Tailwinds vs. Headwinds
Could Surviving Businesses Find Even Better Days Ahead?
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
I’m feeling positive about the coming months, as well as the next year or two, as we come out of Covid-19. Things are getting much better.
At this writing, about a third of the U.S. population has received a vaccine, which is great. Even so, an early April report from retail analysts UBS estimates that 80,000 retail stores in the U.S. may close over the next few years. It’s not in my nature to be pessimistic, but the report also says it’s possible that this number could actually be higher especially if more people keep their Covid habits of buying more online and shopping less at physical stores.
The good news for our industry is that our games are in physical places, forcing people to come out to play them. Better yet, to experience them. This begs the question: What experience are you providing? If it’s just plugging games into wall outlets, anyone can do that. The euphoria of getting out of the house to do something –– anything –– will wear off and customers/players will be more demanding and selective with their time and money. The pandemic has taught us that time is a valuable asset. People value time that creates lasting memories, especially with the people they love. That’s where you come in!
For other industries, demand for their products went down during the pandemic and in response (or in a knee jerk reaction), suppliers cut back, not wanting exposure and having unsold goods sitting around, especially clothing. If you were working from home, a hoodie and jeans may have replaced your suit and tie. What’s being studied closely by many is what will come back, either stronger or weaker, or in some cases, not at all.
Still, some things never “left.” The demand for many home-use items rose over the past year and supply for many of those things could not keep pace. We saw bicycles, outdoor furniture, swimming pool installations, swing sets and more of the like, spike along with a delay in satisfaction of orders. Believe it or not, the U.S. economy is growing at its fastest pace since 1984!
What do we see so far in 2021? Certainly, it’s that more people are traveling than this time last year. People are practically begging, for example, to be away on a tropical island or other vacation. So many more are going out to eat where they can actually dine inside, not in a tent but in air conditioning with family and friends. People are social creatures and they want to be out and about!
We’re already seeing some trade shows, including those in our business, back on a schedule. With lockdowns still rolling around Europe, we don’t know who will attend or what the net result will be but one thing is clear: We all need to get back in the game!
As the pandemic raged and our industry’s locations were closed, we were definitely facing headwinds. For a lot of folks, it wasn’t a question of how to be more profitable, it was how to hang on long enough to see recovery. I think it’s time to be positive and be open to the idea that those headwinds are being replaced by something good: tailwinds!
You’ve worked hard – extremely hard – to get through the past year and I believe there could be a lot of advantages for those who have managed to survive. For example, there might be less competition in your area. Also, you may find customers are more likely to make repeat visits or increase their spend because they’ve missed in-person social interaction. This isn’t so much in response to FOMO (fear of missing out), but because the struggles have brought about a deeper understanding that life truly is short.
So, as you continue to navigate the ongoing reopening of the country, look for the tailwinds that can speed your journey to recovery.
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011, he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at [email protected] jerseyjackpinball.com.