Perennial optimist Paolo Sidoli of SB Machines claims that a likely boom in domestic tourism can only help to reverse the amusement trade’s flagging fortunes.
One of the country’s leading suppliers of children’s rides has said that it is looking to an expected upturn in staycations throughout the country to boost FEC machine sales for the considerable future.
Speaking to Coinslot last week, Paolo Sidoli acknowledged that the nationwide lockdown had led to “loss of revenue and loss of jobs” throughout the amusements industry and wider economy, which he said meant “loss of confidence and a fear to reinvest.”
Nevertheless, encouraged fellow FEC stakeholders to “look at the positives,” and pointed to an upsurge in domestic holiday bookings (to the tune of 150 per cent by some accounts) as a potential means for supplier to make up lost ground.
“If we can exploit and successfully market the staycation trend and increase public awareness of the great offerings of UK resorts and other tourist destinations, as well as encourage premises to stay open year round, then we will be in a good position to ride through the economic storms for many years to come,” he argued.
As for SB’s return to work since the country’s re-opening, Sidoli spoke of staff both “excited and nervous at the same time,” and of an uptake in the number of technical queries the company was receiving relating to “new ways of working.”
SB itself has shaken up the way it does business: whilst Sidoli insisted that the firm’s daily work routine “would not change,” the SB manager has instituted new, staggered work shifts – aimed at both minimising the number of people present in facilities at any one time, as well as providing staff with “more quality time off.”
“Our facilities lend themselves well to the new protocols and procedures,” he explained. “Now we’ll have less people on the premises but they will be spread out over the full week.”
In the meantime, looking ahead to potential business pitfalls throughout the rest of the year, Sidoli claimed that “unrestricted and seamless movement” was key to any prospective return to normal trading, maintaining that “any restrictions on people’s liberty and mobility will affect business.”
“We accept that until next year at least, our business is going to be smaller and with higher costs, but we can adjust accordingly” he added. “We have very secure and well established supply and communication lines with our manufacturers, and I know that our experience and technical resources will see us through.”
Q&A INTO THE WEEDS WITH PAOLO SIDOLI
Coinslot: What kind of short-term operational challenges do you anticipate as the UK reopens?
Paolo Sidoli: A negative impact for the short term will be my inability to visit customers. Virtual meetings and working at home are fine but only when the whole economy is firing on all cylinders.
Coinslot: How has the loss of trade shows (for the foreseeable future) impacted your expectations for the near future?
Paolo Sidoli: EAS in September would have provided a great platform to showcase our range of multi-seater rides on £2 a play – but yes, it was cancelled. We’ll now just wait to show our latest products at the next exhibition – whatever that ends up being. We are ready for whenever people are willing to dip their toes back in the water.
Coinslot: What’s your assessment of how the UK government has handled business support throughout this crisis?
Paolo Sidoli: A generous furlough scheme, one-off grants, bounce back loans at low rates of interest, VAT reduction in certain areas of hospitality, deferred VAT repayment – I think the government has been very generous. However, I’d still like to see a deal with Europe. We have the same communion of spirit, the same visions, good governance and good justice systems. A pragmatic trade agreement will quickly invigorate deflated business spirits.