Home View from Underground For the Bryant Park subway stop, a pop-up vending machine

For the Bryant Park subway stop, a pop-up vending machine

by Benjamin Kabak

A temporary interactive shopping kiosk will inhabit an empty space in the Bryant Park subway stop. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

Outside of industrial-strength behemoths that dispense Metrocards, vending machines in the subway are a relic of another era. Where once they could found underground, decades of neglect and an increase in crime eventually lead to their ousters. Today, they may be on the way back — at least for some high-end retailers.

As Stuart Elliott detailed in The Times today, one company has placed vending machines in the subway in an effort to drum up some business. That company is L’Oreal and the vending machines are a bit more high-tech than a Pepsi dispenser. The vending machines will be in the Bryant Park subway station through December 30, and they will appear — as the Uniqlo pop-up shop is — in a vacant space.

The Times has more:

Passers-by will see screens and a mirror that use cameras and sensors to recommend women’s cosmetics bearing the L’Oréal Paris brand name, which can then be purchased. The project, called the L’Oréal Paris Intelligent Color Experience, is being described by the participants as an entry in the realm of interactive shopping outside of traditional stores. It is another example of a trend known as experiential marketing, which seeks to give brands more tangible form beyond retail shelves.

…The project, with a budget estimated at $700,000 to $1 million, was developed by the R/GA Lab unit of R/GA in New York, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies; R/GA is the digital agency of record for the L’Oréal Paris brand. Also involved in the project are CBS Outdoor, which sells advertising space in the subway system, and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

“What we’re trying to find out is whether there is an appetite for something between e-tailing and brick-and-mortar retail,” said Paul Fleuranges, senior director for corporate and internal communications at the M.T.A. “We hope to do some market research while this is up and running, [and] we may be willing to do other pilots. We have a lot of retail space that is not currently under lease…If we can find ways to generate revenue from those assets, that’s a good thing for us. If we can add to the passenger experience, that’s a good thing for us. If we can bring new technology into the system, that’s a good thing for us.”

According to statements for L’Oreal, the cosmetics company considered 20 other stations in addition to Bryant Park but determined that the passageway underneath the library and the winter holiday market offered “the right audience for L’Oréal Paris” and “the best visibility.” I’ve asked the MTA how much they’re making off of this pop-up vending machine but have yet to receive a figure. As with the Uniqlo shop, it’s certainly worth the revenue for the MTA to find temporary uses for empty spaces.

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Jerrold October 30, 2013 - 5:09 pm

Subway vending machine reminds me of the penny gum machines on the Sea Beach Line platforms of my childhood. Dentyne (sort of cinnamon-flavored), California Fruit, and Chiclets.

Matt October 30, 2013 - 5:18 pm

Please let us get Tokyo-style platform vending machines!

John-2 October 30, 2013 - 5:42 pm

Jessica Simpson’s smiling face has been on vending machines peddling Proactive cosmetics at shopping malls and other locations for about half a decade now. So I suppose if cosmetic vend sites good enough for malls, they’re good enough for the Bryant Park subway station (I think a Jessica Simpson buffalo wings vending machine would be the more interesting option, but I suppose cosmetics last longer on the machine racks, and will probably vend with fewer problems than those old paper cup soda machines Bill Ronan banned from the system in the early 1970s).

Jerrold October 30, 2013 - 6:37 pm

Do you remember why he banned them?
I remember those machines also, but not why they disappeared.

John-2 October 30, 2013 - 7:36 pm

IIRC, Ronan supposedly was at a subway stop in Manhattan where he saw some debris on the platform from one of the candy machines, and decided that the MTA could get rid of some of its trash problems by removing all the machines.

Since his decision happened pretty much at the same time as the explosion of the graffiti epidemic of the 1970s, whatever beautification efforts it provided were lost in a sea of Krylon (and I think the MTA boss truly thought at the outset that if he just repainted the carbon steel car bodies in the agencies’ new corporate colors just one more time that would be the step that along with the candy-less/gum-less/soda-less platforms would finally solve the system’s cleanliness image problem).

Phantom October 31, 2013 - 8:06 am

The vending machines of the sixties and probably before were hugely unreliable. The chance of losing your money was always there.

Machines are a million times more secure and reliable today.

I’d love to see vending machines in the NYC subway system now.

As Matt says, Tokyo style machines would be great. They sell cans of beer in their vending machines. Let’s have some of them!!


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