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Avoiding Negative Space

17 August 2018 | Blog Posts

This column was originally featured in the August 2018 issue of RePlay Magazine.

Easy & Effective Merchandising Strategies to Maximize your Earnings

No matter the type of entertainment facility or business you run, if it has redemption games, then your prize counter or store is essential to a high performing game room. Not only does it drive game play, but it can also drive repeat visits – both of which add to your top line growth. The bright lights bring them in and the prizes bring them back.

But time and time again, I walk into a location and see inefficient use of redemption counters. What especially pains me is the knowledge that just a few simple changes could help drive so much more revenue and guest satisfaction.

A Different Mindset

It’s key to think of your redemption counter or store as an attraction, given the significant impact it can have on your game performance and earnings. As such, it requires attention, though at some locations I’ve visited, it seems almost like an afterthought.

When mapping out your strategy, the first consideration is location. There isn’t one single magic place to build out a redemption counter or store, but I generally recommend it be placed somewhere visible from your main entrance. If you are also going to use the counter as your main POS location or if you’re selling play credits, you may find that right inside the front entrance is best. Since it’s common for guests to select prizes at the end of their visit and proper placement can help with the flow of traffic, as well as general operational efficiency.

Tailor Made

Your redemption center is no different than any of your other attractions: They need to fit your distinct audience. This is why the prize mix is so important. Since trends that work at one location might not work in another location, it’s helpful to mix up your prize offerings and test different products to determine what works best for your facility and customers.

Another key is the frequency of guest visits. Are you seeing the same guests every two or three weeks, or just once a year? The answer will help direct your product choices.

A well organized redemption counter can make the prizes really shine. Considering how key this "attraction" is to FEC performance and earnings, taking care to set it up and restock it properly is vital. From prize selection with your distinct clientele in mind to lighting, a redemption counter requires regular attention.

Make sure to carry merchandise of varying price points or ticket values, and ensure that each item has a ticket value on it – this helps your team members and guests. Don’t make the process difficult for guest to make a decision. Having too many options with similar ticket values extends the process, resulting in longer lines, slower decisions and more items to stock.

By the way, candy items are real gems. Not only can you take advantage of great margins, but candy can be priced fairly low while maintaining a higher perceived value to your customers.

Counter Layout

Two trademarks of a great redemption counter is one that is organized and well-stocked. It should provide your customers with easy access to all the amazing merchandise you have to offer. But some fun center counters have too much of what I call “negative space.” Simply put, this is space within your redemption counter that goes unused and can make the counter look less full.

When I’m approached to help design a new counter or revamp an existing one, I always look to reduce the amount of wasted, negative space. It seems like such an obvious, simple thing, but you’d be surprised at how often this is overlooked.


This redemption counter has too much negative space (as shown by the blocks of red on the back wall).

By taking advantage of shelving, hooks, baskets and bins, you can use your wall space and counter capacity more effectively. You’ll want to create a consistent look, and let the product attract the guests rather than letting the bins, basket or other display items themselves grab the attention.

Additionally, make it easy to restock by allowing for quick access and easy upkeep. I also strongly suggest that you keep it bright with lights in order to really let it pop!

If you haven’t tried implementing these strategies, give it a shot. There’s a lot to be gained by spending a little extra time to organize your merchandise.

MICHAEL MACDONALD
Michael MacDonald has almost 20 years of experience in the amusement industry, and his passion lies in bringing exceptional entertainment experiences to life for consumers within the FEC space. He has opened over 30 FEC locations and has managed all aspects, including design and construction, merchandising and consultation, purchasing POS/debit card systems, and operations.

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