Are Vending Machines the Solution to Retail Organized Crime?

PLUS: Skims Saves a Life
July 19, 2023

Welcome to Wednesday, futurists.

First, some business. If you’re one of the lucky souls to secure a pre-order copy of our new zine, The Multiplayer Brand, you should have a received a shipment notification email by now. Pre-order copies are making their way through the post to our global community of commerce futurists.

If you haven’t secured your copy, act quickly. We only have 300 copies left of our original print. We will begin selling through Amazon and Barnes & Noble later this summer. 


Earlier this week we debuted a new column with writer Melissa Henderson. Melissa’s a founder, entrepreneur, and a journalist who has a unique perspective — love, sex, and dating have a dramatic impact on consumerism.

As we watch the world become more and more commercialized, we begin to notice patterns. Who we are informs what we buy, and where we buy it. And what defines who we are more than the company we keep. 

If you agree with the premise, then that means our romantic entanglements sympathetically influence each other when we’re in a relationship. Our social circles define what’s cool, after all.

When you go head-over-heels for a guy or girl? Your buying preferences start to change. 

Melissa’s debut piece in our new series, Lovers and Outlaws, is available now.

Accounting for the Economy. Great news for overpriced DTC snacks brands. According to a new survey by Chase, American bank accounts have 10-15% more money in them than before the pandemic, but households are spending through that extra money quickly. On average, account balances are at a 3-year low, and also down significantly from their highest points in April 2021. This could explain why a recession hasn’t yet happened as predicted… people were still able to keep spending money from their excesses.

Memory of a Lifetime.   They say art leaves an indelible mark on you; now the idiom is literal. The Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam has a new kind of souvenir to offer. For a limited time, visitors can enjoy a pop-up tattoo parlor and leave with an inked replica of some of Rembrandt’s work.

Summer Editions. Following the announcement of Sidekick, a generative AI chatbot by Shopify, the Canadian commerce giant is readying over 100 features and updates. Their semi-annual product refresh, dubbed "Editions", will be unveiled on July 26th.

This Has LAYERS. A Kansas City woman claims that Kim Kardashian saved her life after she was allegedly shot four times on New Year's Day… while wearing Skims. According to the woman, her KK bodysuit was so tight that it “kept her from bleeding out,” calling it “body armor for women.”

The Casual Man. The Wall Street Journal surveyed over a thousand men to get a definitive answer on what business casual means for men, and whether men will ever be able to get away with shorts or baseball caps in the workplace. Meanwhile, some are predicting that more formal office attire will make a comeback, as a sign of status and gainful employment. The signal? The historic growth of a menswear critic’s account on Twitter. Menswear writer and critic Derek Guy embodies the Age of Critique; one of four trends in this year’s VISIONS: Volume IV report. Read the report now, for free: 

Vending Machine Maximalism. There’s a new vendor in town — Brooklyn Dumplin Shop is a small chain that is growing quickly by building on the once popular modular vending machine idea of the automat, but serving more modern cultural mashups, such as lamb gyro and Buffalo chicken.

Our Take: Vending hasn’t yet had its cultural moment in the United States, but we may soon anticipate a boom in vending as a way to manage through the retail organized crime wave plaguing large cities.

In other continents, vending provides a way for maximizing profit. Underutilized common spaces can be adapted to house new vending concepts for brands that otherwise wouldn’t invest in physical retail. Before Buff City Soap made its historic investment in dozens of bricks-and-mortar stores, they did market testing simultaneously with small-scale vending. 

In Insiders #139, former commerce director Sanjay Jenkins wrote about the vending journey:

Your [vending] strategy needs to be deliberate about selecting locations to place the machine that will maximize the likelihood of earned media… [Vending machines] drive a ton of earned media. The more you design for that, the higher the chance of getting media coverage.

Stores are a costly investment to invest in for awareness and brand recognition alone. Vending accomplishes part of that with a shorter-term commitment, at lower cost of capital.

Furthermore, the rising rate of petty theft, and retail organized crime, is affecting the customer experience. Take a quick trip to CVS and Walgreens in many major cities and you’ll discover that many high-frequency purchase products like deodorant and razors are now behind lock and key. 

With vending, the expectation of a single-purchase, with limited access is expected. The convenience of on-demand, self-service is a feature.

Brexit for Mental Health. Recent research by The Guardian is showing that Britons are seemingly happier and more personally optimistic now that they have separated themselves more from global happenings, though many are pessimistic about the world outside and it’s future. It also seems that the inflation contagion in Europe is somewhat tempered by the UK exit as well.

Six to Two or Nine to Five. Following a record 19-day stretch where temperatures in Phoenix, Arizona topped 110 degrees, an Oxford study has proposed that climate change could soon change the workday hours. An adjusted schedule may see a slow shift away from the historical “nine to five” over the coming decade. Those hours may creep back to “six to two” as we adapt to the changing climate.

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