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Vending Machine Company Makes Beauty Push

The Body Shop-branded ZoomShops are slated to roll out to airports, shopping centers and supermarket chains.

In a world of fast food and fast fashion, enter instant beauty.

The San Francisco-based company ZoomSystems continues to attract beauty firms and retailers to its concept of high-end vending machines, having most recently inked a deal with the L’Oréal-owned brand The Body Shop.

The Body Shop-branded ZoomShops are slated to roll out to airports, shopping centers and a new channel for ZoomSystems, supermarket chains including Kroger Marketplace, Stop & Shop, H-E-B and Jewel Osco.

In addition to The Body Shop, ZoomSystems’ beauty clients include Proactiv Solution and Sephora. Others include Apple’s iPod, Best Buy, Rosetta Stone, Sky Mall and Macy’s.

Referring to automated retailing, ZoomSystems founder and chief executive officer Gower Smith, said, “It’s a new sales channel. It combines online shopping with the immediacy of product delivery. Three touches of the touch screen and you can be at a purchase decision.”

A typical ZoomSystems unit resembles a large vending machine, controlled by a touch-screen display panel and stocked with products. Customers can make a selection and swipe their credit card. A robotic arm then gently removes the product from the shelf, and the user’s credit card is billed after the product has been ejected.

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Late last year, Sephora began testing ZoomShops, stocked with its most popular makeup, skin care and fragrance items, in airports, malls and select J.C. Penney stores. Gower said an average test includes 20 ZoomShops, and each unit typically carries 50 to 60 stockkeeping units.

“In many cases, ZoomShops has generated found revenue because they are located along an empty wall or in the place of a bench,” said Gower. “We generated $120 million in 2009 for our partners.”

He noted that ZoomShops yield higher sales per square foot than traditional retail formats. For instance, according to Gower, the typical airport retail outlet yields $1,000 in sales per square foot a year, compared with a ZoomShop, which generates $40,000 to $50,000 in sales per square foot. He added the typical mall-based store does $300 to $400 in sales per square foot a year, compared with a mall-based ZoomShop’s sales of $3,000 to $10,000 a square foot.

Said Gower: “We’re a disruptive, low-cost [retail] channel.”