Playmeter November 2012 : Page-79

COVER STORY is a multi-faceted company By Bonnie Theard I f you are looking for cranes, video games, redemption games and tick-ets, merchandise mixes, and holiday plush, you need make only one stop: Coast to Coast Entertainment. The Seyreville, N.J., company, mak-ers of popular cranes such as Hot Stuff, 79 Toy Taxi, Prize Xplosion, and Rock-n-Roll continues to expand its product offerings, along the way garnering two consecutive Innovator Awards from the Amusement and Music Operators Association (AMOA) presented at the Amusement Expo 2011 for the Stage 1 NOVEMBER 2012 PLAY METER

COVER STORY

Bonnie Theard

<br /> If you are looking for cranes, video games, redemption games and tickets, merchandise mixes, and holiday plush, you need make only one stop: Coast to Coast Entertainment.<br /> <br /> The Seyreville, N.J., company, makers of popular cranes such as Hot Stuff, Toy Taxi, Prize Xplosion, and Rock-n- Roll continues to expand its product offerings, along the way garnering two consecutive Innovator Awards from the Amusement and Music Operators Association (AMOA) presented at the Amusement Expo 2011 for the Stage 1 Controller Board and at the Amusement Expo 2012 for the Stage 2 Controller Board.<br /> <br /> Play Meter caught up with company principals Gary Balaban and John Maurer for an update just as they were getting ready for a business trip to China.<br /> <br /> Looking back on your company’s history, what were the major milestones along the way?<br /> <br /> The biggest milestones were when we had a really good product that was well received by our customers. For instance, when we released our licensed games, Betty Boop and Elvis coin pushers, along with The Simpsons Stomp game, we received such an overwhelming reaction and sales beyond our expectations.<br /> <br /> Other milestones would be when we entered the distribution sales arena from our starting model as a direct sales company, along with one last feather in our cap as the OEM crane supplier for two other major companies in the U.S.<br /> <br /> Coast to Coast made its name with cranes. However, the company has a good habit of expanding into new categories of entertainment. What was the catalyst to enter the video arena with Friction and ReRave Arcade?<br /> <br /> John and I are always looking to expand our brand wisely. When we see something of value we explore the possibilities of adding it to our lineup of products. With Friction and ReRave we saw the opportunity to add two games that could meet the needs of our customers.<br /> <br /> We have added redemption games, merchandisers, coin pushers, redemption tickets, and other products to our line over the years. We do not want to be one-dimensional because our industry has so many layers.<br /> <br /> Has the success of these two games encouraged you to pursue more video titles?<br /> <br /> We are always searching for new opportunities. With our success in branching out, more companies are coming to us with their ideas. Video is an interesting segment of our industry.<br /> <br /> There have been some new developments with companies marketing games that were popular apps. Some have proven successful while others did not translate well into our market. We will continue to keep our eyes open and move cautiously with video titles.<br /> <br /> How often do you travel to China to meet with factories that supply your prize merchandise?<br /> <br /> We travel overseas three to five times a year. It is important for us to be there to see our products through their development cycles and to continue to build on our relationships there. We are fortunate to work alongside some great companies. As our relationships grow and evolve our products continue to get better.<br /> <br /> How much input do you have in the design of the prize merchandise?<br /> <br /> We have complete design control of our regular plush line. We work with the designers from start to finish on every little detail. For the other items we sell, like electronics and toys, we generally buy from key suppliers overseas and domestically and use the items they already have with no changes.<br /> <br /> What are some of the new merchandise items we can look forward to seeing soon?<br /> <br /> We are heading overseas to visit some factories and meet with some suppliers to see what they are working on for 2013. At this time we are going to have to be like the rest of the world and wait to see what takes off and what does not.<br /> <br /> Are your machines still manufactured in Asia? What are the benefits?<br /> <br /> We continue to manufacture in Asia. There are many cost benefits to making our items in Asia. Along with those benefits there are still many problems we deal with on a day by day basis.<br /> <br /> Manufacturing in Asia is not for the week hearted. Language barriers and translation difficulties cause a lot of problems for most people working overseas. Working in Asia we are constantly faced with the answer of “yes” when a question is asked. As Americans, we interpret this as “yes, we can do that.” But more often than not the “yes” only means they heard you and acknowledge the thought; not necessarily that they can comply with the request.<br /> <br /> Another phenomenon, known as “quality fade,” shows up constantly whereby the quality of any given item slowly decreases over time until, and if not caught, will result in something unusable.<br /> <br /> To combat these issues we work with a company in Asia that has someone near the factories we use. The goal is to monitor and prevent these things from happening, in most cases even before we see them.<br /> <br /> This company has been with us for five years and knows our products and our standards. They are our eyes and ears in Asia. They check everything one by one before it leaves the production facility and before it gets loaded into a container for us. This relationship adds some cost to the items we bring in, but it is by far worth it.<br /> <br /> Do you still try to use off-the-shelf parts in your games, such as motors and power supplies, to help customers with game costs?<br /> <br /> We are constantly looking to design our games to be as easy to work on as possible. Being owners of three locations, we understand how important this is. We are also very cost conscious when we develop a game. Pricing your products properly is vital to the success of our sales. We are a very value- driven company and we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to price our games with the operator in mind.<br /> <br /> The IAAPA Expo is right around the corner. What equipment do you plan to have at the expo?<br /> <br /> We plan to have from two to four new games for the IAAPA Expo. We have yet to announce the titles or anything about them, so stop by the booth to check them out.<br /> <br /> How important is the IAAPA Expo to your business?<br /> <br /> The IAAPA Expo is a very important show for us. We have been fortunate enough to have won a few awards in recent years and it gives us a great opportunity to showcase our entire line of games and products. The IAAPA Expo is a key show; it sets the tone for the coming year for us.<br /> <br /> What role does social media like Facebook and Twitter play in your company today?<br /> <br /> Social media has been a key part of our marketing plan. We are able to show off what we have in the way of products and other services quite rapidly. Each month we see better results from our social marketing efforts. As more and more of our customers embrace this medium the better we will be able to show the strengths of our company. It is a real tool for our success in both manufacturing and running our arcades.<br /> <br /> Do you still own arcades in Keansburg, N.J.? Does operating equipment continue to provide valuable insight into what your customers experience in the field?<br /> <br /> We still have two arcades in Keansburg, N.J. Four years ago we opened a third arcade, this one in Seaside Heights, N.J., also on the boardwalk. We still think that there is no better way to fully understand this business, and what the players want and how they react to a new game or piece of merchandise, than by operating an arcade.<br /> <br /> Nothing in the world can duplicate the experience. Engineers and designers can make the best looking and playing game in the world in a factory, but until you put it out there and see if players are going to put their money in the game and even play it again afterward, you won’t know if the game is a hit or not.<br /> <br /> What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry since you started the company? Is the public more demanding today?<br /> <br /> The biggest challenge is that so many of our customers just do not have any more money to buy new games. They might buy two or three games per year when they want and need to buy five or 10 games per year and trade in the old ones.<br /> <br /> We have worked, and continue to work with a few finance companies to help fix this problem. This was a good move for us and it lets us get more new equipment out there to those who need it.<br /> <br /> Operators have embraced redemption in large numbers in recent years. Do you have any advice for operators looking to add to or upgrade their redemption offerings?<br /> <br /> Redemption is one of the keys to our industry’s success. With redemption you offer your customers something they can’t do at home. It seems everyone has a smart phone, a tablet, and a computer to play games on.<br /> <br /> Redemption is interactive. It allows families and friends to play along with each other and win prizes. The best advice I can share is to keep your redemption fresh. Keep it clean and get to know the proper payout of tickets for each game. When you run your redemption games correctly you will see a great increase in your revenue. In our arcades we are constantly monitoring the payout to ensure our customers are winning enough tickets to build value.<br /> <br /> We are also constantly looking for great products to put into our redemption counters, cranes, and merchandisers. If we keep a close eye on these two segments we will create great excitement for our customers and they will keep coming back for more.<br /> <br /> Do you still get input from your children and the children of your staff on your products?<br /> <br /> We are always talking with our kids, employees, and customers. We found over the years that you can learn so much by asking questions and then listening. People will tell you what they want if you show them respect and ask for their input.<br /> <br /> For more information on Coast to Coast, call (800)224-1717; Web (www.cranemachines.com).

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