A short time ago I made some predictions about the future: what's hot, what's not.
I have talked about Automated Retailing - sometimes called Self-Service Retailing, or micro stores, or even just customized vending machines.
Clearly, this wave of automation is going to continue to grow, as it allows retailers and brand owners to sell more products in more locations, without additional employees or high overhead.
At Westfield San Francisco Centre, people can touch and interact with digital storefronts for Sony, TOMS and Rebecca Minkoff to select and purchase over 100 products.
"Store of the future, here we come," eBay's blog proudly announced.
Steve Yankovich, eBay Inc.'s head of Innovation and New Ventures, told USA Today the company plans to put the systems inside existing physical stores too and that the company plans on expanding in this market. "This is not a pilot for us," he said. "This is a thing we're going to scale."
However, as an investor, this tells me something more important: That the automated retailing industry is real, it is growing, and it has now been validated by industry leaders, like eBay, Sony, and others.
So how does an investor take advantage of this red-hot, growing market? I don't think it's by investing in eBay (see my post on this company), or even in Sony - as they are into so many other areas that Automated Retailing will only make a small impact on their bottom line.
The smart money is on the manufacturers of these systems. Companies like AVT (AVTC), which seems to generate a lot of press (I think there are paid analysts that post blogs and messages just to malign the company). However, the company is rock-solid: with millions in earnings, important patents, and the most dynamic products in the market.
AVT's stock is significantly under-valued, and I believe that it can grow by many multiples.
I'm glad that eBay and others are getting into the act. It serves notice that this is a dynamic industry that can offer some great growth potential for the individual investor.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.