to feel the impact because no one is buying from them. If you’re looking at long term, 30 days, 60 days, it’s going to be the same scenario. It is going to take people a long time to get back out into the public; working again, buying again, using equipment again. People are going to be more aware about sanitary conditions of anything they buy or purchase, whether it be from a vending machine or even restaurants. They will want to be assured that the utensils being handled, the food that has been handled and everything is done in a sanitary way.
Q: As a Canadian manufacturer, what are the steps you can take to keep machines being built and shipped?
A: First thing is having our staff on two or three rotating shifts and keeping safe physical distancing by working at least 6 feet from each other. Our sales team is now working from home, taking calls and answering emails in an effort to reduce the number of staff entering our facility. As long as we have the supply chain that can send us the parts, we can build them. We can do this with minimal staff and still produce, assuming we can get all the parts we need to do it. We also have the ability to cast our own metal parts for machines. The next challenge, of course, is the shipping. If you don’t have a shipping channel because the truckers don’t want to ship due to fears of contracting COVID-19 then nothing matters. No product can come in, no product can go out.
Q: Do you have any recommendations to give bulk vending operators during this pandemic?
A: Yes! If you feel your sales of bulk items have dropped, try capsuling your products; people may want to be guaranteed sanitary and this was a solution that worked for many during the SARS epidemic. Put out more capsule machines. People will feel that you have more sanitary conditions and there is no germ transfer possible. I am confident that the customer is willing to pay a bit more for a capsuled edible product if they know it is sanitary germ free. Many facilities have gone back to requiring plastic products during this unprecedented time as an extra measure to keep our communities safe. If capsuled products are not an option for you, you may want to consider posting signage stating the steps you as the operator are taking in order to keep your machines safe and sanitary during these trying times.
Q: What are you able to do in the short term to help the bulk vending industry?
A: We will continue to build as many capsule machines as we can if customers want to capsule their product. We can supply the machines! We also work with companies like Firestone Financial who offer financing to buy bulk vending machines if they need to switch their machines out. They are willing to work with operators to make changes to their routes so they can stay in business and grow their businesses in a time of crisis.
Q: How can others join in to support this global industry?
A: Look at capsule suppliers, for example. They can be making more capsules and can offer them to the operators so they can capsule their bulk product. The other industry would obviously be the financial side. If companies like Firestone Financial are willing to do minimal interest or zero interest so that these operators can grow, then they are helping.
Q: What else would you like to put out there as part of your message to customers?
A: Biggest thing; if sales are dropping try new methods and think outside the box. Educate the public on what you are doing to make your machines sanitary and your sales will continue to build. It is a change in the way of doing business in this industry but life can continue. In this “new world” we have found people often prefer packaged product, they want to know that it’s clean and sanitary!
Stay connected. Stay safe. Stay home. Take care of yourselves and your families.