Vending machines are normally associated with items such as drinks and snacks, but other, more novel uses do exist.
If you think about it, umbrellas don’t require refrigeration, won’t expire, and (in this case) are a uniform size, which makes them easier to sell via vending machine.
Umbrellas are a necessity purchase driven by weather conditions. Therefore, when it comes to buying one, most people do not have the luxury of brand loyalty. Often you don’t shop around for an umbrella. There is not many single store associated with umbrellas. If it’s raining and you don’t have one, you buy one!
Umbrellas in Hong Kong can be dual use. During hot, sunny days it’s common to see people using umbrellas to block the sun. The vending machine in fact boasts that the umbrella cuts 90% of UV rays. Perhaps this also explains why the colors may prove popular – people want an umbrella to look good with their outfit and aren’t just using them as protection from the rain.
Placing them in the MTR station is a smart idea. Not only is it a high foot traffic area, but it catches the potential consumer in the midst of their trip, offering them the opportunity to buy before they exit onto the street or on their way home.
Vending machines are best at simple transactions. In Hong Kong, their ease of use is aided by accepting the ubiquitous Octopus card. The Octopus is a payment system developed initially for transportation (trains, buses, trams, mini-buses and ferries) that has spread throughout the city. Places that accept Octopus range from Starbucks, McDonald’s, and 7-Eleven, to Hong Kong’s parking meters. Payment by Octopus means faster transactions with no fumbling for change. The majority of Hong Kong’s residents have an Octopus card and use them on a daily basis.
Purchasing an umbrella from the vending machine is extremely easy: first, touch your Octopus card to the designated area and next, select a color. That’s it!