With the summer of 2020 potentially set to be wiped from the calendar, Coinslot spoke to Electrocoin MD John Stergides about his strategy for the immediate future, as well as the trials overcome by the industry in the past.
With over 50 years in the amusement industry, John Stergides is well placed to assess what impact Coronavirus is likely to have on future business in both short-term practicalities, and further down the line.
Speaking to Coinslot, the Electrocoin MD discussed how firms like his are adapting, innovating and consolidating during the hiatus, awaiting the time operators can reopen and the industry rebuild its strength.
“Until the government allows FECs/AGCs to open, I expect my daily routine to continue as it is at the moment – which is at a standstill,” said Stergides.
“In my 50 years in the industry, I have never experienced anything like the current situation but we will overcome this problem like others in the past, as we are one of the longest trading companies in our industry.”
Though the trading side of business remains at a standstill, Stergides is keen to see the hiatus used as proactively as possible, stating that generating new and innovative ideas “will never stop.”
“You have to constantly evolve in our industry and have new products to offer. The principal difference is everything has slowed down dramatically and abruptly but it gives us a chance to gather our thoughts and to keep thinking and analysing how we can plan new innovative products.”
“We will channel them in the same way using the knowledge gained from speaking with operators prior to the lockdown.”
During lockdown, Electrocoin has also joined suppliers, manufacturers and operators across the country – and indeed the world – in adapting the essential working environment to promote and ensure safe conditions for staff.
“Like many businesses that have seen our industry come to a halt, we have taken the opportunity to review current processes. We will adapt them where necessary based on government recommendations and make sure we are able to provide a safe office environment.”
“We are thinking how to plan for the future as we always do, but it is with limitations, as until we know how/when our industry can re-open for business, this can restrict our options. It looks like this year is going to be a difficult year, and we may have to start thinking about 2021 but this all hinges on when FECs/AGCs can reopen.”
Coinslot: These are unprecedented times, but do you think there are positives to be drawn and new ideas that you could build into your medium to long term plans?
John Stergides: It has been an opportunity to consider outstanding projects and to review where we are with them.
I think it has been positive for the climate, with the mass reduction in toxins being released in the air – hopefully this will lead to better weather which will boost our industry in the long run.
In my experience, when people have had to stay for long periods at home, the need to go out increases. I believe the majority of the UK will not go abroad for holidays this summer for a number of reasons, which could be a boost for seaside locations in particular, subject to reopening.
I also believe this is an opportunity for FEC operators to start thinking about using a cashless system like the Intercard Cashless System. At the beginning, players may be wary of using cash as much as before so having the option of using a system which can work with cash and cashless card play will allow you to cater for both segments as contactless payments continue to grow in everyday use.
That uncertainty surrounding specific dates of reopening looks likely to continue, however, Electrocoin is confident of being one of the first firms to return to some semblance of normal business, as soon as it is safe to do so.
“Once lockdown starts to ease, as a business we should be able to get back to normal fairly swiftly. We may be one of the few companies in our industry that is still partially open albeit with limited staff, as we wanted to make sure we can still provide support, service and spares to anyone who needed it.”
Of course, this practical approach to keeping business running is unsurprising in a company with Electrocoin’s history, nor is Stergides’ philosophical approach to the industry’s resilience.
“This reminds me of the situation in 1973 when there was the miners strike and we had no electricity for a few weeks. When we were finally able to re-open, we saw a boost in confidence as people were eager to go out before it returned to normality.”
“We are hoping that this will happen again although there will be a lot more caution so it will probably take a bit longer.”
“With these unusual difficult times, to help restart our industry, we all need to work and support each other. After staying at home for such long periods, we need to welcome back our customers by bringing back enjoyment with the best entertaining games.”