Staying a Bounce Ahead:
Making an Informed Next-Purchase Decision

November 2, 2011 No Comments

By Linda M. Barba

Could John Scurlock, the mechanical engineer whose serendipitous creation of the first inflatable structure in 1959, have imagined the many innovative varieties of bouncers that would one day be available?  It’s very likely even the inventor would be surprised his first “space walk” – born from an inflatable tennis court cover experiment – would eventually give birth to a rapidly growing inflatables industry that includes bouncers, slides, obstacle courses and interactive games.
Today, purchasing just the right new inflatable for an amusement rental lineup is no small task, given the state of the economy, prices competitiveness and today’s fickle consumer with an ever-growing number of choices a phone call or key stroke away.

By Popular Demand

Reasons for the purchase of a new inflatable range from the practical (replacing something that’s worn out) to fulfilling a popular request.  For Sandra Shea, owner of A-1 Promotions, LLC, a family owned business based in Independence, Mo., popularity often drives a new inflatable purchase decision.
“We often go by requests in choosing a new inflatable,” she said.  But while popularity is a key consideration, so are quality of construction and long-term usability.  “When we look at an inflatable, we think about how it might fit into a variety of venues,” Shea said.  “Will the design and size be applicable for a wide range of places and types of events?  These are important, too.”
Amy Stansberry, owner of Chandler, Ariz.-based Arizona Inflatable Events, agreed with being on the cutting edge and giving customers what they want.  “We always want to have the newest, greatest theme that’s out there,” she explained.  “The theme must be cool!”  Stansberry does her homework to find an inflatable that relates to the newest trend, show or movie.
For 1,2,3 It’s Party Time in Escondido, Calif., determining popularity is a scientific endeavor.  Owner J.R. Hernandez consults with the inflatable’s ultimate experts: kids.  “We test things out on our children and other kids that we know to see what they like,” he said.  This focus-group approach helps Hernandez make an informed decision.

More Bounce to the Ounce

So you’ve decided on the latest, greatest, most wildly popular bouncer for your business.  How do you ensure you get the best deal?  Cassandra Renfro, park manager for Grand Junction, Colo.-based Banana’s Fun Park, reported that “establishing and nurturing strong relationships with dealers is the key to getting the best buy.”
Knowing exactly what you’re buying is also critical.  Randy Cook, manager of the 13-year-old Adventure Climbing in Waterville, Maine, is a strong proponent of training.  “Our guys go for training every year,” he said.  “Not only do we look to industry resources for knowledge, but we shop at industry tradeshows as well.”
Cook favors the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) for its expertise in inflatables.  He kicks the proverbial tires at trade shows to examine key aspects such as safety, construction and materials durability.  Renfro also shops trade shows to see the goods in person, try them out, and ask important questions.
For 1,2,3 It’s Party Time’s customers, Hernandez seeks out safety, quality and a good price.  When he’s in the market, he combs through catalogs and reviews emails he’s received from manufacturers.  “Customer service is also very important,” he said.  “It is important to partner with companies that are reliable, knowledgeable and accessible to us.”
Profit potential is another aspect to consider when purchasing a new inflatable.  Looking at what the competition charges is one way to set a fair price.  Cook also factors in the length of time a user will be involved with the inflatable in addition to accessories that might be needed (suits, vests, etc.) as well as amount of time and number of staff needed to set up and/or supervise use.  “The more complicated the experience, the higher the rental charge will be,” he said.
While repeat business drives profits, having an online presence proves to be a big help.  Not only does having a website provide a starting point for rental companies that want to stay in line with its competitors, but it helps consumers more quickly and easily find a place to get the perfect bounce house.
Banana’s Fun Park posts newer inflatables on its website as soon as it gets them on board.  “People see them on the website and around town,” said Renfro.  “After some time they become our most popular attractions.”

Lessons Learned

Sometimes purchasing an inflatable is a matter of trial and error.  Arizona Inflatable Events recently discovered that a Sponge Bob 5-in-1 combo was not as popular as initially hoped.  Stansberry needed to change up her approach.  “In this case, we lowered the price to make the bounce house more appealing,” she revealed.  Thinking outside the box is another tactic.  “If targeting to a certain demographic doesn’t work, you will need to be creative and try promoting to an entirely different group.”
“Don’t assume anything,” is sound advice given by Sandra Shea.  She once purchased what she thought was a duplicate of an inflatable her company had been successfully renting out for years.  “We believed we were buying the same item, but the manufacturer changed the design from the original and we weren’t as happy with what we got the second time around,” she explained.  A-1 Promotions kept the new bouncer but chalked up the experience to a valuable lesson learned.  “Today we ask more questions about the design, safety and materials before we buy,” she said.  “If there is a change, we ask ‘why’ in advance so we know exactly what we’re getting.”
Although the economy has been slow to recover, one thing remains true.  People of all ages still want to have fun.  In fact, entertainment is more important than ever.  John Scurlock would be pleased to know there’s likely a renter out there for every type of inflatable under the sun.  The key to success in creating fun for the customer and profits for your business can be found in the fundamentals.  Do your homework, train your staff and test marketing tactics to stay a bounce ahead. -

Back

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.

Sponsors

Tube Pro

Waterpark tubes.

Tear Repair

Tear-Aid industrial strength patches to repair holes and tears.

Lakeshore Merchandise (Smart Vending)

Premier vending supply for all of your vending equipment and supply needs.

R&R Creative Amusement Design

Designers of unique themed parks, attractions and environments for the entertainment business.

Barron Games

Redemption air hockey games.

Xtreme Inflatables

Repair and service for all inflatable products.

Northeast Insurance (NIC)

Insurance programs.

Davis & Davis, Inc.

Planning consultants for wet/dry attractions, mini-golf, go-kart tracks and laser arenas.

Friedman Group Ins.

Insurance for amusement devices.

Perfect Fry

Innovative and simple-to-operate countertop deep fryer Perfect Fryers.

Money Tree - ATM

ATM machines.

Gold Medal Products Co.

Concession equipment, foods and beverages, popcorn, pretzels and snack foods.

Sacoa

Designed and manufactures PlayCard, the rechargeable debit card system.

Funovation

Laser maze challenge

Quik N' Crispy (QNC)

Quik n’ Crispy greaseless fryer.

Comstock - Castle Stove

Commercial cooking equipment.

Aquaventronics

Research and development of interactive water games for use in the commercial amusement industry.

Family Fun Corp.

Waterpark walls for rivers, bumper boat and splash down pools.

Amusement Entertainment Management (AEM)

Premier entertainment consultants.

Ride Development Corp.

Electric floor, gas and battery-powered bumper cars.

Coast to Coast

Coin-operated entertainment, crane machines.

S&S Worldwide

Large Park amusement rides.

Soft Play

Leader in designing, manufacturing and installing soft contained playground equipment.

Poly Products

Tables, benches and related products. Green products for a green world.

Lil Orbits Inc.

Food equipment, donut machines and vendor carts.

Rides-4-U, INC.

New and used rides, kiddie, family, major and thrill.

Playsmart

Patented soft play design, soft playgrounds.

GloCones

Flashing cotton candy cones.

West Coast Netting, Inc.

Experienced netting manufacturer on the leading edge of innovation.

Castle Golf, Inc.

Planning, design and construction of miniature golf courses and family fun parks.

Max Flight

Manufactures interactive virtual reality motion-platform game systems including networkable flight and roller coaster simulators.

Harris Miniature Golf Course

Design and construction of miniature golf courses and water rides.

Master Pitching Machine

Batting cages and pitching machines.

Richie's Italian Ice

Italian Ice Kiosks and Carts

International Special Events (ISERA)

Risk purchasing group, a better way to purchase liability insurance, specializing in inflatables and much more.

Spectrum Sports

Climbing walls, ropes courses, go-karts and more.

Muncie Novelty Co., Inc.

Admissions, financial equipment, printing and tickets.

Formula K Raceways

Go-karts, kiddie cars and bumper boats, go-kart parts and tires.

U.S. Bowling

Award-winning independent company brings bowling to your venue.

Knight Equipment

Drive cables for ferris wheels, Tilt-A-Whirls, Rock-O-Planes and many others.

Fast Corp Vending

Frozen food vending machines

Midway Concepts (Circus Tops)

Premier designers of stainless steel food service equipment.

Martin Professionals

A lighting supplier of choice for the entertainment industry.

California Portable Dance Floor Company

Extreme Engineering

Industry leader in zip lines, climbing walls, jumper systems and adventure products.

Namco

Namco America is a premier manufacturer of coin-op arcade attractions, ranging from the hottest titles like Crazy Typhoon and Jumpin’ Jackpot to classic game-room experiences such as the Pac-Man 25th Anniversary upright that features Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man and Galaga. Specialized pieces such as Wonka Sweetland and Flamin Finger are favorites too! For arcade gaming fun, Namco America is your answer.

Splashtacular

Manufacturer of waterslides

Stoelting
LMap Powered by Silvercrest
Premier Polysteel
Spectrum Sports
Cannonball Blaster
Funovation
Empex Water Toys