United States Patent 3848745

A tray unit for vending items of merchandise or the like is provided with automatic merchandise-advancing means which includes a roll of extensible sheet material having a memory which renders it self-winding such that the merchandise items in the tray are automatically shifted forwardly in the tray whenever the normally forwardmost one of the items is removed therefrom. The sheet material is affixed to an elongated roller for self-winding thereabout with the roller having radial end flanges which engage the rearwardmost one of the items in the tray whereby the items therein are biased in the direction of a front rim of the tray thereby maintaining the items disposed to the forward part of the tray. A bottom wall of the tray is provided with a pair of laterally spaced, longitudinal supporting ribs to hold the items spaced from the bottom wall and to minimize the friction between the bottom wall and the items as the latter shift forwardly. The trays are adapted to be used either individually, in stacks, or in a side-by-side relationship and are easily adaptable for use with various sizes and shapes of merchandise items.

Application Number:
Publication Date:
Filing Date:
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
International Classes:
A47F1/12; (IPC1-7): A47F1/00; B65G1/16
Field of Search:
312/71 211
View Patent Images:
US Patent References:
3322605Decorated shelving film1967-05-30Frech
3166195Display device1965-01-19Taber
3028014Dispensing apparatus1962-04-03Southwick

Primary Examiner:
Nunberg, Casmir A.
Assistant Examiner:
Calvert, Andrew M.
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Schmidt, Johnson, Hovey & Williams
Having thus described the invention, what is claimed as new and desired to be secured by Letters Patent is

1. A merchandise vending unit having an automatic merchandise advancing means, said unit comprising:

2. A tray unit as claimed in claim 1, wherein said material is affixed to said bottom wall at a plane lower than that of the bottom of said items.

3. A tray unit as claimed in claim 1, wherein said roller is provided with a radial flange at each end thereof, said flanges being in said contact with said rearmost item and said material being disposed between said flanges and out of contact with said rearmost item.

4. A merchandise vending unit having an automatic merchandise advancing means, said unit comprising:

5. A tray unit as claimed in claim 4, wherein said material is located between said ribs, the space between said ribs defining a path along which said material is extended beneath said items.

6. A tray unit as claimed in claim 5, wherein said advancing means includes an elongated roller about which said material is wrapped, said roller being disposed transversely of and supported by said ribs rearwardly of said rearmost item, said roller further having radial end flanges in contact with said rearmost item.

7. A merchandise vending unit having an automatic merchandise advancing means, said unit comprising:

This invention relates to a merchandise vending unit of the kind utilized to display and dispense various items such as small, consumer-type packaged articles normally found on self-service shelves or the like.

Modern merchandising practice requires that consumer items, and particularly those items purchased on impulse, be attractively arranged on the shelves in such a manner that they be readily accessible to the customer by always being within each reach of the buyer and in a position to be easily noticed. Also, the goods or items should be attractively arranged and not present a scattered or jumbled appearance necessitating the use of expensive labor to maintain the products in a pleasing, eye-appealing disposition. Further, typical display arrangements require the stacking of numerous layers of cartons or items in several rows thus making it important that the articles stay in place once they have been so arranged and are not susceptible to scattering or falling to the floor or otherwise out of position. In this connection, the natural tendency is for people to take the forwardmost items and leave those toward the rear of the shelf or display stand that are not as readily noticed or as easily picked up.

It is, therefore, a very important object of my invention to provide a tray unit for displaying and dispensing a quantity of merchandise items or the like in which the unit is equipped with means for automatically shifting the items remaining in the tray forwardly whenever the forwardmost item is removed therefrom.

It is another very important object of the invention to provide a tray unit in which the merchandise items are not only oriented to the front of the tray but in which the tray unit maintains the items in an orderly fashion to thus present a pleasing and attractive display to the customer.

Yet another important object of my invention is to provide a tray unit as aforementioned in which a multiplicity of trays may be placed in stacks or in a side-by-side arrangement, yet still function for the intended purpose of automatically maintaining the items in a forward position relative to a shelf or display stand.

Yet another important object of the invention is to provide a tray unit in which the automatic product advancing means in the tray includes a roll of extensible, self-winding sheet material that is readily adjustable to whatever quantity of items are in the tray.

Another object of the invention is to provide structures forming a part of the tray and a part of the advancing means which permit only limited engagement of the articles with the tray and the advancing means to thus minimize the frictional forces on the items as they are shifted by the advancing means.

A still further object of my invention is to provide a low-cost tray unit with automatic advancing means which is readily adaptable for use with numerous types of packaged and unpackaged goods and which may be "pre-loaded" with a quantity of items at the point of manufacture for shipment, as a unit, to the distributor or retailer.

In the drawing:

FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of a tray unit made pursuant to the present invention and in which a quantity of merchandise items have been placed;

FIG. 2 is a longitudinal, vertical, cross-sectional view of the unit showing the same only partially "loaded" with merchandise items and held in the forward part of the unit by an automatic merchandise advancing means;

FIG. 3 is a plan view of the tray unit with the merchandise items being shown in dotted-line form; and

FIG. 4 is a transverse, vertical, cross-sectional view taken along line 4--4 of FIG. 1.

A merchandise vending unit broadly identified by the numeral 10, is provided for the displaying and dispensing of a quantity of individual merchandise items 12 and is comprised of a tray 14 to which an advancing means 16 has been affixed in a manner to automatically shift forwardly those items 12 remaining after the normally forwardmost item 12 has been removed from the tray 14. It should be understood that the items 12 may be of the kind frequently identified as consumer-type items, an example of which would be packages of prepared food items or drug products such as antihistamine capsules or other medications and the like, but certainly need not necessarily be packaged, and could be individual, non-packaged items. The elongated tray 14 is of a size and shape to retain the items 12 in a longitudinally disposed layer and may be constructed of plastic or any other low-cost material which lends itself to high-speed mass production, such as the various extrusion or molding processes now known.

The tray 14 has a bottom wall 18 adapted to support the merchandise items 12 and includes a front rim 20 as well as side rims 22 and a back rim 24. A pair of transversely spaced, longitudinally disposed, item-supporting ribs 26 are spaced inwardly from the sides 22 and extend along the full length of the bottom wall 18 from the front rim 20 to the back rim 24. As will be seen in FIG. 4, the ribs 26 are of a somewhat lesser height than are the side and back rims 22 and 24 respectively, and the space between the two ribs 26 defines a path 28 along which the advancing means 16 is guided.

The advancing means 16 includes a roll of extensible sheet material 17 having a memory to render it self-winding and in roll form when in its natural state. An end 30 of the material 17 is passed through a transverse slot 32 disposed in the bottom wall 18 and located between the ribs 26 for attachment to the underside of the wall 18 near the front of the tray 14 as defined by the rim 20. A raised section 34 of the wall 18 between the slot 32 and the rim 20 receives an underlying, transversely disposed piece of double-faced tape 36 to which the end 30 of the material 17 is attached. It is to be understood that while this particular form of attachment of material 17 to the tray 14 has been shown, that other methods of attaching the end 30 to the wall 18 may be employed. As will be best seen in referring to FIG. 2, the material 17 is extended rearwardly through the slot 32 such that it is disposed on the topside of the bottom wall 18 and when extended, presents a stretch 38 disposed along the path 28 and underlying the items 12 that are supported on the ribs 26. Further, it will be noted that the stretch 38 terminates in a roller portion 40 which is in a raised position relative to the bottom wall 18 and is wound about an elongated, cylindrically-shaped roller 41. The roller 41 is comprised of a central core body 44 that is supported by the ribs 26, and radial end flanges 46 which engage the rearwardmost item 12 at a point above the lower rearmost edge thereof. The material 17 is affixed to the core body 44 intermediate the end flanges 46 with the latter being of a sufficient width that the body 44 is spaced a great enough distance from rearwardmost item 12 that no contact is made between the item 12 and the rolled portion 40 of the stretch 38.

At the time the unit 10 is to be utilized for the displaying and dispensing of a quantity of items 12, the material 17 is caused to be extended rearwardly from the slot 32 in order that the items 12 may be placed on the ribs 26 between the rolled portion 40 and the front rim 20, the extent to which the material is extended being, of course, determined by the number of items 12 to be placed in the tray 14 and limited only by its maximum capacity as shown in FIG. 1. It is to be here noted that the material 17 is of a sufficient length that a rolled portion 40 remains, even though the tray has received its maximum number of items 12. Thus, as shown, the rolled portion 40 is wound about the core body 44, and the flanges 46 are in engagement with the rear vertical face 42 of the rearwardmost item 12 such that all of the items 12 are "clamped" between the roller 41 and the front rim 20 with the self-winding characteristic of the material 17 causing the items to be biased in the direction of the rim 20.

Reference to FIGS. 2 and 4 will most clearly illustrate the positioning of the stretch 38 in the path 28 beneath the items 12 as well as illustrate the minimal points of contact of the items 12 with the bottom wall 18 and the roller 41 as exemplified by the ribs 26 and flanges 46 respectively. By supporting and engaging the items 12 in this manner the frictional forces between the items 12 and the floor or bottom wall 18 of the tray 14 and the advancing means 16 is reduced to a minimum, thereby requiring less force on the part of the material 17 to shift the items forwardly each time one is removed.

When the unit 10, with its items 12 so loaded, is placed in use, it is but a simple matter for the customer to lift out that item 12 nearest the rim 20 at which time the force exerted by the natural tendency of the material 16 to self-wind about the roller 41 causes the remaining items 12 to shift forwardly in the direction of the rim 20 such that the next remaining forwardmost item 12 is disposed adjacent the rim 20. As can be seen when comparing FIGS. 1 and 2, as the items 12 are removed, the progressive self-winding of the material 17 about the core body 44 of the roller 41 takes up the excess length of the stretch 38 as the distance between the rear face 42 of the rearwardmost item 12 and the fixed end 30 of the material 17 decreases.

Based on the foregoing description, it will be appreciated that the unit 10 provides a low-cost, convenient merchandising device which is particularly well-suited for the promotion of consumer-type items with a minimum of effort or labor on the part of salesclerks or others in charge of maintaining a display or an adequate supply of items in the best possible position for consumer pickup. The items are always automatically maintained in their forwardmost positions on the shelf, display rack or the like and in full view for the consumer. This is significant, particularly in those instances where there may be overhanging shelves which would otherwise restrict the view of the consumer, making it difficult for him to determine if the item was available or to even see the item if it were not near the front of the shelf. The use of this unit insures that the item is always moved to the front and is not dependent on some attendant to repeatedly move the supply forwardly on the shelf as the items are sold.

Also, it is contemplated that the units 10 could be "pre-loaded" at the point of packaging of the individual items 12, the unit 10 being so assembled that the items 12 stay in the trays 14 during shipment so that, at the point of sale, the units with their items therein need merely be unpacked from their shipping cartons and placed on the shelf for immediate access by the consumer. In this connection it is also to be mentioned that a plurality or multiplicity of units 10 could be placed in stacks or in side-by-side relationship to present a larger display and a larger quantity of items 10. Not to be overlooked is the further advantage of the ease with which an orderly display may be maintained. The front, side, and back rims 20, 22 and 24 respectively, contain the items and preclude their being scattered about the shelf.