Springfield, MO

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Scott Radford sells wooden play sets made by Rainbow Play Systems Inc. The systems, made of redwood and Western red cedar, come with a lifetime warranty and range between $1,000 and $40,000.
Scott Radford sells wooden play sets made by Rainbow Play Systems Inc. The systems, made of redwood and Western red cedar, come with a lifetime warranty and range between $1,000 and $40,000.

Business Spotlight: All for Fun, Fun for All

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Scott Radford likes to say he sells fun. And his customers love to see him coming.

“It’s great. It’s funny to go to someone’s house and they always apologize for the kids being crazy, and I’m like, ‘Well, I wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have kids,’” says Radford, a dealer for Rainbow Play Systems Inc. and father of a 3-year-old boy.

Radford and his team of four sell and install playground equipment made of redwood and Western red cedar.

“We always have an audience – out the windows, peeking out the doors, trying to help us so we can hurry up and get done,” Radford says of the anxious children who will spend countless hours swinging and climbing on the finished product.

Radford’s operation in Nixa, Rainbow Recreation of the Ozarks LLC, is a dealership of Brookings, S.D.-based Rainbow Play Systems. Rainbow Play Systems has made custom play sets for 25 years, starting as a woodworking shop in Minnesota.

Radford reports to St. Louis-based territory owner Tim Albers, who supervises Missouri’s three dealers – in Nixa, Cape Girardeau and Columbia.

Before Radford came into the picture in 2006, the Rainbow territory serving the Ozarks operated from Strafford. At that time, Columbia Rainbow dealer Dan McMurtry told Radford about an available contract to sell the play systems in southwest Missouri. Radford signed the dealership contract with the parent company and relocated the business to Nixa.

“It’s our hometown. We lived here for almost 10 years,” Radford says. “We thought it would be a little easier for people to get to than in Strafford.”

Radford is the only salesperson in the office, and he employs four part-time workers to assemble the play sets. His territory covers all of the 417 telephone area code and part of the
660 and 573 area codes.

Albers buys the play sets at his cost from the factory then sells them to Radford and other dealers. The dealers purchase the number of play sets they’ve projected to sell.

Radford’s play set sales had increased each year since 2006 until dropping in 2009 to $202,000 from $235,000 in 2008, which notched a four-year peak with 60 sets sold. Last year was about half that level. His busiest season to sell and install the play sets is March through September.
Radford calls the play sets high-end residential, with prices ranging between $1,000 and $40,000.

“We cater to someone who wants a one-time purchase,” Radford says. “Most people who buy our product keep it for their grandkids.”

While Radford sells many play sets to people in what he calls the “upper 5 (percent) to 10 percent income base,” he says middle-class families also are core customers.

His best seller is his $2,900 castle model, which is 6 feet tall and features two swings, a rope ladder, climbing wall, slide and lookout deck.

“It’s a customized product,” Radford says. “Customers pick a basic design from the catalog and pick what they want from there.”

A higher-priced model set up outside his showroom costs $6,900, is 7 feet tall, and has a slide, a climbing wall, two ladders, two swings, a tire swing and a lookout deck.

Paula and Jerry Daugherty in Ozark bought the castle-style play set this summer for their children, ages 4 and 1.

“We love it. The kids are on it all the time,” says Paula Daugherty. “We practically live on it.”
Radford also has sold sets to Springfield subdivisions National Place, Iron Bridge and Mulberry Ridge, as well as Branson apartment complexes Country Ridge Estates and Valley Ridge Estates and day cares.

The property owners’ association at Iron Bridge subdivision in south Springfield voted to buy one of the play sets last spring, says Vi Nichol, association president.  

Nichol says the association decided to buy it because younger families living there had seen one of Rainbow’s sets and suggested it.
Radford’s outlook is strong, partly because of the fast-growing Christian County marketplace.

“We feel like we’ve got a good strong product for the market,” Radford says. “The Springfield area as a whole has a lot of young families with kids.”[[In-content Ad]]


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