CHARLOTTE, NC — Last fall, Brady Distributing Co. launched an initiative to market innovative, family-fun-oriented equipment to music and amusement operators. The company appointed Marty Man Smith, a 25-year coin industry veteran, to head up the new business unit. Nearly a year into the venture, Smith reports that it is widening the industry’s horizon.
Smith, who joined Brady late last year, brought more than 25 years’ industry experience to his new post. While working with Hip Coin (Mississisauga, ON, Canada), he had been responsible for marketing amusement-center products from Fantasy Entertainment and Universal Space. Recognizing the value of these innovative lines to operators in the United States, he approached Brady about taking them on as a master distributor. The distributorship agreed, retaining Smith to cultivate relationships with strong regional distributors and operators around the country.
The lines have a great deal to offer operators, Smith explained, and they have won quick acceptance.
Fantasy Entertainment (Hudson, NH) produces a variety of self-service digital photo booths. Seeking to expand the market to the established coin machine industry, it presently offers four models through the new Brady program.
Foto Fun Strips is a versatile digital implementation of the classic wet-process monochrome direct-positive photo booths that were immensely popular in the immediate postwar era. Like those ancestral machines, Foto Fun Strips gives the patron four poses, but adds value by providing two strips, allowing the customer to choose black and white or color, and offering a choice of optional graphic themes to further personalize the strips. It’s available in upright or “showcase” (sitdown) designs.
Sketch Express is a digital imaging system that produces instant professional-quality sketches. The patron can choose classic portrait or caricature styles, and the machine is able to produce horizontal or vertical prints. Sketch Express also is offered in upright or “showcase” cabinets.
Rounding out the line are Snap Shot and Kodak Sticker Prints upright-cabinet machines. These are being offered to operators at exceptionally low prices, because they feature factory-refurbished cabinetry. Smith explained that the entire electronics package, including computer and printer, are new.
All the digital imaging machines are offered with warranties of one year on computers and printers and 90 days on other electronics, standard in the industry.
The new Brady program also offers two very different products from Universal Space, both primarily designed to please children. The more traditional is a merry-go-round ride, Ocean Carousel, which combines authentic carousel action – not only rotary, but up and down too – with an unusual choice of animal characters to ride: a sea horse, a clown fish and a sea turtle.
Smith noted that the piece impressed him not only because it generates strong, steady earnings, but also because “it works like a tank.” The strapping, 6’3 Brady executive has ridden it, with two other full-sized adults, and it showed no signs of laboring or dragging under the weight. The bottom line is that this unit is overbuilt, and that is how we like it: built to last,” he told VT.
Ocean Carousel is durably constructed of fiberglass, features digital music and attractive illumination, and provides extensive time and coin setting options.
Also enjoying swift market penetration is Bear Train Express, which is not a coin-op piece at all (it requires an attendant) but which fits well with the coin-op model and can yield very substantial revenues.
Smith described the Bear Train Express system as “a ‘make a friend’ custom design unit.” It’s styled like a steam locomotive and tender, and it allows the patron to choose a favorite animal – bear, moose, panda, lion, rabbit, or others – and then personalize it.
Under control of the attendant, the chosen character’s envelope or “skin” is filled and fluffed. The customer then can specify a wide variety of clothing and other accessory items. Software is available to provide each animal with a “passport” establishing its uniqe identity. The cost to the operator of the “skins” is about 20% to 25% of the selling-price of a finished animal, so the margin is extremely attractive. And the startup package contains a large assortment of merchandise: more than 500 “skins” and a variety of accessories.
The system has done exceptionally well,Smith said, not only in family entertainment centers but also in shopping malls and other high-traffic locations frequented by youngsters.
Universal Space is one of Asia’s largest manufacturers of carnival rides, kiddie rides, redemption games and video arcade equipment. It has a Canadian office that specializes in contract manufacturing.
Smith reported that exhibiting at this spring’s Amusement Showcase International (Chicago) had a great impact, as it enhanced operator understanding and built confidence. He predicted that the division will complete its first full year with a volume of sales greater than originally expected.
Buoyed by this strong response, the division is working to expand the line with compatible equipment. Almost ready to launch is Caroubot, a high-tech robotic-themed carousel featuring the same heavy-duty design and authentic merry-go-round action and styled for locations with futuristic themes, and Happy Zoo, made by St. Fun. The latter is a child-oriented redemption game engineered in Taiwan and previewed at the ASI. Its primary appeal is to youngsters from to 12 years old. It features large buttons, each bearing the colorful image of a familiar animal, a sound system, a digital score display and a ticket dispenser. In use, the game emits the sound characteristic of one of the animals, and the young player responds by pressing the key bearing the image of that animal. Success is rewarded with redemption tickets.
“We’re very pleased with the support we are getting from some distributors,” Smith summed up. “There are still a few skeptics out there, but we are winning them over slowly, day by day.”
Information can be had by calling Smith at (662) 429-3429, fax (662) 429-2416, or emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.