Coinslot Seaside Supplement
How is the general health of the British Seaside where you operate, and specifically what is the current state of the seaside amusements sector?
Arcades have long been an essential component of the British resort, enjoying popularity that has become a cornerstone of the seaside and holiday park Holiday offer. Ours is a weather-dependent nation and last year’s exceptionally hot weather saw people flock to our coasts. However, in great weather, people go the beach, or the pool and increased visitor traffic didn’t translate to the revenues we would have liked, as our daytime trade was extremely low. But going into the 2019 season, we remain buoyant. Playnation is in the best shape it has ever been. Our new structure has seen the creation of a robust operating executive and this team has driven improvements across every level of the business. When we open our doors this year, our guests will be overwhelmed by the transformation of both our product range and our commitment to customer engagement.
How have you prepared for the season ahead this year with regards to investments in your products, venues and overall business? What specific products have you invested in?
A key focus for 2019 has been a refreshment of our understanding of the quality of our people and how each of them determines our ability to develop. Our new ‘Aspiring Leaders’ programme is a huge investment in the identification of exceptional people, the development of their skills and the creation of an environment that will foster their growth as future leaders. Our Trainee Development Scheme for Regional/Area Managers and Resort Arcade Managers delivers bespoke modules on specific business areas, demonstrating a ‘One Team’ attitude, with pinpoint focus on achieving successful results through people and processes. Product planning begins a year in advance, and our purchasing team engages with a vast range of distributors and manufacturers, both here in the UK and overseas. Delivering variety to our consumers is key to our success, and we continually invest in all areas of our estate portfolio. This year, there has been a particular focus on coin-op VR, Bulldog pushers, interactive redemption and kiddie rides, and we’ve also updated a large proportion of our cranes.
Which categories/types of machines do you feel are currently performing the strongest or growing fastest? Do you see any trends this year that have grown/emerged since last year?
Over the years, redemption machines have remained resilient and manufacturers continue to deliver a range that evolves organically. We also see uplift in more interactive redemption, not only in cash boxes but also in the numbers of partners and customers requesting products with a ‘physical’ element. One aspect we cannot overlook is the ever-growing physical size of many products. Bigger doesn’t always mean better and we are actively sourcing equipment with a smaller footprint that can deliver improved commercials. VR2 Pods, for example, are an exciting innovation with an affordable price tag. Exposure to both coin-operated and manned Virtual Reality during 2018 showed that in the right location, either can prove immensely successful, hence our investment in this area. While still in its relative infancy, this is a product category that has plenty of room to develop and grow, and constant advances in technology are allowing it to do just that.
What internal and external challenges do seaside operators face in 2019? Do stakes and prizes need an increase? Are you negatively affected by any local or national policy decisions and do you predict this will continue/increase throughout the year?
Playnation has made significant capital investment in moving the team to a paperless environment, resulting in a significant step-change in the day to day operations. And Compliance, once one of any number of daily tasks, is now our No.1 priority. We have re-trained our people and introduced new technologies, including the wholesale deployment of IHL, the paperless, tablet-based self-exclusion solution that has proved to be an instant success in the vital area of player protection.
What changes would you like to see at the British seaside going forward into 2020 and beyond?
I look forward to the positive evolution of the ‘staycation’ concept. The British holidaymaker’s expectations are higher than ever and while we are all immersed in the potential impacts arising out of Brexit, it is clear that we must be more creative and work harder to keep pace with rapidly evolving consumer demands and tastes. Quality and value remain as essential as ever, but the uniqueness of the experiences we offer is now a must-have component. Today’s families have demanding jobs, work longer hours and so seek to maximise their leisure time together. We have to keep evolving to keep pace with their demands, and this means continued investment in the environments we operate and the technologies, such as VR and AR, that we provide. The extension of the holiday season should be key for us, and while current regulations continue to restrict families with school-aged children from holidaying at certain times, it is still essential that we expand upon our appeal to families with younger children. The recent significant investment by one of our key partners, Bourne Leisure, in the development of ‘Parks of the Future’ is a superb example of this. These stunning locations deliver quality, value and unique offers and specifically aim to attract families with young children through the traditionally quieter holiday weeks. Haggerston Castle, on schedule to open this coming June, captures these values that we all should strive to achieve. Finally, looking forwards, having undertaken a full review of our cradle-to-grave purchasing and disposal strategies, we have expanded the Playnation brand with the addition of Re-Playnation, a fully functional refurbishment facility that will help maximise internal productivity and provide a sales outlet to the open market.