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How Many Vending Machines in Japan

One thing is for sure when you visit Japan; there are vending machines in almost every street you walk. From dispensing simple supplies like basic groceries to weird options like underwear and puppies, there are so many options. There are even vending machines for prayer cards, gifts, and surgical masks. According to a survey by the Japan Vending Machines Association, more than 5 million vending units are spread nationally. This means that there’s a vending machine to serve every 23 individuals.

This is not all. The association argues that at least $60 billion is generated in sales annually by local vending machines. Leading the pack are vending dispensers for fast-moving items like sodas, water, hot foods, candies, and energy drinks. If you observe closely, you’ll notice that vending machines epitomize the Japanese culture. You’ll see print details of the Japanese lifestyle in the design of the vending machines.

Why So Many Vending Machines?

This is an obvious question when you first land in Japan, especially Tokyo. If you compare the streets of Tokyo with places like New York or Dubai, you’ll notice that there are as many vending machines in Tokyo as the tall buildings. This is understandable if you consider these factors:

  1. Scarce Labor

For a long time now, the Japanese birthrate has been on a decline with the aging population on a rise. There’s also the aspect of fewer immigrants moving to the country. This has made labor to be scarce. As a way to compensate for labor scarcity, Japanese investors are opting for vending machines. These machines require low human input and can run 24/7. According to a macroeconomics book, vending machines in Japan are slowly substituting sales clerks.

  1. Dense Population

Japan is almost the same size as the State of California. Her population, however, is astonishing. It’s estimated to be 127 million. This is quite impressive knowing that 75% of the country is mountainous. The rugged landscape has pushed most Japanese to the city where they are densely populated. This has opened up opportunities for vending machine investors since a dense population is almost a guaranteed market.

  1. Extreme Weather

The summer can get unnervingly hot in Japan while the winter can get icy cold. Such extreme temperatures require a quick fix. For example, you need a hot cup of tea or coffee when it’s freezing and a cold soda or water when it’s very hot. Such solutions are readily availed by the numerous vending machines that are found in Japan.

  1. Cheap Maintenance

Most vending machines in Japan are automated. This means that minimal labor is required to inspect and clean them. You don’t have to pay any salary to an employee as the machines are DIY. Additionally, they suffer very minimal breakdowns. Investors are generally happy with the idea of having to give just a few hours of their time and go back home to wait for the machines to make money.

  1. Safe Country

Based on a 2010 UN security report, Japan tops the list as the safest country in the world. The security report shows that very few robbery incidences are recorded in Japan. This has made it easy for vending machines investors to set up the units in different places without worrying that someone will vandalize or steal from them. Unlike the United States, most vending machines in Japan are stand-alone.

  1. Cash-based Economy

Investors like this aspect of vending machines since no one buys on credit. They are guaranteed a stream of cash as long as their vending units are working. The advantage to the consumer is that both coins and Japanese bills are accepted. So, you don’t need a debit card or credit card to buy from vending machines. This makes it easy for someone with as little as 10 yens to make a purchase.

  1. Commuter-friendly

Though Japan is known as a leading automaker, most locals prefer to walk to work, use a bike or catch the train. This is quite common in Tokyo. As a result, the streets are likely to be jammed with commuters. As expected, investors have identified the jammed streets as a selling point. So, they put vending machines along these streets to lure the commuters.

  1. Convenient Buying

If you get hungry or thirsty suddenly in Japan, there’s always a sense of relief as you are assured the next vending machine is a few meters away. The same goes for OTC drugs and personal hygiene items. Buying from this outlet is faster since there are no lines as it’s normally the case with retail stores. This is a great thing for a busy nation like Japan.

  1. Robotics Obsession

Japan is historically obsessed with automata. This is according to a 2007 publication by the Japan Times. Considering that vending machines are robotics, it doesn’t surprise that so many resources have been put into their assembly. They are constantly innovating vending machines that are meant to make to substitute human service in most retail businesses.

  1. Affordability

If you want to buy coffee from a vending machine in the streets, it’ll only cost you 130 yen. If it’s the juice that you want, a 500ml bottle will cost you 160 yen on average. At the airport, where it’s often expensive, you may spend roughly 200 yen on a drink. This is slightly above $2. These prices are way cheaper if compared to buying the same in the United States.

Tips for Buying from a Vending Machine

If you have never used a cash-based vending machine before and you find yourself in Japan, you should arm yourself with these tips:

  • Prepare your cash – As mentioned, you need coins or Japanese bills to make a purchase from vending machines in Japan.
  • Put cash into the vending machine – You need to identify the cash slot and put your money there. The lights of the machine will illuminate to indicate that the transaction is initiated.
  • Select the item you want to buy – Use buttons on the vending machine to pick your item. If you don’t know how to read Japanese characters, just buy a product you are familiar with or one that you can see clearly.
  • Collect your change – Don’t leave until you get the change. It’s your right.

Closing Thought:

Japan is undeniably the world’s leading vending machine nation. With so many vending units spread across the country, you can buy virtually anything found in a retail store or a restaurant. The vending machine technology is increasingly becoming advanced. So, we should expect more vending machine innovations in the future in Japan.

Benefits of Office Vending Machines

Today, a vending machine is not just a luxury at the workplace but actually a necessity. So, if you don’t have one in your business, then you are missing a lot. For starters, these machines can dispense different foods and drinks and not just candies. This means that your workers can grab a cup of hot cocoa or some cereals conveniently. This is not all.

The technology has advanced so much that vending machines of today can accept card payments. Therefore, change challenges are eliminated as it used to be the case of coin-operated vending machines. These machines are automated to follow the instruction of the customers. They are able to dispense what the customer wants to buy.

Moreover, the machines are quite mobile. This means you can change their positioning from time to time depending on where the market is concentrated. Though they may face issues like fraud and vandalism, vending machines are known to bring about so many benefits at the workplace. Here are the top 10:

To the Staff

  1. Accessibility

Vending machines are usually stationed in peculiar places to be easily accessible by the staff. During office breaks, employees can walk to the machines to buy whatever they want. To them, the machines provide them with a close solution as they don’t have to go out to look for foods and drinks.

  1. Reliability

The problem with most restaurants and supermarkets is that they are not predictable. One day they are opened and the next day they are not. As for restaurants, you may not get your favorite dish if you go during lunchtime as sometimes customers exceed the orders prepared. Vending machines, conversely, are very reliable. You’ll always get your preferred food or drink as long as it’s normally there.

  1. Product Variety

These days, vending machines are not just restricted to selling sodas and coffee. They can sell almost anything. From hot chocolate to cereals, employees can buy them all. This is actually one of the reasons why employees become motivated at work. Everyone wants the freedom to choose what to eat and drink.

  1. Cost-Effectiveness

If you have in-house vending machines, it makes sense to subsidize the cost of items so as to encourage your employees to buy from you. To employees on a budget, this is a cost-effective approach since they’ll be able to save. You’ll be surprised to find some employees buying food and drinks for taking home in the spirit of saving.

  1. Staff Camaraderie

The staff likes to make friends. They want to interact during their break and share a few things. Vending machines provide them with just the perfect camaraderie opportunity. They are able to crack jokes and forget about work stress if any. You too can have the opportunity with some of them during office breaks when you go to the vending machines to grab something to eat or drink.

To the Employer

  1. Work Morale

It’s widely known that happier employees are productive. So, you have to do everything possible to lift their work morale. One incredible way to do it is by stationing vending machines within the business area. Since they’ll have the freedom to buy whatever they want and are able to get them at subsidized prices, they’ll feel satisfied working for you. In the end, work productivity will improve considerably.

  1. Time-Saving

Generally, it’s time-consuming to go out to look for food during working days. As the employer, this is counterproductive since time is money. Investing in vending machines ensures that these employees don’t go out often. This is because they are able to get (in-house) foods and drinks that they would get outside the business premise. This is not all. They are able to buy them cheaply. This is a reason enough to keep them onsite. In the end, office hours are significantly saved.

  1. Corporate Wellness

Though vending machines of the old days were known to only dispense sugary and unhealthy snacks, what we call junks, the narrative has changed. Today, you can have your office vending machines selling everything that you can think of. This is meant to encourage corporate wellness. Employees will not be forced to look for healthier foods somewhere else since they’ll be available in-house.

  1. Customize Selections

When you approach a vending machine company, you can ask them to make you vending machines that meet your needs. For most business owners, customization means dispensing a variety of products. For others, it means the freedom to serve hot cocoa or coffee. For a few, it means to only accept card payments. Whatever customization means to you, it’s possible with vending machines.

  1. Extra Money

From an entrepreneurial standing, vending machines at the workplace are an extra way to inject money into the business. Since employees and visiting customers will be paying cash, you don’t have to worry about selling on credit. Though you may not get so much if vending machines are not the focal point of your business, what you get is enough to meet a few business expenses. Besides, your employees will be returning a fraction of their salary to you when they buy from the vending machines.

  1. Few Overheads

Unlike most mobile businesses, vending machines have close to zero overheads. For example, you don’t have to incur salary expenses as you can manage the vending machines yourself. All you have to do is restock the machines and come regularly to pick money collected. So, you don’t have to hire someone for this job. Additionally, there are zero advertising costs since the machines self-advertise.

  1. Cash Flow

The moment your vending machines start running and the first customer makes the first payment, cash will start to flow. Provided that the machines are placed in the right places and are running, there’ll always be money coming in. The advantage is that there are no collection issues. Unlike bank transactions, there are no bad checks with vending machines. Similarly, there are no fake currencies when it comes to vending machines. They are programmed to notice this. Thus, you are guaranteed genuine money in the long run.

Closing Thought: Are Vending Machines Worth Investing in?

Clearly, both the employer and the workforce benefit from vending machines at the workplace. So, yes they are worth investing in. They make things easy for both the workers and the employees and in the end, the business as a whole gets to improve. In case you had doubts about this investment, it’s time the doubt vanishes as you join the world of vending machines. Chances are that you won’t regret it.