This blog post features excerpts from an article previously published on VendingMarketWatch.com in the “Micro Market Forum” section about how the conversation has shifted given the challenges presented by Covid-19. Click here to read the full article on VendingMarketWatch.com.
How COVID-19 is Impacting the Micro Market Business
John Reilly, President of Avanti Markets, took some time to chat with Abby White of VendingMarketWatch.com about the changing landscape of unattended retail given the new challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Two months ago, I think micro market operators would have been talking about how to place more markets, improve operating efficiencies, and the next innovation in the space,” said John Reilly, president of Avanti Markets. “Avanti would have been discussing how to position our platform to support our customers’ operations and growth, innovation and frictionless shopping. All that has changed now. Our customers are talking about how to save their business and protect their employees. Avanti is also now intensely focused on keeping our employees safe and employed and our operators in business.
“We are all talking about shelter-in-place, lockdowns and essential businesses,” Reilly continued. “These are things we could not have imagined in January. The impact for all of us is that [as] the at-work environment continues to shrink over the next couple of months, sales will bottom out. How long they will stay down is unknown.
“It is heartbreaking to watch this happen. But markets will recover and that has to keep us going.”
Convenience Services as Essential Businesses
Reilly said that the convenience services industry is taking the lead by pressing on the government to be recognized as an essential business.
“So, in these quarantines, lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders, we still support the food distribution supply chain, which is necessary,” he explained. biggest challenge for us is providing the right kind of support for our customers, and their biggest challenge is surviving all the closing offices.”
Micro markets serve an especially important purpose for essential businesses such as hospitals or distribution centers as they’re often the closest and most convenient place for employees of these essential businesses to purchase food and beverages. Reilly says that operators can best serve their accounts by creating an open and transparent communication platform with their customer base to alleviate any fear about spreading COVID-19.
The Future May Require Some Flexibility
Reilly said that he’s been optimistic about the future of micro markets, and the current slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has shifted his focus to helping operators get through this difficult time.
“Before today, we were very optimistic about the market and about growth and expansion,” he said. “It’s really an interesting environment. Now, we’re seeing things happen that we never thought could happen, and there’s a lot more to come — it’s still a very fluid situation.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen in the market space, but we’ll continue to focus on what we can deliver that helps operators. And if they come out of this with fewer at-work environments, then we have solutions for them to grow in a different channel.”
As for what these channels could include, Reilly noted that operators have the capability to expand into rapidly growing areas like contactless delivery, frictionless environments and more public locations.
“We were pretty bullish on the micro market space in our extension into other channels, and I think we’re even more so now as we look to see what happens,” Reilly said. “I think the micro market operators are uniquely positioned to be the last mile suppliers, to run the back office systems and to support the community. I can only talk about Avanti, but we can continue to innovate in the market and bring a frictionless experience to [operators] on the same platform so they don’t have to go and learn a whole different system. We can continue to offer our operator base the tools, the application and functionality to address the changes that the market is going to have. That’s how we can best support them.”
“There has to be an ongoing focus on how to grow your business,” he said. “Where can you get innovative? What new channels can you get into? What new products and services can you offer to the market that will continue to make you relevant and be attractive to the marketplace? If this [coronavirus pandemic] goes longer than we think it’s going to go, let’s keep looking for new channels, new distribution and new applications that you can deploy and use to continue to build the value in your business.”
More to Discover: