- Cosmetics retailer Lush has opened a pop-up vending machine in London.
- Products can be bought from the machine 24 hours a day using a giant touch screen.
- A spokesperson for Lush said they wanted people to buy Lush products "whenever they wanted."
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
The machine is a nod to Lush's market in Japan
Cosmetics giant Lush has opened a 24-hour vending machine that allows shoppers to buy its products at any time of the day or night.
The vending machine is situated in Coal Drop's Yard, London, around a ten-minute walk from King's Cross Station, one of London's busiest rail terminals. I headed over to the tiny store on my lunch break to check it out.
The machine is unlike any other vending machine I've used before. It's a much larger, circular-shaped kiosk, which allows shoppers to walk around it to browse the products on display.
Charlotte Howe, from Lush's group retail team, told Insider that the company wanted to explore using vending machines because the cosmetics store has a significant market in Japan.
"We've got over 100 shops in Japan and Japan is the home of the vending machine," Howe said.
In 2020, Japan was Lush's second biggest market, just behind the UK, according to Statista.
The experience is completely automated and can be accessed 24 hours a day
The machine is completely unstaffed and purchases can be made at any time of the day.
"London is a 24-hour city," Howe told Insider, adding: "The beauty of a vending machine in London is that people can access the products at any time."
The machine is targeted at shift workers and health workers who cannot always access Lush stores during normal opening hours, Howe added.
The machine was created by automated retailing company, Anmac. The company's CEO, Andrew McAlpine, told Insider that the vending solution was part of a plan to allow people to access brands and products whilst "on the move," adding that buyers "rock up and do what they want under their own control."
"Part of me feels that community has gotten lost in the retail world," Andrew — who is also a film designer — said. "I think that being able to access products, all the things that people need in life to help them along, and people who end up going home at 3am … it's really providing for a lot of people who are not provided for."
The company also stocks flower bouquets in other vending machines dotted around London, with the majority of the contents sold during off-peak hours, according to McAlpine.
Orders are made on a giant touch screen but only card payments are accepted
The machine is made up of columns of lockers. Orders are made using one of two 33-inch touch screens and, once paid for, the locker door is released allowing customers to retrieve the products inside.
The columns run from floor level up to the full height of the machine. I browsed the products by walking around the machine and flicking through the large touch screen.
The machine only accepts card payment. Howe told Insider that the payment tile and some of the lockers are located lower down in a deliberate move by the designer to allow access to people who use wheelchairs.
The machine stocks large gift sets at $20 (R292) plus
The Lush products on offer were priced between £16 and £38 (R292 and R730) when I visited.
I had expected to see some smaller Lush products on sale – including single bath bombs and smaller soaps – which people could pick up on the go, but the machine only stocked larger, more expensive items.
Howe told Insider that since the machine — and its locker dimensions — had been created by Anmac before it was rented by Lush, larger items were chosen to stock the machine because smaller products didn't fill the spaces.
"We did toy with the idea of filling one with lots of bath bombs and having it as an honesty vending machine… I think we're still going to test that," Howe told Insider.
The vending machine is very 'Instagram-able', but its launch isn't linked to Lush's social media strategy
The machine is nifty and it's easy to see why people might talk about it online.
It's one of a number of innovations the company has unveiled in recent months. In January Lush re-styled its store in the city of Leicester with a "customer journey concept" focus, according to its website.
The retailer also attracted interest at the end of 2021 when it announced it was quitting several social media platforms, citing concern over the companies' policies on handling online safety issues.
But Howe said creating new experiential buying options was not a replacement for Lush's absence on some social platforms.
"I don't necessarily think it's a replacement," she told Insider, adding: "Lush has always been experiential."