Hari Shotham, chairman of online retailer Vitamin Warehouse, said that since the launch of the company’s first bricks and mortar store featuring 13 refrigerated vitamin vending machines in Melbourne last December, investors have come knocking.
There has been requests to set up his vitamin vending machine store concept in country towns where many retail products are not readily available, unlike in bigger cities, he said.
Presently, the vitamin vending machine shop in Melbourne carries popular Australian brands Blackmores and Swisse.
“Vitamins are governed by different laws in different states and we are still sorting out what can be and cannot be sold,” Shotham said. “We are an independent company, but do have supplier arrangements with some groups to benefit from costs of purchase.”
Because of the positive response, Vitamin Warehouse is planning to offer franchise opportunities for the vitamin vending machine business, with the full store concept more likely than just a single machine option.
“In our stores we will mix convenience products with supermarket and drugstore non-prescription products, besides coffee and smoothies which are the normal self-service items,” he said.
His vitamin vending machines can also dispense advice, thanks largely to technology.
“We have large interactive computer touch screens in the store where advice can be sought, after chatting with professionals of brands and even linked to health professionals of your choice by post codes. This is far better than getting advice from shelf stackers in supermarkets who also sell all kinds of health-related products,” Shotham explained.
Having a 24/7 vitamin store is also a boon for shopkeepers who do not want to employ too many staff, he said.
“In Australia like in many countries, wages keep creeping up. The days of paying wages ‘under the table’ for tax avoidance too, is getting harder as banks using technology can monitor deposits, allowing the tax office to be more informed,” said Shotham.
“Plus with a dwindling population, one child families, and polices backfiring, getting staff to work late or on weekends costs more, with wage penalty laws.”
Thus, Shotham is optimistic that his vitamin vending machine concept will catch on, because of one huge factor – consumers will have privacy when they purchase products via his vending machines.
“It is not for a sales person, a cashier, nor the person standing behind you to know what you bought, as is the case in all normal retail outlets - be it convenience store products, supermarket products or drug / pharmacy store products,” he said.
As far as branching out overseas, he maintains the opportunities are tremendous especially in countries like Singapore and China, he said.
“We have also received enquiries from other countries, from New Zealand to even India, where apparently they see a growing trend,” he said.