Wednesday was another beautiful, sunny day for the 50th annual IISF Trade Show and Extravaganza, held at the Club's grounds in Gibsonton, FL. Traffic on Day 2 was not quite as high as Day 1 according to vendors, but it seemed like the right people were visiting and most seemed optimistic about the coming season.
Skelly's Amusements adds second Wadkins Expo Wheel
Michael Skelly of Skelly's Amusements was a typical example. Skelly said he was coming off of a very good 2017 season. He said there were some weather issues but by and large 2017 was a good year. Skelly's route doesn't change a whole lot from year to year, playing many of the same churches and festivals he has for decades.
Skelly is a bit more than a 40-miler but stays within the 100 mile air radius for DOT laws. His drivers pick up his trucks at the company's headquarters, drive a few loads each and then return the trucks back to home base. His drivers are mostly locals looking to pick up some extra hours on the weekend and they can stay close to home while doing it.
Things have remained steady for Skelly over the past few seasons and, with an optimistic outlook on the coming years and a new opportunity to play an event in Philadelphia for 15 weeks in the Summer, Skelly pulled the trigger on a new Wadkins Expo Wheel at the convention, a nice sized-investment for a show of his size.
Skelly was also celebrating the victory of his hometown Eagles over the Patriots in the Super Bowl Sunday, remarking on the restraint Philadelphia fans showed after claiming victory in the Big Game.
Toy Factory Sees Plush Orders on Par With 2017
From a different perspective in the industry, Sid Karmia of Toy Factory, LLC agreed people in general were bullish on the coming year. He noted traffic was "right on par" with last year. "The right customers are here writing orders," he added. It was a positive year for carnivals in general said Karmia and while the fall wasn't the best, largely due to weather, people were buying for 2018. "Some of our customers had some stock left over after the fall but they are ordering for the coming season" he added.
In a market segment driven by trends, Karmia said that so far in 2018, no hot property has risen to the forefront. He's placing a bit of a best on a Rick and Morty line from Adult Swim which he admits is a little risque, even for adults and definitely not suited for kids. His company has secured the licenses for Team Titan, a movie coming out this year as well as the Jurassic park line which is set to release its latest installment.
Commenting on the business here in Gibtown, Karmia was emphatic. "Bar none, this is the best writing show for the carnival industry." he said. Karmia said his company has a diversity of customers. He sells to the carnival market, amusement parks, crane operators and arcades. He said the company has a similar level of distribution to each market, which is good for diversification. Karmia said the crane business has been great and he has been selling quite a bit of product to Dave and Busters, a chain that has been growing year after year.
Commenting on the outlook for games in the future, Karmia said "games are still the last to get money" on the midway. "The game operators have to work hard to make a living" he added. Karmia observed that guests first must pay to get into the fair then the have to purchase tickets for the rides and spend some money on food, leaving the games with whatever might be left over. That is why, he reasoned, it is important to have the best merchandise. When you are dealing with competition from another game operator or just operating some of your own games, a hot prize will make it easier for the guest to part with some of his hard-earned money.
Karmia said the stock business is not getting any easier. "The difficult part is you see lots of plush companies when you walk through the building (at the trade show)," said Karmia. "I guess that is a good thing because we are all making money", he added. The competition drives innovation and Karmia is always searching for plush of different sizes, shapes and colors. He looks for what is hot, whether it is a tie-dyed version of a popular product different size or even fabric, it is that edge that keeps his company in the forefront, daring to be different and driving sales for his game operator customers. Asked what drives him to keep looking for things new and different Karmia commented, "You are only as good as your last sample bag."
Rides 4-U Sees Increased Amusement Park Sales at Show
On the ride end of the spectrum, another industry leader, Len Soled of Rides 4 U said he experienced "strong traffic" on the first day of the show with the second day coming in a bit slower but commenting, "every one is here."
What struck Soled about the traffic this year is that he is seeing more park people than in years past. By way of example, Soled pointed to his sale of a spinning coaster to Joe Golder from Old Orchard Beach Park in Maine.
Soled's rides on display this year included an SBF Drop N' Twist going to Triple Treat Amusements, and SBF Mini Break Dance, an SBF circus train and a KMG Alter Ego (Speed) which was sold to Russ Kissel. He is also delivering a Puppy Love ride to Classic Amusements.
Soled said he was seeing customers from all over the country, including California and the Midwest, especially Chicago. "People are buying, selling and trading old for new", he observed.
Asked about the increase in amusement park traffic, Soled said he believed some of the parks like to come to Gibtown because they can spend a little more quality time with the manufacturer than at the larger IAAPA show in Orlando.
Other sales for far for Rides 4 U included a Rock N' Tug to a park, 5 Mini Break Dances to FECs and parks and two to carnivals, Majestic and Bates.
Rides 4-U Circus Train
Rides 4-U New Mini Breakdance
Lifetime Products - Guest Relations Trailer
Lifetime Products - bunkhouse sold to Campy's Amusements
Josh Sickinger of Powersource Transportation
2018 IISF Trade Show Coverage