Supermarket chain Giant in Singapore has clustered 17 vending machines at its new VendMart outlet at Tampines, with another five at its IMM branch in Jurong.

On trial until the end of the year, the cash (and cashless) machines offer food, snacks, grooming products, toys and beauty items.

For the hungry, the machines offer ice cream (picked up by a claw crane, from Happy Ice), salted egg prawn tempura popiah (from Mr Popiah), Japanese canned oden (Ninja Oden), healthy snacks (BoxGreen), herbal teas (JuicyFresh by Royal Vending) and pizza by the slice (Shiok Pizza).

There are toys from Star Wars and the DC and Marvel comics franchises, from Tenacity Toys, while Bus Carnival offers the chance to scoop up soft toys with a claw.

There were vending machines that dispense more unusual items such as men’s grooming products by SGPomades, halal items such as teas, essential oils and headscarves by Vibes Mastery, DIY gardening kits and seedlings by Farmily, and even fish food by Dajana.

Mr Alvin Lim, owner of online store SGPomades, launched his first vending machine at VendMart with the website’s top-selling pomades and other grooming products for men.

“Delivery sometimes cannot meet demand, and with vending machines, some locations allow you to buy 24/7,” he said.

Ms Amanda Aida Atan, founder of Vibes Mastery, an academy and consultancy for budding entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises, said vending machines help to boost visibility for e-commerce retailers while helping them to scale at a low cost.

Vibes Mastery vending machine dispenses products that are halal-certified, including headscarves and clothing by local designers and brands, she said.

“All the products come with nice packaging and bags. Even if you are not Muslim, they make nice gifts for Muslim friends,” said Ms Amanda, who has plans to launch more machines in the Orchard Road area.

Mr Janson Leong, a Marketing Analyst helped to turn his parents’ love of gardening into a vending machine business with Farmily, which dispenses DIY gardening kits for plants such as lavender, basil and chilli, and makes its debut at VendMart.

Each kit, priced at $12, comes with plant seeds, a packet of soil and a small biodegradable pot made of plant fibre that can be planted in a larger pot.

Giant has also created its own “mystery box” vending machine where $10 will get a suprise item worth higher such as shopping vouchers, household appliances and kitchen gadgets – plus one lucky person will go home with a new iPhone 8.

Most of the brands on display are local start-ups, and if the response is good the vending machines may have their stay extended to Chinese New Year

More businesses are turning to vending machines to beat high manpower and rental costs. Enterprise development agency Spring Singapore is working with retailers and food and beverage operators to adopt such formats.