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August 19, 2021

Vending machines might (again) be the future of shopping

Every time a friend of mine returns from a Eurotrip, it’s not the culture, not the architecture, not the history they’re head over heels for.

Usually, it’s something like this: “Man, did you know you can get burgers in vending machines over there?!”

Apparently, yes, you can do just this in Euro destinations such as Amsterdam; order hamburgers and other hot food items in vending machines.

And much as this appears revolutionary to what we’ve come to expect from vending machines, a similar shopping movement is among us that’s bound to change that belief yet again. 

A recent feature in the Houston Chronicle has detailed how the future of shopping might lie in vending machines – known these days as “automated kiosks” – which have become anything but a place to grab just a Coke, Snickers or bag of Doritos.

We’ve seen these souped-up kiosks here in Canada so far, where DVDs, ice cream and the like are available, but the movement is really gaining steam at malls, drug stores and supermarkets south of the border.

At kiosks now in the States, shoppers can peruse clothing, iPods, beauty products and designer handbags, among other items, for purchase.

Indeed, the success of these modern vending machines isn’t so much seen in their novelty – “Hey, cool, a Coach purse!”  – but in their returns. According to the Chronicle, the compact automated kiosks can earn as much as $10,000 per square foot each year in a retail space, as opposed to $300 per square foot each year, which is what a traditional mall store brings in.

So, the bigger question: if automated kiosks are so successful, aren’t these things a legitimate threat to retail jobs going forward?

You won’t be able to get anything and everything from vending machines, surely. Clothing, for one, is something people will always want to try on and interact with before they buy.

But what about a store like HMV or, on a bigger scale, Shoppers Drug Mart? Aren’t those places made up exclusively of items that could be catalogued, stored and called upon when desired within an automated kiosk?

What do our readers think? Would you be just as likely to shop from an automated kiosk as you would a traditional storefront?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...