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KINGSTON, MA – Representing 35+ manufacturers with an emphasis on redemption, industry veteran Steve McCaul has carved out a vital niche as a service-oriented distributor. His Global Coin Equipment is enjoying its tenth successful year, a track record achieved through offering a real partnership to operators. For McCaul, that means assisting his customers in several dimensions – not just canny sales advice, but expert operational guidance and strategy, education, support for experimentation with new concepts and new machines, and repair service through his association with a specialty company and factory direct support. Global Coin-Op even manufactured its own successful redemption game, “Round and Round Junior.”
Very few distributors are true redemption experts. McCaul is one of the exceptions. With years of experience as an operator in the Boston area, he was one of the early converts to the redemption business. Consequently, he is able to translate that expertise into a valuable resource for his operator customers. “My strong point is educating operators to be redemption experts in their own right,” he said. “I got involved with redemption more than 15 years ago because I didn’t like the up and down life cycle of the video category. Redemption offers stability: games can stay on location and keep earning money for more than a decade, if they are selected, operated, and marketed properly. I get a kick out of helping operators learn to understand the whole process of operating redemption. From soup to nuts, these formulas and the philosophies prove themselves where it counts: in the cash box.”
McCaul’s advice includes not just recommendations for good equipment buys, but in-depth training in prize selection, pricing, and display. At one point, he even advised one operator: “Don’t buy new equipment from me this winter. Double the size of your prize counter instead.” He recalls: “That operator looked at me like I was crazy. But in the long term he made more money and came back to me.”
Entrance to the industry for McCaul came in 1969 with a small operating company, Bill Cowan’s South Shore Vending (Quincy, MA). After nine years, he teamed up with Jim Ryan (Ryan Amusement, Boston) to ride the video boom, eventually becoming vice-president of the successful company. Sensing that redemption was the next major trend for fun centers, McCaul oversaw Ryan’s conversion of many video-based arcades and street stops to redemption. In 1992, he joined Mondial Distributing as the redemption expert. “I got to know all the manufacturers and learned the distribution end of the business,” he said. After almost four years, he left Mondial and formed Global Coin-Op Equipment.
Today he is one of the people who seems to be enjoying the amusements profession. “It’s a good business,” he chuckles. “You can make money; the rewards are there if you are willing to work. It kills me to hear people say there is no product to sell. We have lots of great equipment; but you have to know the operator’s business and his locations. If you make the right match of equipment to locations, revenues will definitely increase. No doubt about it. We are all working harder, sure. But that’s what we have to do today. When I can come up with an approach that helps a customer make money, that’s very satisfying. Finding good ideas and helping operators execute them is the exciting part.”
The secret of Global Coin-Op’s success begins with McCaul’s faith in the intelligence and professionalism of his customer base. “I have always believed that most operators are creative; they have to be,” he declared. “That is especially true today, when we don’t have that one obvious item you can put out 20 units and make a fortune. The better ideas I can come up with for my customers, the better off the customer will be -- and in the long term, the benefit will return back to me. I know my customers’ operations and know what new games come out and where each piece will fit into their business. It’s not just selling a product, it’s selling an idea and a concept. I’m not just here to sell equipment. If you make a bad decision, resulting in the wrong game in the wrong location, the operator can’t pay you anyway. That’s not a healthy business decision but it goes on too often.”
Careful experimentation with new products is an approach that McCaul encourages to translate operator creativity into real-world results. He sees it as a two-way street that can also help manufacturers who work with Global Coin-Op in the same spirit of cooperation. “I’ve done a lot of testing for manufacturers,” he said. “If they listen to the feedback from the field, operators will tell them what needs to be done. One little change can make or break a game. Some manufacturers listen and their games really benefit from that input.”
Redemption succeeds or fails based on prize quality, McCaul said. “People don’t want trinkets,” he explained. “Successful redemption operators reinvest up to 25 percent of their gross back into prizes.” Yet one factor in redemption’s popularity is not sufficiently appreciated, McCaul says. That factor is the ego satisfaction of sheer winning. “My research shows that almost 50 percent of tickets don’t come back; they are not redeemed,” he said. “Sometimes they are being saved for larger prizes, but sometimes they are simply lost. But I have found in many cases it appears players are simply using the tickets as markers in a personal competition – how many do you have? One customer had given out $322,000 worth of tickets but only had $151,000 worth of prizes redeemed. I have found this true in a surprising number of cases.”
A 30 to 40 percent payout average on redemption games is ideal for customer appeal, McCaul believes. “But manufacturers can’t keep coming out with nothing but fast coin games,” he quickly adds. “If a player goes through his budget in 20 minutes, where is the entertainment value? Operators face a Catch-22. It may appear that they should buy more quick coin games because these products are generating the most revenue. But these units should be balanced with games that provide solid entertainment value. The hook is the feeling that players have when they say, I almost made it…I’m almost there. Manufacturers face a real challenge in building games that provide high entertainment value and also. But it can be done. ‘Raptor Captor’ from Five Star accomplished this. My own ‘Round and Round Junior’ does it with a progressive feature that gave players a shot at better payouts for inserting more quarters.”
Global Coin-Op in recent months has increasingly expanded its business to represent video games to compliment redemption lines. “Video has not been my market, but my customers are pushing me into it more and more,” McCaul said. “They ask me to get certain products and I do.” McCaul said his business has also strengthened through cooperation with former Betson service pro Dick Donlan, who is providing service for distributors nationwide. “Now I can offer timely service for video, so we’ve taken another step in our growth,” said McCaul.
Optimism appears to be a permanent stock in trade for Global Coin-Op. “There is a business here,” McCaul said with a smile. “I open up two or three new operators every year who want to get into the business. We see increasing crossover from bulk venders who are now expanding into games; they have great locations and they know the product business. They can jump right in and be very successful. They certainly understand any type of merchandiser and from there, anything is possible. They are excited about their prospects. And so am I.”
More About Global Coin-Op Equipment & Steve McCaul
Global Coin-Op Equipment opened its doors in 1995 specializing in distribution of amusement redemption games & equipment. Global offered a full line of redemption products to include arcade, crane, and novelty games and supporting equipment, plus video games.
Global Coin-Op owner, Steve McCaul, started his career in the coin-op device industry 35+ years ago. Steve's initial 20 years involved management of street and arcade game operations to within bowling centers, skating rinks, sports bars, taverns, and FEC's when they were born. When coin-op ticket dispensing redemption games came into focus within family entertainment centers Steve converted numerous dedicated video game rooms to become successful FEC's and LBE's.
Steve's experience and record of successes led to his being recruited by a major coin-op game distributor to introduce ticket dispensing redemption games to their line, and consult to develop family entertainment centers for their customers. Consultation services to develop turn-key FEC's and LBE's included feasibility studies, design, layout, game & equipment selection, implementation, prize sources - selection - merchandising, and tutoring facility staff the differences between entertainment, and redemption game, operations.
Today, Global Coin-Op Equipment networks continually with redemption, novelty, video game and supporting equipment manufacturers, in addition to operators nationwide, to evaluate equipment dependability and performance to guide Global's customers in their pursuit to grow successful operations. Steve McCaul is a contributing writer for coin-op publications such as PlayMeter Magazine and Vending Times specializing in redemption game and supporting equipment operation. A sampling of articles are posted on this web site.
Before committing yourself to a substantial investment for equipment you might not understand, call upon Steve today to ask questions, and obtain opinions which he will be happy to share with you. Global Coin-Op Equipment current customers are satisfied that they did!
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