Taiwanese are no strangers to vending machines and their mechanical cousins, the ubiquitous claw game machines. Introduced to Taiwan in 2020, Pop Mart Robo Shop takes this concept to an entirely new level and has been steadily growing in number and popularity across the nation, including Taichung, which currently has four of these intelligent machines, selling a vast array of collectible toy figurines and other items.
Founded in Beijing in 2010, parent company Popmart International Group Ltd. focuses on producing and selling hundreds of toy figurines created in cooperation with toy, cartoon and animated character designers, children’s picture book artists, renowned studios like Marvel, DC, Disney and Warner, and other creators. The company’s large Robo Shop vending machines, later joined by physical stores, sell these figurines for NT$270-470 (Easy Card, credit cards, LINE Pay, Apple Pay; no cash), plus other items like phone cases and stands, key chains, car fragrances and fridge magnets.
Every machine holds about 30 “IPs” (intellectual property), each a series of 12 different characters, with a total of about 300 sometimes limited-edition IPs and 1-2 new series added each week. Customers use the machine’s screen to search for and select a series—from DC’s “Gotham City” characters to Little Maruko-chan, Hacipupu, and “My Little Pony” series—and watch as a robotic arm pulls a box from rows of shelves. The boxes in each series are identical and customers can’t be sure which character they’ll get, although the company’s social media channel allows collectors to trade with each other. In an added twist, there is always a chance they’ll get each series’ special 13th character, whose value among collectors can range from about NT$1,000 to NT$10,000. There are also regular feature special events, like “buy 3 and get a gift” and a discounted machine-chosen random selection, complete with feinted moves by the robotic arm, music and spotlights.
The nonstop cluster of customers—averaging 24 to 40 years old—in front of Taichung machines suggests that Pop Mart Robo Shops will become an increasingly common sight as they continue to rapidly spread around Taiwan and the world.
Taichung Pop Mart Robo Shop locations: Chung Yo Department Store Building “A” 3F (opposite ABC Mart); Mitsukoshi Department Store 12F (beside food court); LaLaport North Building 1F (near Starbucks); Park Lane by CMP B1 level.