DES MOINES, IA -- A few inches can make a big difference, and that's evident with Smart Industries' Hot Diamond crane merchandiser. The machine's slim 28'' x 28" footprint (it stands 75" high) is sized for locations in which space is at a premium.
Photo | SMART CRANES: From left, Smart Industries' slim-profile cranes (boasting a 28" footprint) are the Hot Diamond, in black and white panaches, and Forbidden Treasures.
"We made the Hot Diamond with a slightly slimmer profile compared to our standard 31" crane style," said Smart's Jim Dupree. "A lot of the new types of location have smaller vestibules and foyers. If they have a payphone or other device in there, the crane wouldn't fit. The three inches we trimmed off Hot Diamond really make a difference, and have created opportunities for operators."
Hot Diamond benefits from two distinct trends, Dupree explained, both of them profitable. The first is the popularity of higher-priced merchandise, such as MP3 and MP4 players and other electronic devices. While Hot Diamond can be used for more traditional products like plush, Dupree emphasized that that the unit really shines when stocked with high-ticket items.
"When we created the Hot Diamond graphics, we made sure the customers could relate the design to high-end devices in there," he explained. "It was necessary to create a look that was recognizable as promoting more valuable goods."
This design objective was carried through in the presentation, as well. Introduced in fall 2011, the Hot Diamond was engineered specifically to better accommodate high-ticket prizes. The floor is higher, and plastic diverters put a product back into play if the claw loses its grip and swings it against the glass.
The amusement machine does all this at a cost lower than many other merchandisers on the market, Dupree said. "I would say that this crane, used as a merchandiser for quality prizes, has the best ROI out there. An operator can set four Hot Diamonds for the same cost as a single merchandiser."
PEOPLE AND PLACES
The second trend addressed by the Hot Diamond is the increasing popularity of this kind of game in new categories of location, such as Chinese buffets and Hispanic grocery stores. "The same people who dine at Asian buffets are those who eat at the chain restaurants," explained Dupree. "On a national scale, this is largely an untapped market."
Inexpensive and increasingly popular, Dupree reported, these family dining restaurants are capturing the bargain-conscious customers who would otherwise dine at large chain outlets like an Applebee's or Outback Steakhouse. The difference, aside from the menu, is that the Asian buffets are, in many cases, independently owned. In fact, these locations have proven so profitable for operators that the manufacturer offers the Hot Diamond in a special Asian graphics package. The Forbidden Treasures model complements the decor of most Asian restaurant venues.
Hispanic or Latino markets are also on the rise and present opportunities for cranes boasting high-end merchandise. The Smart Industries executive noted that these locations typically are independently owned, unlike many large supermarkets.
"Gas stations are also good opportunities," Dupree added. "If you get the right one, you can do very well. These are locations that have a lot of impulse items for sale, like baseball caps and travel mugs. The same customer who buys a cap is likely to play the crane. It doesn't have to be a large truckstop on the interstate; it can be a local gas station."
For this type of location, the slim profile of the Hot Diamond makes it a cost-effective alternative to a prize merchandiser.
"We make cranes for every kind of location and product. And right now, the electronic devices and electronic merchandisers are thriving," Dupree said. "It makes sense for operators. After all, it's easier to maintain a crane for high-end merchandise than plush. Displaying 12 to 13 electronic devices is a lot easier than 96 stuffed animals."