Unveiling a commemorative plaque to mark an important point in its history, AMS threw a socially distanced BBQ last week for staff, long term suppliers and a few special customers who had been there since the beginning of its 60 year journey in the amusements industry. MD Jason Jarrett talks to Coinslot.
AMS celebrated its 60th anniversary last week with a socially distanced BBQ for staff, long term suppliers, and a handful of customers who knew managing director Jason Jarrett’s grandad, who began the business from his garage in 1960.
The day saw the unveiling of a commemorative plaque to mark the 60 year milestone, and as well as all the traditional BBQ delights, everyone in attendance was offered a slice of AMS branded cake and cupcakes, with Jarrett ending the occasion with a gift for all his staff.
Speaking to Coinslot, Jarrett explained how since its inception in 1960, AMS had undergone three generations of family ownership, in which time it has moved from a father and son in a garage to a fully-fledged business working out of a large headquarters in Sevenoaks.
“We have seen the video boom, the Jukebox boom, the SWP boom and the B3a boom, and all through these times we have continued to grow organically and following a number of careful and considered acquisitions which allowed us maintain our high standards and provide the very best products to maximise our customers income levels”, said Jarrett, who celebrates AMS’s 60th year under some of its most challenging circumstances. “Although pre-lockdown we were financially secure, three months with no income and no government support was always going to hit any company hard, so it is important we adapt and review regularly to ensure long term survival.”
And Jarrett has already begun adapting. As well as widening the AMS range to include items such as ice machines, glass washers and drinks machines, he has embraced the industry’s plight to have a single solution contactless payment app, so that while his company is currently celebrating its long history, it is also prepared for what the future may bring.
“We are one of only six companies to be an early adopter for the exciting Game Payment app and as we have pedigree in promoting app income to our customers for many years with various Jukebox models we are keen to embrace the move towards a cashless society and the challenges this may bring,” said Jarrett.
Coinslot: 60 years on and still a story to tell from a family based business. Can you give us a quick idea of the family’s roots, the birth of the business and the key highlights in the six decades?
Jason Jarrett, managing director of AMS: My grandad James Frank Jarrett started our company in 1960 after buying a few one-arm bandits and supplying them to local clubs and cafes from his garage where he was a car mechanic. His knowledge of all things mechanical and his friendly personality meant he was able to grow his new business and soon left the garage to supply machines full time. My dad joined after leaving school and completing a one year apprentice at JCW Automatics in 1966 to then find himself on all on his own after my grandad passed away in 1969 at the age of 60.
Growing up I have seen the business operate from our garage at home so I was always helping out by “testing” the machines after school and at weekends. I then joined in 1992 and helped dad grow our customer base and range of equipment to enable us to move into larger premises and employ more staff.
We have seen multiple stakes and prize increases, tokens disappear, coins change sizes, vinyl records change to CD and then to digital, hoppers replace tubes and reels be replaced by touchscreens. We have seen the video boom the jukebox boom, the SWP boom and the B3a boom and all through these times we have continued to grow organically and following a number of careful and considered acquisitions which allowed us maintain our high standards and provide the very best products to maximise our customers income levels.
CS: You’re third generation moving the business on in very different times. Legacy is clearly very important, how have you and your familial predecessors adapted the business over the 60 years and how important is that family connection to the long-life of AMS?
JJ: I am extremely proud to be managing director at this special time, knowing that my grandad and especially my dad have put the majority of their working lives into our company. Having clocked up 28 years myself I suppose I also fall into that category as well, but I am very grateful to our team of staff who also deserve credit and recognition to our company to reach such a milestone.
I often refer to our staff as our team but they are actually like a family, we all know what our responsibilities are and we pull together and get the job done, just like a family we help each other out when needed. Customers often comment that we go above and beyond, but to us it’s all about attitude and commitment, if we are going to do something, we want to do it well and do it to the best of our ability.
CS: AMS is very well established in the marketplace. What are the key USPs for the company?
JJ: I always remember my dad telling me when I was younger that whenever my grandad was fixing a machine or dealing with customers, no matter how rude or if what they were saying was untrue, he was always polite, respectful and even bought a few of them a drink or two, to which my dad often questioned his reasoning. Grandad would reply, it doesn’t matter who is right and who is wrong, they will only remember us on our most recent job, so if we do it well and we leave with them happy and smiling, this is the memory they will have of us, “we are only as good as our last service call” became our mantra and has stuck with us for many, many years and I think it has served us well. We have also maintained our commitment to continually invest in the best products for our customers. When we find a model that performs we buy more of them, we regularly encourage customers to upgrade equipment and implement new innovation to improve their income. Our industry is always moving forward with new ideas and new product and we want to be at the centre of all of the great developments right now and in the future.
CS: Obviously covid has played a dramatic role in the state of British business. How has AMS adapted to the new landscape and how has this changed your outlook for 2020-21?
JJ: The last few months have had an effect on everyone in our industry and we are hoping that recovery to pre-lockdown levels continues as quickly as possible, however, things are certainly different and we have a long way to go.
Although pre-lockdown we were financially secure, three months with no income and no government support was always going to hit any company hard so it is important we adapt and review regularly to ensure long term survival. Our normal procedures, reporting and workloads have had to be altered to accommodate the new ways of working. We hope that when the schools go back and the winter weather arrives (if it hasn’t already!) our pub and club customers are attracting enough business with the restrictions they have to impose in each venue, to enable the gaming and amusement equipment to also thrive.
There are no certainties any-more and while there is still a threat of local lock-downs, we need to take each day, each week and each month as it comes and hope the future is brighter.
CS: How do you see the industry changing over the next few years and what does it need to do in order to survive and grow?
JJ: Our core customer base is continuing to shrink, pubs and clubs are still closing as they have their own financial strains, so the supply chain needs to adapt and evolve to ensure longevity. A reduction in MGD and or VAT will help but we all know these will be short term measures. To me it seems that sometimes the cost of development of new product prevents good ideas materialising. Adapting to the needs of our customers is always a major focus so adding ice machines, glass washers and drinks machines to our product range in recent years is certainly paying dividends now, so perhaps there are other products we could consider in order to grow each of our accounts value.
Base cabinets for digital machines could be shared by a number of manufactures to reduce cost for them and the end user, this will also reduce the number of spares needed by any operator. Investment could then be targeted at game content design and innovation of new ideas. Having a larger pool of products that can be adaptable to different categories, would also encourage more sales as the product becomes more versatile.
Embracing new innovations such as contactless and cashless payment options is vital to any product survival in the next few years, but keeping the solutions simple to manage, suitable to most products and affordable will be the key to their success rate.
CS: What are your priorities going into the new year and what things do you need the government to change to make this attainable?
JJ: Any business will probably have “redtape” as a burden to its main purpose and we are no different when it comes to local authorities and obtaining Notifications for two or less gaming machines and club permits for our customers. This is something we feel should be reviewed from a costing point of view and to be simplified. We are one of only six companies to be an early adopter for the exciting Game Payment app and as we have pedigree in promoting app income to our customers for many years with various jukebox models we are keen to embrace the move towards a cashless society and the challenges this may bring.
Following the initial batch being installed and a performance review, we will hopefully look to escalate the roll-out of this development to as many customers as we can and combine this with other contactless systems for other ancillary products.
We will continue to invest in quality AWP, club, jukebox and pool tables products and cascade models to ensure our entire state is full of premium models to all of our customers. Embracing the future for the future, this is our way forward.