Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution is in Japan, and is fascinated by the number of vending machines. He takes a minute to ponder on the economics of vending machines in Tokyo.
First we must look to the shortage of storage space in homes. I suspect few Japanese want to buy big piles of stuff at Costco. So buy smaller “portions” and in the meantime the inventories are stored in the vending machines, where they are more or less at your disposal.
I would also look at the storage space for humans in stores. Shops require expensive ground floor space. If you can eliminate the space the human takes up to manage the store and space shoppers use to enter and browse, you can store more compactly. It’s seems a little counterintuitive to think that the storage space could be more valuable than a human occupant…
Bill’s comment led me to add this link to an automat in NYC: BAMN!