Chapter 8: New Horizons in Bulk Vending
Between Earl Fuller's death in 1927 and the introduction of the Penny Merchandiser in 1931, the company completely reversed its approach to the vending market. Like some other pioneers in vending, Earl Fuller apparently lacked real confidence in the future of automatic selling. For one thing, he did not believe that Northwestern should build the kind of equipment that would be purchased by the operating companies which were then springing up around the country. Fuller wanted Northwestern to build machines to sell direct to his retailers, and he had his way. His policies were continued until the great depression. "When the depression came along," Waldo Bolen observed, "you just had no chance to sell a vending machine to a retailer when the retailer couldn't even pay his utility bill. So we decided to build our machines for operators."
Accordingly, in 1931, the company brought out its Penny Merchandiser, a revolutionary machine for its day, and set about building up a network of distributors who could seek out and sell established and potential vending operators. The Penny Merchandiser was a considerable step forward in bulk vending wince it was designed to sell many kinds of products in addition to gum balls and nuts. This was accomplished by developing a flexible measuring device which permitted the vending of soft and irregular shaped objects. What the Penny Merchandiser did was to expand bulk vending's horizon. Now in our 88th year, we are still selling to some of the same operators, and scores of new ones. Northwestern has distributorships around the globe, faring extremely well in international markets.