The website's un-fancy name may be self explanatory - Carnival Ride Sales (carnivalridesales.com) - but the purpose it fills is practical - an unbiased research tool for carnival companies and others to purchase rides. But with an expanded range of categories, this new web portal indicates how the online buying and selling of large ticket items continues to evolve.
Launched in January by Farrow Finance, one of the leading finance companies serving the mobile amusement industry, Carnival Ride Sales brings sellers and buyers of the industry together. Free to use, the concept is simple: companies and individuals with something to sell post images and specs of the item and interested buyers contact the seller.
Mike Williams, Founder of Farrow Finance, start
because "My customers had told me that they wished they had a site like this," he said.
Word-of-mouth and industry trade shows was usually where most research was conducted. Would-be equipment buyers were generally limited to company of manufacturers or brokers websites, to find out what was for sale. This new website doesn't disrupt how buying and selling of equipment is conducted, it just helps facilitates current practices.
No Middle Man
The website was created with Dave Kitt, of Dave Ventures Inc., and establishing a new system that enhances the web presence of equipment exchange was the main objective. "We've developed a platform for the industry to buy and sell their rides," said Kitt. "There very few sites if any in the industry like this, where it is dedicated to equipment, is free and open to anybody to use."
Carnival Ride Sales - "Your One-Stop Mobile Amusement Marketplace" - The concept utilized simply and efficiently fulfills this objective. The site categorizes equipment - New Rides; Used Rides; Games; Support Equipment; Food; Trucks/Vehicles and uses subcategories (e.g. "kid rides") to further organize the listings - or in the parlance of the site, "ads." There's no cost, but users must register before submitting the information - and the submissions are monitored to avoid spam, fake listings and site trolling.
"We wanted a site dedicated to the fair industry that is open to anybody to use, and is simple to use," said Kitt. "We made it mobile friendly and designed it from the aspect of the general users, so it is simple to use, and a completely free service."
Kitt added, "there's no middle man, the users have their own dashboard and the log in is very simple and once somebody is registered, they can post as many ads as they want. The ads are very searchable. This presents information to the industry as a service, it's just information they need."
In addition to the equipment category, there's a jobs category, which Williams foresees being used mainly for executive positions by carnival companies. "Why not include jobs?" he said. "Carnival Company managers are looking for an easy way to advertise for positions, like a Marketing Director, and its part of the service we can offer."
The ads, as they are called, are more like elaborate listings than banner ads - the only banner ad is a relatively modest column ad for Farrow Finance. There's no transaction function on the site -- ride purchases rarely use Pay Pal - and the site is intended for the industry at large, not just Farrow Finance clients - although Williams readily admits the idea originally came from his clients. "Some of my customers told me they sure wished there was a place that was free and easy to advertise equipment," said Williams. "I was responding to their requests because there are limited places for companies to advertise their equipment, without any charge. You can't find equipment on E-bay. If it translates into business for Farrow, that's great, and if it doesn't, that's great too, because it helps them and helps manufacturers to move equipment, and it helps the industry."
That help essentially entails improving the market research capabilities. "It is an easy site to use and gives the user multiple opportunities to research equipment."
Carnival Ride Sales emerges not only at a time when most sectors of the fair industry are being transformed by high-tech innovations, but during a period of consolidation within the midway provider segment. "There are less carnival companies now than 15 years ago, which means there's less competition," he said. "There are more opportunities for smaller companies to play the smaller fair routes."
But this development either coincides or has led to another trend in the industry, an increase in selling and buying of used and reconditioned rides. "There's less purchasing of new equipment than there has been, but more purchasing of used equipment," said Williams, who estimates that now 60 percent of all ride transactions are for used equipment. "You are see more used and refurbished equipment being purchase in the last 15 years. Carnival companies are selling more equipment to each other and that's another reason for [Carnivaridesales.com]."
While the website has a new ride category, so far the highest usage category, according to Kitt, has been used rides, posted by carnival companies.
Other economic trends are changing the makeup of ride equipment suppliers. Even if there seems to be fewer ride manufacturers, new rides are now being introduced by newcomers to the global mobile amusement ride industry. "We are seeing more rides coming out of Czech Republic, and the strong dollar makes them very attractive. These are new rides to the American market and it's very exciting. With the changes in the dollar, you are seeing more purchases of European rides by carnival companies who may not have had a ride of that caliber in their inventory before."
Williams said he is cautiously optimistic about the current state of ride sales. The banking crisis and recession of 07-09 had repercussions in this segment of the fair industry and he points out that initially the passage of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act did "tighten up credit" in the fair industry. "Some carnival companies were hurt but those companies have been taken over, and there's a lot of good credit for carnival companies, they are buying more equipment.
But financing issues was just one factor that negatively impacted industry progress. "It's been an unfriendly business climate for the past few years, but that's because of other changes in the economy, such as the cost of labor and insurance and fuel. To be successful, carnival companies have had to meet those challenges."
Williams has more than 40 years experience in the mobile amusement business, which include operating Farrow Shows before starting NAME (North American Midway Entertainment), considered the largest carnival company now in operation.
"I am cautiously optimistic about 2017. In my years of running carnival companies, changes in the economy, like inflation or unemployment, really have little impact on fairs. Yes, one area of the country may be more affected than another, and that fair in that particular area may suffer for two or three years. But people go to fairs to forget their troubles and the fair industry is very strong right now. Weather more than the economy affects the fair business and that hasn't changed."