CSNC-May/June 2022

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BACKTALK

BY M I C H E L L E WA R R E N

Automatic for the people Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association president Jim Jackson on navigating change and why he’s invested in the evolution of vending PHOTO BY THOM AS FRICK E

territory, with the goal of ensuring the long-term success of the business. On the surface, convenience and vending are competitors, however, with the advent of technology and unattended markets, they also have a lot in common. Here, Jackson discusses how the pandemic impacted his industry, the importance of embracing technology, the rise of micro markets and why he’s optimistic about the future of automatic merchandising. How has the pandemic shaped your industry?

JJ: It has been a long two years for

Jim Jackson, president of Winnipegbased Quality Vending & Coffee Services, has been in the business for more than 40 years and during that time he’s seen massive shifts in automatic merchandising. However, nothing could have prepared him for the most recent shake up. After several years on the board at the Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association (CAMA), the industry veteran stepped into the role of president in March 2020—a time of extraordinary

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disruption across all industries, which resulted in the emptying of offices, schools shifting to online learning, a sharp decline in travel and the restricted access to spaces previously open to the public, such as hospitals. In other words, it was a nightmare for those in the vending space: At the height of the pandemic, many of CAMA’s operators experienced a decline in sales of 50% or more. For two years, CAMA worked to support its members through unchartered

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our industry. Being in the business of providing food and beverage convenience services to businesses, our success has always been based on the success of our customers. The more employees they can keep within the four walls of their business, the greater the demand and need for our services. We all know that in the past two years, many businesses adopted a work-from-home approach and many manufacturing facilities worked with a reduced employee base or, in some cases, shut down entirely. It is simple to see how this would have a negative affect on our industry and that of many others that are in the business of providing services or support. Many of our operators saw their business decline more than 50%. This forced our operators to do a deep cleanse of their operation. They had the time to review and eliminate unnecessary expenses from their operations and adjust their employee needs to match the reduced workload and revenues. You became president of CAMA in 2020, just as the world changed dramatically and many of your members were hard hit. How is the landscape different as we move out of the pandemic? Have a lot of your member businesses closed? ? JJ: Many of the pandemic restrictions

are being lifted and many of our customers have or are in the process of bringing employees back into the

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