“We’ve embraced contactless both as a distributor and an operator,” noted Paolo Sidoli, MD at SB Machines, whose entire portfolio of children’s rides at his own operations are cashless enabled.
“We’ve argued for some time that operations need to have a balance of cash and contactless – as ‘retail’ venues, our customers expect that choice,” he said. “We’ve always seen the industry’s case for debit card use to be one of customer choice – from our perspective, you can’t have leisure and entertainment venues unable to offer customers that choice in payment options.”
For Sidoli, enabling contactless does come at a cost, obviously, but it’s one that he believes has paid off.
“We decided to fit the contactless function on to all our rides a while back and paid for the pad and rental fee. And it’s been a good exercise – our customers find it convenient and it adds to a smoother running ride for us too.”
The contactless pad runs at circa £250- 300 and there’s a small monthly service fee and Sidoli says that “it’s making a difference”.
“We weren’t sure how the take-up would go initially, but the contactless option is proving popular with families. It’s part of their everyday life and proving more popular as we go into summer. We love cash, the industry is borne out of it, but the public want to make their decision how to pay and this is really noticeable in the operations.”
Sidoli, now Bacta’s South Wales Regional chairman, is a key advocate of the need to keep pace with technology and senses that the debate in higher circles is missing one important point.
“Our politicians are looking at contactless through a very narrow lens; they are not recognising that technology is moving rapidly as much on the customer side as it is on the gaming side. Payment is one of the key areas – people want the option of contactless, they don’t all want cash but they do want choice and convenience. Debit cards deliver that – and until we can have them in our operations, our contactless option is the best alternative we can deliver.”
But it’s not just the method of payment that worries Sidoli and his south Wales colleagues, it’s whether their customers can afford to pay for their leisure offerings in the current cost of living crisis.
“The staycation enthusiasm will sustain itself all the way through this summer and in Porthcawl we’re all looking forward to the season. But there have been little trends picked up in the town by small businesses who have noticed some tightening of the purse strings. Some are reporting that in midweek evenings people are more measured with their spending. Instead of going to the pub twice a week, it’s now once.”
He noted though: “Having said this, I will add that it’s becoming far more difficult to predict people’s behaviour. Some evenings, the town is really quiet and then it changes. I’m not sure how this will play as we come out of the summer season, but it is important, especially in a town like Porthcawl, that we find a way to extend the season into the autumn.”