Peter Collinge has enjoyed an illustrious career spread over four decades and including senior operating roles at Gamestec, Games Media and Inspired Gaming. As Operations Director at Leisure Projects where he was responsible for a 150 coastal arcade operation, he got to understand the nuances and unique characteristics of the seaside business, a background that has served him well as Managing Director of the industry’s newest redemption brand, Bulldog Games. Unveiled to the industry at EAG in January, Bulldog has enjoyed a spectacular first quarter with sales 86 percent ahead of forecast. Coinslot spoke to Peter about all things ‘coastal’ and how Bulldog has been making waves in one of the amusement industry’s most mature market sectors.
What’s different about operating at the coast?
First and foremost I believe the amount of competition coastal operators face is much greater than that of inland venues. Walk down the seafront at most coastal destinations and there will be ten or more different arcades fighting for the very same leisure pound. As a consequence they have to dress their shop windows and show off their product to a far greater level in order to attract and retain players. It’s not just about being a good machine operator any more:it’s about being an even better marketing and promotions company. Added value is so important,standing out from the crowd, providing a far greater guest experience. That’s not to say the inland venues don’t – there are some fantastic quality offers in the bowling sector where delivering a positive customer experience is also of paramount importance.
You spent a lot of time during R&D talking with FEC operators and listening to their advice how important wast his?
The discussions we had with FEC operators were fundamental to the development of the Bulldog range, both interms of engineering and game design. A good example would be the time we spent with the highly respected East Coast operator Brian Bell: the advice and guidance he gave us was totally invaluable. People from the Bell Fruit factory from every part of the design and build team spent many hours talking to him, we listened to what could be done better, we learnt from the masters and applied it right through the design and build process. Designing new product and testing,talking to owners,to players, making fine tweaks, learning from our mistakes, keeping an open mind, instilling a culture of continuous improvement – all these factors contributed to the process and helped us to arrive where we are now with what is one of the industry’s most exciting brands and one that’s earning income for our customers.
How much importance have you placed on the quality of the build and after service?
Looking back to my time in operations you never forget the frustrations when machines were out of order and you are left waiting literally weeks for a part to arrive on a‘slow boat from China’. Because of this, it was very important to me to ensure the machines we manufacture here in the UK are reliable. We all know machines can break down and when they do you need a first class service and spares support. Bulldog pushers come with a complete spares support kit including the PC,lamps,coin mech and a full set of machine glasses. We also have a dedicated service support team who provide technical assistance and a spares order line which operates 364 days a year on a 24 hour part turnaround – so in essence any downtime should be kept to the absolute minimum. We have all experienced the issues that go along with poorly manufactured machines, built overseas, flat packed with poor after sales support. By contrast, Bulldog machines are British designed and manufactured just like the Great British Seaside. We are very proud of that fact.
Post launch how important has it been for you to be at the coal face speaking with operators at the coast. What have you learned?
In essence I learnt what I thought I already knew! Being on site talking to operators,picking up and sharing knowledge is fundamental.No one in my position should lose sight of the fact that operators on the arcade floor know their customers and they know what works and what doesn’t. We listened we learnt, we took the best ideas and worked with them until between us we got it right. Having said that it doesn’t stop there,we continue to talk,we continue to listen and as a consequence we continue to learn. It has and it continues to be an invaluable experience.
Of all the resorts that you’ve been to which ones do you like most and why?
Since January I’ve spent 100 days at the seaside in different resorts. They all have their own unique characteristics and deliver a brilliant customer experience. A walk down the sea front at Skegness brings home just how hard the coastal operators work to provide the very best in family entertainment.
It’s unique and I can’t think of anywhere else in the world that you would find anything that’s comparable.As you can probably tell, I’m a massive fan of the British seaside.
Why do you think redemption is so popular?
It’s great competitive fun for all the family. Mum,dad and the grandparents can join in and play as a group,compete against each other and walk away with prizes. You see people walking along a promenade with a giant cuddly
toy and a huge smile and you know it’s been a rewarding experience and it has created a memory which the family can share and look back on.
Many children’s early memories are from days at the coast with their families doing exactly that – it’s priceless.
What’s the biggest challenge facing coastal operators in 2018?
I’m not sure if the challenges really change from year to year. It’s a fashion industry and you have to keep up with the trends.Redemption in now a core part of every coastal operation. Merchandise is the driving energy behind any redemption operation and it’s the reason that players will visit the venue.You have no control on visitors going to the seaside but once they are there it’s over to the operator to attract the players and keep them by providing a great value for money family experience.
Finally, can you summarise the appeal of the great British seaside holiday in three words?
Super, Smashing, Great!