A vending machine is a mechanical and self-operating machine, which dispenses a product whenever a customer inserts money into it. Vending machines include a currency detector, which confirms whether the amount of money deposited is enough to purchase the desired item.
Vending machines are generally placed in busy and high-traffic locations including: in or near restrooms, in break rooms, next to entrances or exits, by coffee makers, next to change machines, next to listening stations at music stores, next to water fountains, nearby the receptionist area, next to other vending machines, next to cash registers, or near waiting areas.
The types of products sold through vending machines vary. In western countries such as the U.S., vending machines commonly sell snacks, beverages, newspapers or even instant photos. Vending machines may even sell alcoholic drinks and cigarettes though this is no longer encouraged because of underage buyers.
In Japan, vending machines are widely used because of its highly mobile population that prefers to shop on the go on foot or by bicycle. In fact, Japan has the highest number of vending machines per capita, with about one machine for every 23 people. Japanese vending machines stock a much wider variety of items; other than the usual drinks, snacks, liquor and cigarettes, vending machines have been known to carry less conventional items such as toilet paper, rice, eggs, toilet paper, wine and underwear etc.
Vending machines are classified mainly according to the products they carry. Below are just some examples:
* With newspaper vending machines, a customer opens the vending machine and gets a newspaper of his choice. But there is the possibility of thievery if a customer takes more newspapers than paid for.
* Candy vending machines sell candy, gumball, capsule with a small jewelry or toy, or bouncy balls. This type of vending machine is relatively inexpensive, and the gross margins can be quite high -- gumballs, for example, can be purchased in bulk for only 2 cents each but can be sold for 25 cents.
* Soda and snack vending machines are more in demand, as snacks and soda are needed by many locations.
* Vending machines that sell specialized items such as tampons, tissue paper and sanitary napkins in ladies' toilets; and cologne and condoms in men's toilets.
Nowadays the vending machine business is a great business opportunity for anyone. Initial investment into a vending machine business is not very much and it is even possible to start with just used vending machines. Before you jump into a vending machine business you should scope out some good locations for your vending machines.