Kroger Automates Products at Fuel Center

For fuel customers looking to make a quick additional purchase, Kroger Co., Cincinnati, has installed a vending machine offering convenience store items at one if its locations in Columbus. The new addition is a Shop24 automated convenience store machine from Service America Group, according to Jason Santoro, a sales manager with the Boston-based vendor. The Shop24, which is already installed

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For fuel customers looking to make a quick additional purchase, Kroger Co., Cincinnati, has installed a vending machine offering convenience store items at one if its locations here.

The new addition is a Shop24 automated convenience store machine from Service America Group, according to Jason Santoro, a sales manager with the Boston-based vendor.

The Shop24, which is already installed in 160 locations throughout Europe, was recently added as part of the fuel center at Kroger's Olentangy River Road location, Santoro confirmed.

He declined to provide additional details. According to the Shop24 website, the machine has the ability to hold over 200 cooled and non-cooled products including over-the-counter medicines, health and beauty products, sandwiches and drinks, and has a footprint of approximately 36 square feet. The concept was developed to bridge the gap between vending and convenience.

A source familiar with the store said the machine is currently working and has “most items sold in the grocery store. There are no other machines like it in the area.”

“Everyone is looking for alternative distribution points in order to make product positioning easier for customers,” said Robert Passikoff, president of retail consultancy Brand Keys, New York. “This is the grocery store version of the ATM.”

Since Kroger has the “financial wherewithal” to try this concept, and the technology is available, “there is no reason not to leverage that and optimize the number of touchpoints available,” Passikoff said. “This is definitely a trend that will catch on.”

The Columbus TV station NBC4 reported that Kroger plans to have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the machine today and that one other Shop24 machine resides in the U.S., at the State University of New York in Morrisville. The Olentangy River Road store is located at the northern edge of Ohio State University's campus and is referred to as the “university center” store by Kroger associates.

The retailer was not available at the time of SN's request for comment.