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Vending Machines Gone Wild

PLUS: The Allbirds Fall From Grace
November 18, 2022

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It’s become en vogue to run a vending business. No, seriously. Content creation and shortform video have given rise to the Creator Vendconomy; people who make content about their vending machine side-hustles.

Nevermind a few sheisters, there is real merit to operating vending, especially if you’re a brand looking for new avenues for discovery. Liquid Death launched a corporate merch vending strategy in 2021; in case your office needs heavy metal hydration on-demand. The space is gaining legitimacy as brands are trying to reduce operating costs. Subway recently announced a rollout of vending.

Future Commerce subscriber Jon Packer, owner of and Popsters (not sponsored), has firsthand experience. They operate just three vending machines, and see reasonable amount of brand exposure and growth as a result.

“We position the vending machines as a great way for people to sample our products and also for brand awareness,” says Jon. DTC brands need the help, too. The only thing more uncertain than the state of the economy? Online advertising.

High-growth brands are also looking at vending to build EBITDA. One early mover was Buff City Soaps, which launched vending ahead of their brick-and-mortar store buildouts.

Sanjay Jenkins, the former Director of eCommerce at Buff City, says that it’s quite possible to operate profitably, even if you’re small. “To build EBITDA, you have to place your machines in a place where your product has the highest chance of delivering contextual utility.” Meaning, you have to be where people who need your product can use it. “Examples of this include the Best Buy vending machines in airports, soda machines at highway rest stops,” says Jenkins.

As advertising dollars dry up, and consumers get thrifty with online purchases, we expect vending to get more competitive.

For more on how to deploy vending strategically, read 800 more insightful words on lessons learned from the Buff City Soaps vending launch. Sanjay Jenkins gives us the masterclass right over here.

Walmart Wins, Target Trails. You may have noticed that Walmart and Target, two seemingly similar retailers, are experiencing very different outlooks lately. One key factor that is playing into Walmart’s recent surge and Target’s recent plunge is the percentage of sales each company relies on in the grocery department. Walmarts groceries account for over half the company’s sales, whereas Target sits at only 20%.

The haunted house horror genre is about systemic capitalistic oppression. What’s so scary about the haunted house? Is it the rhythmic knocking on the ceiling? The floorboards oozing with black slime? No. It’s that it’s your home, you paid for it, and now you can’t afford to leave.

More Sights & Sounds. is teaming up with FedEx to integrate analytics and fulfillment data to build improved e-Commerce experiences. Kia has a new logo that is so illegible, 30,000 people a month have started searching for “KN car” to try to decode what they are seeing. And in some ultra bizarre news, 10,000 domesticated mink are on the loose in Northwest Ohio — and apparently the plural of mink is just “mink.”

Sad Beige for Neutral Babes. Pink and blue are out for children’s clothing, toys, and decor. Beige and neutrals reign supreme these days, as parent lean into minimalism. One TikToker has labeled the muted color trend “sad beige” and made a series of videos showcase the lack of color and maybe joy.

Not *All* Birds, Apparently. Allbirds can now be found on, the premier off-price online rally sales engine. Remember Woot? Acquired by Amazon in 2010 for $110M, they have fallen out of fashion, so to speak, as the web has largely moved on from rally sales and one-deal-a-day sales discovery engines. 

Our Take: The real tragedy here is that this is a mea culpa for Allbirds. In 2019, the Silicon Valley shoe brand threw stones at Amazon for copying their silhouette. Selling through Amazon seems to be, ahem, fashionable right now; especially as eCommerce is becoming more expensive and cumbersome to operate. To wit, GAP recently launched on Amazon, after facing slowing footfall in-store. 

Allbirds may be experiencing de-growth online, even if footfall is up in-store. DTC analyst Nate Poulin
did the analysis: “[Allbirds doesn’t] break out eCom, Store and Wholesale revenue explicitly, but with 16% top line revenue growth and 51% Retail store growth, it’s fair to infer that eCom is growing very slowly or negative.”

Maybe they could dip their toes into community or collabs? Birds Aren’t Real x Allbirds would sell. Big time.

An Unexpected Hi/Lo Teamup. In one of the most unique and unexpected collaborations we’ve seen, Milk Bar and Fruit of the Loom have partnered up on a tie-dye pie and a tie-dye hoodie for the holidays.

Outdoors? Maybe an Outsider. Merrell has released their annual Inclusivity in the Outdoors Report, with some eye-opening findings. The report covers attitudes and perceptions on how different people groups feel about spending time outdoors, and how discrimination shapes their experiences. The n=2000 global study focused on how various income groups, Women, LGBTQ, and Indigenous Peoples approach being outdoors, and the barriers they experience to spending more time outdoors.

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