Careful curation of select franchise prize goods has turned one-time players into long-term collectors at Kent Amusements in Newcastle, Northern Ireland.
Two weeks ago, the announcement was made. Arcade supervisor Dominic O’Reilly of Kent Amusements, Co. Down, posted the news on the arcade’s Instagram and Facebook feeds. Rick and Morty plush – furry renditions of the acclaimed US Adult Swim animated series – had finally arrived at Kent’s redemption centre.
Kent prides itself as a family-run affair, and one of the major benefits of family is that the older members are kept abreast of youth culture by their offspring. Brian, a younger manager on site, had introduced his colleagues to the show last year. Fast forward to August 2018, and Kent Amusements was one of the first arcades in the country to boast the branded gear.
And the response?
“Well worth it,” says O’Reilly unequivocally. “I mean,everyone loves Pickle Rick. He’s becoming one of our most requested plush characters. He’s a character which seems to appeal to people of all ages – and we’re delighted to see everyone taking an interest.”
Kent’s success is well earned,as newer brands like Rick and Morty represent something of a risky investment. First airing in 2013, there have been just three seasons of the show, and it remained stubbornly niche and under- ground as late as October of 2017, when a peak in popularity made it the most-watched show in the US amongst millennials.
But it’s not the first time Kent has stayed ahead of the wave. In the run-up to last Christmas, the suggestion came from another young manager, Elaine, to invest in a line of Funko Pop vinyl figures. Funko’s myriad of licensing deals with media giants like HBO, Disney, and Netflix have made them particularly versatile as prize-offerings in New- castle, despite the brand being relatively under-developed in Ireland.
“We put together a bit of a social media drive to promote the stock which we saw as suitable for Christmas and we were just inundated with new customers,” recalls O’Reilly. “It was incredible. You couldn’t hold on to the stock – it was flying off the shelves.”
Kent Amusements had rolled the dice on an untested product once again, and once again, the pay-off proved lucrative.
And so for O’Reilly, the industry message is clear. Curate the right prize-selection,and you can create a different kind of customer entirely.
“We continue to have day trippers coming to spend a ticket or two,” he tells us. “But now there’s also a body of repeat customers who are bonafide collectors.”