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Automatic merchandising is the process of selling various types of goods using vending machines strategically placed in locations that are convenient for consumers. Also known as automatic selling, this approach allows consumers to purchase the goods whenever they like without the need to interact with a salesperson or store clerk. There are several benefits to this approach, including the relatively low cost of operating an automatic merchandising system or network in comparison to operating a series of brick and mortar retail outlets.
A number of different types of products are sold through automatic merchandising. Goods such as candy bars, salty snacks, and various types of bottled and canned beverages are often sold in this manner. In certain areas, tobacco products are also often sold through vending machines. In venues such as motel laundry rooms or even public coin-operated laundries, it is not unusual for products such as small boxes of detergent and fabric softener sheets to be available for purchase via a vending machine. Even DVDs of movies can be rented and returned by way of vending machines.
Over the years, the process of automatic merchandising has changed as a means of keeping up with innovations in technology. Earlier machines would accept coins only, while later versions would also accept paper money. Today, there are many vending machines that are equipped to process credit and debit card payments in lieu of cash, a move that makes the machines convenient even for people who prefer to use payment methods other than cash.
Strategically locating the vending machines intended to sell specific products is one of the major challenges of many automatic merchandising services. Beverage makers will often locate machines outside supermarkets, in schools, and the break and lunch areas set aside for employees at a factory. Most hotels and motels will have a vending area that provides guests with easy access to a range of sodas, sweet and salty snacks, and even basics such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, and combs. Newspapers will also often place vending machines at shopping centers and malls, as well as other areas that tend to see a lot of foot traffic.
One of the greatest benefits associated with automatic merchandising is the very low overhead for maintaining a machine. Compared to other forms of retailing, this approach is extremely cost-effective, allowing the vending machine owner to enjoy a steady stream of profits, assuming the goods are in demand by consumers, priced competitively, and the machines are placed at convenient locations. One of the main expenses is arranging for the restocking of vending machines in a timely manner, making sure the selections are always fresh and varied enough to attract the attention of consumers.