Micro Market Design – Change is Happening

You’re a go-getter, a small business owner, and hopefully a creative or visionary type. You likely don’t heed the status quo. I get you.

The Only Constant is Change…

I’m writing from an airplane while a minor maintenance issue is addressed. There’s an indicator light that needs to be reset. Not an uncommon occurrence as I find myself on aircraft more often these days, helping vending operators like you improve their businesses. I’m also a pilot and I look at how aircraft have gone from chapter to chapter, evolving since the days of the Wright brothers during that famous first flight in Kitty Hawk, NC. The aerospace industry has gone from 12 seconds of wonderment to 17-hour flights and aircraft cockpits that resemble giant video games (with wings).

This led me to think about something I’ve been meaning to write about for some time. Chapters. Chapters in our lives, our businesses, and how businesses grow, change and evolve. You can resist change, though the fact is, your business is no exception to it and your competitors know it. If you’re reading this, you’re likely a Vending, Office Coffee, and/or Micro Market Operator (or some keyword in my intro lead you here, and if that’s the case, welcome).

You’re a go-getter, a small business owner, and hopefully a creative or visionary type. You likely don’t heed the status quo. I get you. That’s why Fixturelite exists and why this team is here to help you grow and evolve your business as the pages turn, and the chapters change, in the automatic merchandising industry.

Roughly five years ago, it was thought that the unattended payment systems that we knew then would never lead to a successful concept known as the Micro Market. I heard over and over again about how it would never work, how theft would be devastating to the idea. We were operators like you then, and we took the risk and opened our first Micro Markets in the Phoenix area. We had to promise our somewhat worrisome customer, and their HR Representative that if this new concept didn’t work, we would put vending machines back in place. There was little competition in the market aside from Avanti Markets and Breakroom Provisions.

Fast forward to today, and the Micro Market is still in its infancy. Let’s look for a moment at the different chapters that vending took as an example of how things change, and how operators had to adapt and invest in their business to keep up and compete.

The vending machine came to be in The United States when the government began granting patents for coin-operated vendors in 1896. The machines dispensed a piece of gum for a single penny. Years later, enter the coin mechanism, allowing the selection to expand as well as the rocket science at the time known as the multi price machine. Next up, the dollar bill validator, then acceptance of $1’s and 5’s and credit cards, then bill recyclers like those by MEIgroup™, and most recently the introduction of Apple Pay.

With regard to the machine itself, the shape and size have changed, the door now has the potential to be a giant computer screen, and in the beginning, the only lighting used to showcase the product was found in the break room itself. Today the lighting is not only LED, but it turns off and saves electricity if there isn’t movement nearby. If this were an article about such a thing, I’d dive into facial recognition and data mining buyer habits, but I digress.

So, history begs the question, why would Micro Markets be any exception to the need for constant and never ending improvement? Why would some operators still feel that the status quo of five years ago will suffice going forward? Change is hard, I get it. That said, I can tell you that the operators we work with are thought leaders who are investing in their break room design elements. They are investing in retail fixtures and design elements that aren’t the cheapest and are going to last more than a couple of years before showing wear and tear. A new chapter is beginning, in part due to millennials.

Companies are focusing their efforts on acquiring talent and more over retaining that talent. Just like it’s easier to keep a customer than it is to find a new one, your customer wants to attract the best talent in a very competitive world and retain that talent.

Much of an employers focus is targeted on the culture, environment, amenities and perks within the work space. A considerable part of what we see with regard to that focus is found in the break room, and it’s not to be ignored. This is a time where you, as an operator, have an opportunity to shine and improve your customer’s space. On the flip side, you may be faced with the challenge of competing to retain your location against a competitor that is.

As we sit at 37,000 ft and cruise along at a mere 588 mph, my business partner is seated beside me developing another new Fixturelite product for 2016. The funny part about our speed is that none of us on the aircraft actually feel like, or realize, we’re going nearly 600 mph. That’s because we’re on the plane and we’re in motion (inertia). Another reason being that we’re in the hands of a talented and experienced crew who know what they are doing, and they know their destination. They’re helping us get where we need to go. As we fly, they change course to avoid stormy weather and dangers that lay ahead. They know it’s not their last destination, and they must plot the next course, to their next chapter, once this one is complete.

Look at the industry like the airplane, it’s moving forward at a rapid pace and constantly adjusting its course, whether you recognize it or not, and those that aren’t on board get left behind. Are you on board? If you are, we’re here to help you get to the next chapter in your business.


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