Self-Serving Convenience

Jeff Parsons has seen the future, and it is automated.
Or so he believes, at least. Parsons is a Springfield, Ill.-based entrepreneur who has created a convenience store format comprised exclusively of vending machines. The 520-square-foot Get & Go Express format features vending machines that dispense a total of about 500 SKUs — including everything from aspirin to ice cream, sub sandwiches to DVDs.
Of course, candy and snacks are well represented in the assortment. In a typical Get & Go site, candy accounts for about 30 percent of sales; chips, 22 percent; and beverages, 40 percent. Candy bars typically carry a price tag of 65 to 75 cents, $1.15 for king-size bars, and $1.30 for theater boxes. In the future, Parsons hopes to expand the confectionery assortment with more kids’ candy novelty items and premium confections.
Without the cost of labor, profit margins are higher than in traditional c-stores, according to Parsons. He is franchising the format, and so far nine sites have been opened, typically in high-traffic locations like shopping center parking lots. Always an entrepreneurial sort (he sold candy from his locker in eighth grade!), Parsons began experimenting with the unique convenience model in 2004, and has tweaked the format since then.
The Get & Go design is rectangular, with all of the machines facing outward and protected by a durable, clear material called Lexan; the space in the center/interior area is for storing product inventory.
The vending machines accept cash in all denominations as well as credit and debit cards.
— Mary Ellen Kuhn