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.