Apartment’s Automated Vending Machine Generates $2500 in Weekly Revenue
Occupancy at the Ladera Palms apartments in Fort Worth, Tex., is up, and the proof may be in the pudding – literally.
Since Post Investment Group, Inc. installed an automated vending machine, or robotic convenience store, last year that dispenses everything from food items to household goods, occupancy has improved 5 percent at the 800-unit property on the city’s southeastern side. Asset Manager Leslie Kuhlman isn’t sure if the automated store, the first installed by Ohio-based Shop24 Global at a U.S. apartment community, is the reason that occupancy reached as high as 98 percent, but she’s convinced that offering residents a convenient shopping experience without leaving the property is a benefit.
“We would like to say its Shop24,” Kuhlman said of the installation, which will mark one year in February. “Starting in September of 2011, we were seeing 90-92% occupancy. Since summertime, we’ve maintained an average of 95%.”
Post Investment Group, which has more than 12,000 apartment units in six states, has been so pleased with the vending machine’s performance that two more have been ordered for other Texas properties. Installations are planned for late 2013 or early 2014 at Broadway Square in Houston and the Residents at North Dallas. And Post it isn’t the only company to capitalize on corner store vending machines – a Silicon Valley startup called Bodega is putting vending machines in apartments, offices sorority houses, selling items tailored to fit demographic data.
Apartment property amenity with $1 million revenue potential
The store is generating about $2,500 a week in revenue, which Post Investment Group officials anticipate will increase when an application to accept Texas’ Lone Star Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cards gets approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Ladera Palms has been trying since the automated vending machine was installed to get approval to accept the government assistance cards. Kuhlman is confident that the go-ahead will be given soon.
For now, residents at the Class C-plus property are buying enough with cash or credit cards to make the machine’s $125,000 investment worthwhile, and Kuhlman believes Ladera Palms eventually could mirror sales that recently hit $1 million at a New York university.
“We see it happening once we get approved for SNAP,” she said. “We expect to triple the sales.”
Top resident buys: food staples and household products
Ladera Palms will be in good position to handle the bump in revenue after shifting stocking responsibility to Shop24 Global, which initially agreed to allow the property to manage inventory once the machine was installed.
Milk, bottled water, beans and rice move the quickest, sometimes lasting only a couple of days in inventory. Household items like Clorox, furniture polish, paper towels, Windex and Pine Sol, plus toothbrushes and toothpaste, have moved well, too.
Takis, a spicy snack that sold quickly after the machine was first installed, is still a popular item. And of course, it sells pudding.
Kuhlman said Ladera Palms’ staff attempted to manage inventory after the machine was first installed and quickly realized the task required more time. Average stocking, slowed by preparing some products so they would fit within the carriage and not get caught in the machine’s mechanism when dispensing, was about three hours per day for three or four days per week. Ladera Palms soon restructured its agreement with Shop24 to manage the inventory.
“It was such a task,” Kuhlman said. “We tried it for a few months. That’s not what our staff is there for. They are there to keep our asset running.”
Automated vending machines show potential at all apartment property types
Adding a robotic convenience store, which Kuhlman calls an automated vending machine on steroids, is just one of several new amenities planned in a $7 million makeover at the Residences of North Dallas, which Post Investment Group purchased last year.
While the closest convenience store is just around the corner, the property is being redesigned to be more inclusive. Along with installations of a theatre and state-of-the-art fitness center, the Shop24 store will be another reason to keep residents on the property, which targets middle-class residents.
Because the clientele will be much different than that at Ladera Palms, Kuhlman believes the inventory will be altered but the service will be just as important. About six months prior to installation, residents will be surveyed on preferred items. It’s unlikely that caviar will find its way into inventory, but Kuhlman says you never know.
“We’re happy with (the machine). If we weren’t happy with it, and even though it’s not making the money we’d like for it to make it at Ladera, we’re still moving on at other sites. We know what it can do.”
Would you consider adding one of these robotic convenient stores on one of your properties? It’s hard to argue with an amenity with such revenue generating potential. Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Image Credit: Tim Blackwell