This industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in the retail sale of products by means of automatic merchandising units, also referred to as vending machines. This industry does not include the operation of coin-operated service machines, such as music machines, amusement and game machines, and lockers and scales. Insurance policies sold through vending machines are classified in SIC 6300: Insurance Carriers or SIC 6400: Insurance Agents, Brokers, and Service. Establishments primarily engaged in operating music machines, amusement and game machines, lockers and scales, and most other coin-operated service machines, are classified in services, Division I.
Vending Machine Operators
The U.S. government issued the first vending machine patent in 1886, and in 1888 the Thomas Adams Company installed similar machines on the train platforms in New York City to sell gum. Less than 100 years later, the vending machine phenomenon had permeated American culture, becoming more commonplace than the corner mailbox. The number of vending machine operators declined during the 1980s, as larger companies, including food service and beverage suppliers, bought out smaller companies. Yet more than 8,000 vending machine operators maintained services in the United States in the late 1990s, and the industry dispensed $30 billion worth of products.
In the mid-2000s, nearly two-thirds of the machines in the U.S. were in operation in business locations. Schools were also controversially allowing machines in to serve students, with part of the total sales revenue remaining with the school. Ingenious entrepreneurs had transformed the machines into veritable mini-malls, vending everything from video games to underwear to famous restaurant products. Sales in this industry grew by 428 percent between 1995 and 1999. In the 2000s, beverage sales alone were projected to reach $690 million by 2006, up from $495 million in the early 2000s.
Establishments in this retail industry typically rent space for their coin-operated machines in office buildings, large stores, subway and train stations, airports, and places of entertainment. At the turn of the twenty-first century, vending machines were located in every mainstream location, from office buildings to grade schools. An estimated 85 percent of vending machine sales involved food or beverage. Other common merchandise sold in vending machines...