CHICAGO — The future of convenience services, unattended and self-services retailing was unveiled at the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) Show on Thursday, April 7.  

The NAMA Show is the largest event for the convenience services industry. The three-day event, happening April 6-8, 2022, at Chicago’s McCormick Place, delivers opportunity and education for operators and professionals in vending, micro market, pantry and coffee, tea and water service industry.

The interactive exhibition, also called Imagination Way, kicked off inside McCormick place. It put the edgiest emerging technologies and service solutions in the hands of attendees.  

WGN News Now spoke with NAMA president and CEO Carla Balakgie about the show and the type of technology consumers can soon expect to experience.  

“Imagination Way reflects consumer demand for greater control of retail encounters, more options and flexibility in retail locations, and ubiquitous availability of better-for-you and fresh on-the-go food and beverage options,” says Balakgie. “The result is an inspired look at how consumer interactions with retail are shifting and how the most routine purchases will be made in the near future.” 

The show featured real-world retail scenarios like a portable laundromat, coffee machines that can make your specific order by simply scanning your eyes, and a scrub dispenser that will give you a new set of scrubs while disposing of the used one.  

With all this technology there’s always the concern of safety and protection of one’s information.  

William Kolspasky, product manager for 365 Retail Market says he’s confident the advancement of technology has equipped companies to properly protect sensitive information for retailers and consumers.  

“The industry as a whole is very up to date on all of the regulations and requirements,” says Kolspasky. “Consumers can opt out of having any data stored, they can request deletion of their accounts or information at any time. So, I would say it’s very secure.” 

This is an industry event, which means it’s not open to the public – just yet. The people who make up the industry are the ones who gather all these services and sell them into workplaces like hospitals, schools, and correctional institutions. 

“Everybody has had an encounter with a vending machine,” says Balakgie. “They’re getting bigger, better and more sophisticated. Unattended stores are in deployment now. They’re not as common in public spaces, but they’re becoming more common.”