The Wall Street Journal has a story about how, since airport retail sales have fallen 10% since 2012, airports now are turning to vending machines as a way of generating new sales.

“Vending machines selling clothing, makeup, electronics and high-end foods are cropping up at U.S. airports where officials are competing for passengers with improved amenities,” the story says - using as one example a Uniqlo brand vending machine that sells down jackets to people flying from Southern California to colder climes for which they may not have appropriate attire.

“Airports are using vending machines to test the appeal of more unusual products, airport operators and vendors say,” the Journal writes. “ The machines can be stationed in unused corners of an airport and make sales around the clock. Some new machines have touch screens and robotic suction arms to deliver expensive products.”

Other examples:

“At some airports, vending machines offer local flavor. Ted Drewes, a St. Louis frozen-custard institution, has been selling $6 ‘concretes’ - custard so thick you can turn it upside down without spilling - from machines at St. Louis Lambert International Airport since mid-2015. Travelers bought 15,000 concretes in the machines’ first year and sales climbed 25% the next year, according to AVendCo, which operates the four frozen-custard machines.

“At Pittsburgh International Airport, a vending machine operated by Arcadia Publishing sells books on the history of local neighborhoods for about $20.

“Other machines offer products that are hard to find elsewhere, including Buffalo Wool Co., which sells gloves, beanies, socks and other goods made from bison wool online and at trade shows. Co-owners Ron and Theresa Miskin spend a month in Alaska each year selling at the state fair, so they knew they could find customers willing to pay $95 for bison-wool gloves at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.”

KC's View: This story, in its own way, has a lot in common with other MNB stories from this morning, about businesses looking or new and different ways to reach out to - and understand the needs of - an evolving consumer base.