Excerpt from Vending Times, (November 2007): page 52.
Fun Express- Redemption merchandise specialist Fun Express has sourced several attention-getting light-themed toys and novelties to extend its product roster. The Blue Doodler Super Sized creates a stationary light show that the company describes as "dazzling" and "magical". Putting a new spin on a classic toy, Friction Flashing Spin Tops flash while in motion and come in assorted colors. For tech-loving patrons, the Pocket Laser Light Show will be a must-win item. The small device (measuring less than 4 inches wide) projects images that move and are interactive using low-power laser light. The 4-Phrase Programmable Fan also will appeal to customers seeking an interactive prize for their hard-earned redemption tickets. Patrons use buttons on the fan to write out messages of their choosing that become visible when the fan�s blades spin, providing hours of entertainment. Each unit requires three AAA batteries, not included. To request the latest edition of Fun Express′ catalog, call (888) 873-2606.
by Bonnie Theard
Special occasions call for celebrations and in today's world that means a party away from the home, frequently at a family entertainment center (FEC) where the guests can extend their congratulations and enjoy a variety of fun activities.
Birthday parties are the first parties that come to mind, but theme parties for all age groups are gaining in popularity as fun centers seek to maximize their party potential. Holidays, graduations, anniversaries, Halloween, St. Patrick's Day, and Valentine's Day are all party-friendly. And what adult or child could resist a Mardi Gras party? Play Meter checked with several companies that feature a variety of party supplies to find out about the newest offerings that will put pizzazz into your next party.HAPPY SACKS AND MORE
Fun Express not only offers a wide variety of toys and novelties perfect for redemption counters, it also carries a large variety of party supplies including tableware, decorations, and goodie bags that will create a festive atmosphere while adding to the bottom line. Providing theme parties and birth- day party packages allows a fun center to increase product offerings while catering to children, teens, and adults with themes such as pirates and luaus.
New party products from Fun Express include the Pirate Happy Sack (Item #85/1879), which comes pre-assembled with assorted novelties for any child's party. The re-sealable bag is perfect for bounce-back programs, tokens, and coupons. Fun Express also carries other theme Happy Sacks, including Luau, Little Miss Princess, Zoo, Hospitality, and the Complete Happy Sack. Assortments may vary.
Also available: Pirate Skull Goblets (Item #3/955), an exclusive with Fun Express. This seven-inch tall goblet is ideal for any pirate-themed party.
The company's Metallic Foil Luau Fringe Table Skirt (Item #85/1639) creates the right look for Luau/Beach parties, which has always been one of the most popular theme parties. The skirt measures nine feet by 29 inches.
And the Multi-Color Foil Burst Decorations (Item #70/893-BC) add a festive note to any event. This reusable, freestanding table decoration is 15 inches high and made of bendable wire wrapped in metallic foil.ZOO IT RIGHT
Whether you are looking for balls, hats, small toys, noisemakers, or party favors, Rhode Island Novelty has them all. Zoo-themed items are universally popular and include Zoo Animal Balloons, Bendable Zoo Animals, Zoo Toy Bag, and the Zoo Party Package that includes cups, plates, invitations, and more featuring a giraffe, lion, tiger, and zebra.
Additional zoo items that are a hit with partygoers are the zoo animal paddle balls, foam masks, hand puppets, pencils, plush, and maze games. These extras can put the "wow" in any zoo-themed party.
The company has a complete line of accessories and favors to match a variety of other party themes, such as Dinosaur, Ducky, Fabulous Fifties, Fiesta, Frogs, Graduation, Penguin, Retro, Sea Life, Smile, Sports, and Western. Crowd-pleasing movies like "The March of the Penguins" and "Happy Feet" have kept the interest in penguins at an all-time high.BOWLING PARTY SUPPLIES
Product Specialties Inc. is dedicated to making bowling parties special and features a full line of bowling party goods (cups, plates, and napkins) in three designs: Purple Logo (the most popular), Blue Logo, and Yellow Logo. Plates are heavy duty, nine inches; cups are eight-ounce, waxed; and napkins are two-ply, 15 inches by 17 inches.
Party Packs are available in two sizes; Small Kit to serve 250 and Large Kit to serve 500; all kits include an 18- inch by 24-inch wall poster. Nine-inch balloons and bowling-themed invitations of post card size and weight are available in blue or purple.
The company has plastic table coverings as well, including the Happy Birthday design with balloons that covers a six-foot table (54 inches by 84 inches), available in boxes of 50 or 100.
Marvin Cotler, President of Product Specialties, said the company is the only one to offer a plastic table cover with a bowling design available on a roll to accommodate extra long tables. It matches the popular Purple Logo place settings, is 54 inches wide and runs 175 feet, and is available in boxes of 50 or 100. Now you never have to overlap table covers to match those extra long table setups.
Cotler spoke about the evolution of bowling parties. Before he established Product Specialties in 1987 he had a 30-year career as a full line distributor of bowling products. "I was the first one to have party supplies for bowling parties," said Cotler. "When I started this company, bowling centers did not have parties. They actually discouraged moms from having parties. At that time there were plenty of leagues day and night and that was due to church groups and fraternal organizations that had bowling leagues. A lot of these memberships dwindled and therefore bowling leagues did too."
Cotler added, "I thought that the future of bowling required some changes. One of those changes was getting children interested in bowling so as adults they would continue to enjoy the sport. Why not start their enjoyment at a birthday party?" The company exhibits at the Bowl Expo and other bowling-related trade events.
An excerpt from the article "Perfect Parties" Play Meter, (June 2007):45-49
Kids & Inner Children Alike Rejoice for Fun Express
A generic cardboard box, about the size of a small file cabinet, arrived without warning at RePlay's office. When the flaps were sliced open, a glimmer of orange fur caught the light, a duck sporting sunglasses peeked out and the smell of candy filled the air. Suddenly and unanimously, staffers released screams like those heard from kids on Christmas morning. Each dip into the box brought out a fresh handful of fun �� a glitter clock, remote-control Hummer, star shooter, flashing rubber dice, mustaches, tattoos and more �� all presided over by the life-size bust of a pirate skeleton.
Fun Express, the Midwestern prize mega-supplier, gets credit for incapacitating this group of 30 and 40-year-olds with the joy of surprise. If they can manage that feat, imagine what they can do to players found hanging around a redemption center.
"Our products are intended to be fun and lighthearted," said Jerry Venner, director of sales and marketing. "They are about good, wholesome, silly fun, and so many of our products are frankly enjoyed by adults. They help customers financially achieve their core business objective. It is great that we get to do that with new prizes and novelties."
The distribution of these totems of excitement to FECs and gamerooms, then to the hands of players, has a reciprocal effect as well. Fun Express national account representatives get particularly excited about the perks and challenges of orchestrating prize selections for customers' specific needs. Combining over a 100 years worth of experience, the reps' longevity with the company proves that work and fun can truly constitute opposite sides of the same coin or, as Fun Express' motto states, "When it comes to fun, we're all business."
"We make it fun to work here," said Kevin Klein, sales manager for amuse-ment/redemption. "The sales reps are firing star shooters one minute, then dealing with tropical rubber duckies the next. They also enjoy the relationships with customers. really enjoy it. If they succeed, we succeed. We work hard to create an environment to let them grow to do that."
"It's the phone conversations that build the relationship," added Jerry. "They like to have conversations about what items are moving and to customize the best solution."
More than customer advisors, reps also serve as secondary ambassadors to the infamously transient toy industry, right behind the merchandise team that scouts and secures the next hot items or stylish variations on current trends. Fun Express has excelled at this ongoing task since they are "bigger and more diverse than people realize," according to Jerry, referring to the company's supply chain connection to additional industries.
"Because we serve so many markets," he elaborated, "it really does help us keep our finger on the pulse of the broader marketplace in addition to the redemption industry. It helps us leverage the buying power. There's a lot of collaboration among all of our markets."
Wholesale and retail party stores like Party America and Party Zone down to mom-and-pop supply shops comprise one such market segment to which Fun Express caters. The company also enjoys a "fairly significant presence" in the promotional product area, namely kids' meal toys, including the supply of of toys to Dairy Queen. They are also assisting in the re-branding of Sizzler to make it more kid-friendly.
Additionally, malls must be supplied with hundreds of thousands of Santa Claus and Easter Bunny giveaways each year �� a widespread undertaking that exemplifies the supplier's efforts to ensure affordability and that extra special quality expected by the discriminating eye of Santa's lap-sitters.
"Whether they are for kids' meal toys or Santa Claus giveaways or redemption centers," said Jerry, "or if the prizes are for enhancing the experience of a meal or time in the gameroom, our product boils down to helping create a great time for kids and kids at heart."
This horizontal approach to the marketplace assures that product is consistently of recognizable value, interesting and �� the company's most often used word �� fresh.
"Keeping your center fresh and rotated is such a critical component to success," advised Jerry. "People spend too much time trying to make it perfect when they should just make it fresh. You cannot have enough change, enough freshness."
This philosophy of constantly reinventing the prize center is the flipside of remodeling a gameroom's layout (in order to spark the sensation of entering an updated facility) and has served as a mandate to ever expand and diversify product offerings.
Today, orders ship from several warehouses, including the main two-million- square-foot facility �� the second largest warehouse in Nebraska and one of the largest in the Midwest. In fact, some of the most noticeable changes in the past five years, since RePlay last profiled the company in August 2001, have occurred in this department, making distribution more centralized and efficient.
In-house technology advances have also been at the forefront of their minds. One example is providing a digital packing list �� an electronic inventory tool used by redemption centers to receive and track prizes. The company has further developed web-ordering solutions and website customization.
So what exactly makes up all this incredible new product?
"As far as the AMOA show," said Kevin, "we believe the Shooting Stars, princess tea set, guitar FM scan radio and water glitter bracelets are just a few of the new items that will be hot this year."
Shooting Stars is a hand-held device that fires 20 foam discs that glow in black light emitted from the gun, creating a streak through the air. The 10-piece miniature porcelain tea set has a Disney theme with Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Belle gracing cups and saucers. The Philmore PM-X54 electric guitar radio comes with a stand to position it upright and string to wear it around.
Also keep an eye out in their booth for the literally shocking cell phone (the modern equivalent of the shocking handshake gag), the multi-color motion lamp, the Lumin Disk that interactively responds to touch and sound with lightning- like effects and the AM/FM waterresistant radio with rotating shower hook.
"Our goal is to have 10‰ to 20‰ of each catalog filled with new, unique and proprietary items that are exciting and different different from what the marketplace has seen," Jerry commented about the catalogs mailed several times a year.
Fun Express prides itself on an in-house design team that constantly rolls out myriad new and modified product under various lines like luau and zoo themes. Their proprietary themed lines are called Monster and Neon Monkey and feature a multitude of items ideal for birthday parties or children's group events. Some of these load up the new Happy Sacks that are re-sealable, so customers can add inserts with logos, coupons, tokens or other promotional items. "Because some of the principal prizes are tried-and-true, core products, you are always challenged to make them new, and we put a lot of resources into that," said Jerry.
The company's cornucopia of prizes can be experienced and played with in their 5,000-sq.-ft. Omaha showroom lconveniently located "halfway to everywhere." A full-fledged redemption counter is on hand for consulting about what items go in bins, on pegboards and so on to guarantee that clients have a complete, robust inventory organized properly.
"Customers make annual visits," Kevin said. "We do a program review so we both understand how the customer's center is set up in order to select the best prizes."
All of these efforts have certainly paid off and even garnered industry validation. Fun Express received IALEI's award for Best New Redemption Product in 2004 and Best Customer and Support in 2005.
So fill up on their offerings for kids in your facility at expo this month and, while you're at it, redeem your inner child and shout for joy.
For more information, call 800/228- 8884, fax 800-228-1002, email kklein@funexpress. com and see www.funexpress.com.
Article taken from the September 2006 Edition of RePlay, pgs. 125, 126, & 128.