Blog's home page Subscribe to Randy's blog

Free webinar on eatertainment this Wednesday


I will be a presenting at an IAAPA webinar on eatertainment this Wednesday along with Kevin Williams, Founder of KWP Limited and Mike Abecassis, CEO of GameTime. The webinar will be held at 1PM EST, this Wednesday, February 10th.

Although attendance at the webinar is exclusive for IAAPA members, I have arranged for our non-IAAPA member readers to also be able to attend for Free. To register for the webinar, click here, and then use this access code where it asks for your IAAPA member ID – “RW22016”

Eatertainment has created new opportunities for FECs to move beyond being solely entertainment destinations to increase both their attendance and revenues and allow savvy operators to engage with a broader base of customers.

The webinar will explore today’s fast-evolving food and drink trend of “eatertainment” including how food and drink is becoming increasingly important to success for leisure and entertainment venues and what it takes to succeed in this market place. In addition the webinar will showcase some of the more innovative and successful FEC concepts that combine entertainment and food.

To register for the webinar, click here and fill-in the IAAPA membership blank with RW22016

KEYNOTE at Entertainment Experience Evolution conference

Later this month I will be the keynote speaker at the prestigious Entertainment Experience Evolution conference to be held at LA Live, February 24-25, 2015 in Los Angeles. EEE brings together top leaders and executives in the retail, shopping center, restaurant and entertainment industries to learn and discuss how to create compelling environments and experiences to attract contemporary consumers.

My keynote is title The Digitalization of Place – Disruption & Counter Strategies. As always, I will be presenting enlightening insights into how the consumer landscape is changing and how location-based businesses will need to transform themselves to continue to capture business.

To learn more about EEE and to register, click here.



Posted in digital, Disruption, eatertainment, Food & beverage, Location based entertainment | Tagged | Comments Off on Free webinar on eatertainment this Wednesday

The Tchotchke Index is down, but has discretionary spending on OOH entertainment turned the corner?

American’s spending on tchotchkes—trinkets, junk, yard sale finds, gift shop items, home decor and other decorative items for the home—is an excellent measure of their impulse spending on stuff. It’s thought to be a good gauge of American’s economic wellbeing, rising when Americans are feeling economically flush and falling when they are feeling financially pinched. Back in 2007 the American Consumers Newsletter started to track that spending and dubbed it the Tchotchke Index.

We dug into U.S. consumer spending data to show you what has been happening to the index since it’s 2000 peak of average household tchotchke spending of $244 (in 2014 dollars). It fell to a low of $163 in 2003 following the 2001 recession, 9/11 and the dotcom bubble, recovered to $230 in 2005 and has been on the decline ever since to the low in 2013 of $104. In 2014 it when up slightly to $111, but is still down more than half (54%) from its peak in 2000.

Tchotchke index 2014

It is no coincidence that we have seen a similar long-term decline in out-of-home entertainment spending starting in the early 2000s, rising in the mid-2000s and then declining ever since – a pattern comparable to the Tchotchke Index. Many Americans through 2014 cut back their spending on not only tchotchkes, but also on other discretionary items including location-based entertainment.

The Tchotchke Index’s long-term decline is counter to an upward trend in Americans’ everyday spending. Each day, Gallup asks Americans how much they spent “yesterday” in restaurants, gas stations, stores or online – not counting home, vehicle or other major purchases, or normal monthly bills – to provide an indication of Americans’ discretionary spending. Gallup reports Americans spent a daily average of $99 in December 2015, up from a December 2009 low of $72 in the depths of the Great Recession.

Gallup daily spending chart

There are at least two possible explanations for these opposite trends – a decline in the Tchotchke Index and increasing consumer spending. One is that the spending reflected by Gallup deals more with essentials and not the totally discretionary items in the Tchotchke Index. For example, as consumers feel more economically confortable, they might buy some new clothes they had been putting off or they might buy an occasional steak at the grocery store rather than chicken, whereas they still might not feel flush enough with money to spurge on some home décor item. Another explanation is that they might be shifting their spending from stuff to experiences.

Data on community-based entertainment spending is only available through 2014, and it shows a downward spending trend, basically consistent with the Tchotchke Index. However, there is anecdotal evidence that out-of-home entertainment spending may have turned upward in 2015. We did see an uptick in movie theater per capita attendance in 2015 after its long-term decline that started in 2003 with capita moviegoing rising 4% compared to 2014, but it is still down 24% from its high in 2002 of 4.9 visits per person. There was also some growth in restaurant sales in 2015.

Cinema per capita attendance 00-15

Our company conducts our own proprietary national surveys on participation at different types of location-based entertainment venues and for different attractions. We just completed our annual survey for 2015 with 2,500 adults. The results show a definite increase in the percentage of participating American adults compared to 2014 for every type of major FEC attraction. And, with few exceptions, the increase was across all age and income groups.

What this may mean is a little brighter future for community leisure venues. However, no different than many other industries, it is the “A” businesses that are winning and capturing the lion’s share of business. With location-based entertainment, the vast majority of the business comes from higher socioeconomic households. These households seek out the high quality venues to get the most bang for their leisure time, and are willing to pay a fair price for it. Unlike just a decade or so ago, there is no longer room in the market for mediocrity.

Posted in Consumer expenditures, Entertainment, Leisure, Leisure time, Location based entertainment, Movie box office, Out-of-home | Tagged , | Comments Off on The Tchotchke Index is down, but has discretionary spending on OOH entertainment turned the corner?

Decrease in licensed drivers; its implications

A just released study by The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute shows that there has been a continuous decrease in the number of people with a driver’s license across all age groups over the past three decades.

Decrease in licensed drivers

The younger the age group, the greater the decline. For 20- to 24-year-olds, the decline has been from 92% holding a license in 1983 to only 77% in 2014, a one-sixth (-16%) decline. The age 25 to 29 age group saw a 11% decline to 85% licensed in 2014 and the 30-34 age group saw a 10% decline to 87% licensed. And remember, this data precedes any impact that could be attributed to the recent Uber, Lyft and other ride sharing options.

This 20-34 age group, basically what are called Millennials, is a prime target market for many types of location-based leisure and entertainment venues. This trend of declining licensed drivers has implications for location-based businesses. Fewer people driving means fewer people with easy access to visiting location-based business. Of course, in some situations this may be offset by improvements in public transportation and now by the ride sharing services.

A more important implication is that the decline in licensed drivers is a result of where people chose to live, especially the younger adults, so it is affecting where many LBEs need to be located to capture that market. Our Leisure eNewsletter that will be emailed out next Monday includes an article that discusses research findings on the migration of young adults to new living locations due to their desire to reduce their commuting time and gain more leisure time. Make sure to check it out.

To subscribe to our Leisure eNewsletter, click here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Decrease in licensed drivers; its implications

America – a no vacation nation

In my June 2015 blog I reported on Americans’ plans for taking a vacation in the coming summer months. Skift, a travel intelligence and marketing company, periodically surveys Americans about their vacations and just released the results from their January 2016 survey on the actual vacations that Americans took in 2015. The results are not encouraging for any location-based leisure venues that cater to vacationers, whether they are out-of-town on a trip or on a staycation at home. 41% of Americans didn’t a single day off in 2015 and another one-sixth took less than five days of vacation. Those are the same percentages as the results for 2014 (within the range of statistical significance).

# vacation days 2015

Some other highlights from analysis of the data include:

  • U.S. Midwesterner are the least likely to take vacations, while residents of the North, East and West the most likely to.
  • Americans living in rural areas are the biggest group taking no vacations, compared to those living in urban and suburban areas.
  • Wealthy Americans took the most number of days off in 2015, while the opposite happened at the poorer ended of the income spectrum.
  • Parents and their families have more trouble taking vacations than the non-parents.
Posted in eatertainment, Location based entertainment, Staycations | Tagged , , | Comments Off on America – a no vacation nation

Looking back and looking forward at the FEC industry

Here we are at the end of one year and the beginning of another. This is the time when the media recaps the major and best events during the past year and makes predictions of what is ahead in the New Year. I’m going to take a little different direction in this blog and briefly look back far more than one year through the history of the family entertainment center industry and give predictions of what the future holds for its success.

What is referred to as the family entertainment center industry actually has its roots with children’s entertainment centers, probably back in 1977 when Nolan Bushnell created the first Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre in San Jose, California. It wasn’t till the late 1980s and early 1990s that indoor centers began to offer a broader range of attractions targeting not just children, but all members of the family, meaning all age groups. Thus the term “family entertainment center” or FEC came into being.

The term FEC has survived to this day. Unfortunately it perpetuates what is proving to be a dated legacy concept that still, for the most part, continues to define the industry – designing a center with a little bit of something for everyone in the belief that this strategy maximizes attendance and revenues. However, this now often results in a mediocre performing center that is not special to anyone, and particularly not appealing to adults.

One variable that as changed over the years since the original indoor FECs first opened their doors is the decline in the proportion of the American population that are households with children. Between 1990 and 2014, the percentage of households with children has declined by one-sixth (17%). Furthermore, the choice family market, married-couples with children, has declined from over 3/4s of all households with children to only 2/3s. These demographic changes impact the old school formula’s success since the family market is now smaller, while the adult-only market has grown (remember, the adult market includes adults who are part of the family market, but who come without their children).

Today for sure, the adult market is a far larger market than the family market.

Family vs adult venues infographic copy

This doesn’t mean that old school family entertainment centers that primarily cater to families with children or only children centers still aren’t viable. But it does mean the opportunities for those concepts are far more limited than in the past and basically restricted to dense and more upscale family with children markets.

Over those past almost three decades, as the result of demographic and cultural changes, we have seen an evolution in the industry based on the marketing Law of Division – that a category will divide into multiple categories over time. Today we have many new categories of centers targeting different niche markets.

What is trending today as the most successful formula with the highest revenues per square foot are centers designed for young and middle-age adults that include some combination of boutique bowling, gamerooms, laser tag and other social games along with destination dining and bars. Surprisingly, this is not really a new formula, as we’ve had the Dave & Buster’s chain around since 1982, now at 83 units and growing. We’re now seeing the rapid expansion of adult-oriented concepts including chains such as Pinstripes, Punch Bowl Social, Splitsville, Lucky Strike and Kings, to name just a few, plus many independent centers.

What makes these centers far different than the family entertainment centers from back in the 1990s, besides targeting a narrower age group, is that the food and bar are no longer treated as concessions, but in most cases are anchor attractions generating around half the revenues. And although designed and operated as the centers for adults, a considerable amount a business still comes from families with children, at least school age and older, as a secondary market. That is a lot different than the family entertainment center model that targeted the family, so really didn’t appeal to adults.

So what does the future hold? It holds success for centers designed for the adult market that include a combination of social games and destination food and beverage, as well as other specialized concepts targeting niche markets of sufficient size in their trade areas.

Posted in Bowling, Demographics, eatertainment, FEC, Food & beverage, Household composition, Location based entertainment, Millennials, Out-of-home, restaurant, Trends | Comments Off on Looking back and looking forward at the FEC industry

BECs still prisoners of the past

BEC is the acronym for bowling entertainment center. It’s the name given to older bowling alleys that renovate and update their facilities by removing some of their lanes and adding gamerooms, laser tag and other attractions. My research indicates that Brunswick Bowling first coined the name and acronym back in 2001. Brunswick estimates that 400-500 older bowling alleys have been converted to BECs.

Sometimes these venues are also called hybrid bowling centers, although that name generally is used to describe new-build centers that have bowling with other attractions.

So here’s the problem with using the name BEC or hybrid bowling center for these mixed-anchor centers that include bowling. The language and words we use have been shown to influence both our thoughts and actions, what is called linguistic relativity. The BEC and hybrid bowling center terminology imprisons the developers and operators of these centers in the past. The names clearly say they are still predominately in the bowling business, so that is exactly the way they design and run their centers. This is most unfortunate, as that makes their view of what their centers are a prisoner of the past and keeps them from breaking from the past to be successful in the future.

It’s understandable why Brunswick, a major bowling equipment supplier, would have coined the name BEC, as they are of course prisoners of the past themselves trying to promote the sale of bowling equipment and furniture while stuck in the shrinking bowling industry. The problem is that the bowling industry, originally built around the sport of bowling and bowling leagues, is on its last legs as a venue defined by bowling.

The most successful centers today, the New School centers that include some bowling, don’t even consider themselves as part of the bowling industry. They have taken the sport out of bowling and consider the activity only one of many elements that contribute to a high fidelity social atmosphere and experience for their guests. In fact, bowling is only a small part of their revenues. It is just one of many things that facilitates friends and family to have a great social experience together. Quality food and beverage is basically the anchor attraction at these New School centers, served not only in dining areas and at bars, but also at the lanes, making up 50% or more of revenues. Other interactive social games such as laser tag, bocce ball, ping-pong, shuffleboard and other group games typically make up the balance of the mix.

The paradigm paralysis of the Old School bowling suppliers is very evident at Brunswick Bowling’s recent conversion of one of their own older 56,000 square foot bowling alleys into a BEC in Buffalo Grove, Illinois named Brunswick’s. They removed lanes to make room for a gameroom and laser tag, left 32 lanes and added their attempt at a destination restaurant with Tavern ’45. They remodeled the facility, but the gameroom and laser tag entry lack any appealing design. In fact, it is difficult to even find the laser tag although it is front and center. I had to walk thru the gameroom area twice before I found it. The center still looks like a traditional bowling alley, just with more modern décor, but not necessarily what you would describe as having an

Tavern '45 at Brunswicks in Buffalo Grove, IL

Tavern ’45 at Brunswicks in Buffalo Grove, IL

upscale ambiance. The Tavern ‘45 is not at all inviting as a restaurant as it lacks any ambiance and appeal as a casual dining destination. It’s basically a bunch of tables placed in a room with abar. When I was there one early Sunday early evening, it was closed with all the chairs turned upside down on the top of the tables. You wouldn’t have found that at any of casual dining chains.

The problem is you can’t put lipstick on a pig and expect it to transform the public’s perspective that it is no longer a pig. I’m sure the BEC renovations increased the revenues. However, Brunswick’s still thinks and acts like a bowling alley, but a more spruced up one with two added attractions. The big issue is like bowling alleys of old, it is trying to be a little bit of something for everyone. At one end there is the tavern and bar, obviously targeting adults (but not too successfully). At the other end is a gameroom and laser tag, basically targeting kids coming with their families. And in the middle is bowling where they are trying to mix both target markets as well as league bowling with casual bowling. In affect, they are trying to keep one leg in the past and one in the present, but even their present approach is falling out of date. The center is definitely not future proofed based on the current evolution of location-based social leisure venues.

Where bowling is finding great contemporary success is not at BECs or hybrid bowling centers. Rather is it at adult-targeted venues that include bowling, but don’t make bowling the anchor attraction. Just look at Punch Bowl Social, Southside Social, Pinstripes, Level 257 or many other new concepts. They are adult-targeted leisure venues creating a social atmosphere centered foremost around great food and drinks and secondarily around social games and entertainment, of which bowling is only one. These venues were not developed by owners who came out of the bowling industry, so they didn’t have their thought process stuck in the box of bowling operators who continue to think they are in the bowling industry. These New School operations are not prisoners of the past. Rather, they’ve taken the sport out of bowling and treat it just as a casual social game. These New School operators understood that bowling has a role to play in creating a social environment, but it was not the dominant anchor. They also understand the need to create a social leisure environment that appeals to higher socioeconomic adults, rather than the middle class. Most of all, they understand they are not in the bowling industry.

Posted in Bowling, Design, Food & beverage, Location based entertainment | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on BECs still prisoners of the past

Is Chuck E. Cheese’s the Blockbuster Video of the Eatertainment Industry?

Chuck E. Cheese’s same store sales have been on a long-term decline for years. Overall comparable store sales have declined by more than one-quarter (-26%) since 2003.

CEC comparable store sales

The decline is totally due to a decrease in food and beverage revenues, which have declined by half per store (-52%), whereas entertainment revenues have increased by one-quarter (+26%). CEC is no longer the dining destination it once was.

CEC food & beverage salesIn early 2014, CEC was acquired by Apollo Global Management (APO), a Wall Street private equity firm. One of their first moves to improve the 38-year-old chain’s sales was to upgrade the menu to cater to “adult tastes” by introducing new pizza with fresh made from-scratch thinner crusts with “23 fewer calories than a regular slice of pizza” and flavors like BBQ chicken and Cali Alfredo and new whole wheat wraps. Now they’ve come out with a limited time special mac ‘n’ cheese pizza available only through the end of the year. They’re even experimenting with expanding their extremely limited beer and wine selection (you want red or white?)

mac n cheesy copy

Greg Casale, the head chef at CEC, tells the press that a desire to attract Millennial mothers is behind the menu change. “Her kids know it’s a fun place to go, but Millennial moms want to provide that great experience without sacrificing for themselves,” he says. “Before she was a mom, she was going to places like Panera and those concepts. She wants something that fits into her millennial lifestyle.”

Chef Greg has the right idea, to make a visit to CEC more appealing to the parents and removing their visit veto factor. I’ve never talked to a single parent who hasn’t put a visit to CEC in the dreaded category. But Chef Greg, I really don’t think you get it. That mom you said was going to Panera before she was a mom is still going to Panera. And she’s going to a lot of other restaurants in the same order-at-the-counter fast casual style as Chuck E. Cheese’s including Zoë’s Kitchen, Chipotle, Jason’s Deli, Noodles & Company plus all the expanding fast casual pizza chains including Pie Five, MOD Pizza, Maddio’s, Blaze Pizza, Chipotle-owned Pizzeria Locale and many others. And many times she’s going with her children.

Chef Greg, you really need to get out of the kitchen and check out the fast casual restaurants that Americans, including mom and her kids, are loving and eating at on a regular basis. That mom isn’t ordering a mac ‘n’ cheese pizza for herself or for her kids. For mom it’s probably a whole-wheat thin crust pizza, many times with healthy toppings, such as all veggies, and for her kids she’s watching the calories and looking for a well-balanced meal. And 2015 has brought on her desire for clean food without any artificial ingredients, especially for her kids.

Chef Greg, when you check out those other restaurant chains, make sure you check out the Future Foodies kids menu Noodle’s & Company offers. Kids get to pick their entrée, drink and two sides. And all the food has no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners or preservatives. Many of their kids’ meals meet the nutritional criteria of the Kids LiveWell program that many moms know about.

Chef Greg, if you have any doubt about moms desire to see their children eat healthy and nutritious food at restaurants, just check out this photo of the Moms Rising movement. You’ll notice they’re all those Millennial moms your company so desires to attract and they’re campaigning for nutritious and healthy restaurant food for their children. getting soda out

Chef Greg, Chuck E. Cheese’s is stigmatized from all the horrible food it offered parents (and their children) in the past. Your new menu is still so in the past. It’s a 2005 menu in 2015. If you want to change your image and attract those Millennial moms, you need to radically change your food offerings to match their 2015 expectations based on all the other restaurants they visit and their contemporary sophisticated food preferences. Stigmas are not removed with incremental changes.

Chef Greg, you need to do your research, and when you do, you will find many of those Millennial moms are foodies and sharing foodporn on social media. If they do take a photo of your mac cheesy pizza and post it on social media, I’m pretty sure it will get a label along the lines of ‘yuck’.

Aaron Allen, global restaurant consultant at Aaron Allen & Associates, has this to say about Chuck E. Cheese’s, “It’s the Blockbuster video of the restaurant industry,” referencing the video rental chain that was eventually undone by streaming video and the Internet.

Greg Chef, if you don’t want Allen’s prediction to come true, you need to upgrade CEC’s menu to one moms will love and one they will want to feed their children. Get real!

Posted in children's entertainment, Chuck E. Cheese's, eatertainment, Food & beverage, Location based entertainment, Millennials, restaurant | Comments Off on Is Chuck E. Cheese’s the Blockbuster Video of the Eatertainment Industry?

Webinar: How Digital is Disrupting the Entertainment Landscape

Myself, Kevin Williams of KWP,  and Kevin Bachus, Senior VP of Entertainment and Game Strategy at Dave & Busters, will be presenting an IAAPA webinar, How Digital is Disrupting the Entertainment Landscape, at 1pm EDT this Wednesday, September 23rd. Although the webinar is normally open to only IAAPA members, we have made special arrangements for our Leisure eNewsletter and my blog readers to also be able to join in. You can sign up to join the webinar at:

If you are not an IAAPA member, then when it asks for your membership number, insert: 923, the special access code for our readers.

Kevin and me will be two of the presenters at the upcoming October 13-15 Foundations Entertainment University in Dallas, Texas. The information we will present in the webinar is only a small part of the 3-days of information that is presented at Foundations by us and other industry experts. There is still time to register to attend this platinum standard of education in the community-based entertainment and leisure industry that is now in its 13th year. To learn more and register, click here.

Posted in digital, Disruption, Entertainment, Leisure, Location based entertainment, Out-of-home | Comments Off on Webinar: How Digital is Disrupting the Entertainment Landscape

It’s no longer about targeting the middle class

Back at the end of the 20th Century when indoor family entertainment centers (FECs) first took off, they targeted the middle class as their primary customer. Society has changed a lot since then. Due to growing income inequality, the disproportionate rising cost of non-discretionary items such as health care, housing and education and other factors, the middle class has shrunk and the number of discretionary dollars the remaining middle class has to spend at leisure venues has shrunk as well. The middle class is no longer the target market of choice for location-based entertainment (LBE) of all types, including what are broadly termed as family entertainment centers (FECs).

Today, in the second decade of the 21st Century, high-income households that can best be described as affluent constitute the overwhelming share of the potential market for LBEs. They are the consumers who need to be targeted to succeed in today’s leisure landscape.

The graph below shows 2013 household entertainment, dining and alcoholic drink spending at community-based leisure venues (CBL) for the five different quintiles of household income. As the graph clearly illustrates, the affluent, high-income households with incomes above $95,000 account for the lion’s share of spending. They spend more on community-based entertainment than the entire 80% of lower income households do. If we look at the middle and fourth quintiles, those with incomes between $35,000 and $95,000 with average incomes of $60,000, who might be defined as the middle class, those 40% of households together only spend 2/3rds (66%) as much as the affluent households do.

food alcohol & entertainment by income quintile

The top quintile of income, the affluent households also spend almost as much (89%) that the other 80% of households together spend on dining and drinking at local restaurants and bars.

Now here’s something that is really enlightening. Total household spending at local restaurants and bars is 22 times the amount spent on community-based entertainment. That is one of the reasons why the new upscale social restaurant-entertainment venues are so successful. They target the upper socioeconomic who account for most of the spending and they not only go after a share of their entertainment spending, but also a share of their food and beverage spending as well. Heck, just capturing 3% of affluent households’ spending at restaurants and bars generates more revenue than capturing all of their entertainment spending at local venues that don’t offer live events such as concerts, plays, etc.

Defining affluent households in broad terms with a single income threshold is a little misleading. A single person needs less income than a family of four to meet her/his non-discretionary spending needs and still have adequate non-discretionary dollars to spend at CBLs. Here’s a more realistic breakdown of 2013 affluent incomes by household size:

  • Singles – $66,000+
  • Household of two – $93,000+
  • Household of three – $115,000+
  • Household of four – $132,000+
  • Household of five – $148,000+

Now, if you want to attract the affluent market, you have to design to meet their expectations, values and tastes. You can’t design for the middle class and expect to do very well at attracting affluents. That’s sort of like saying since Denny’s serves steak or Long John Silvers serves fish, it will attract the same customer that eats steak and fish at a McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant. Most of the affluent households will be college graduates who have more refined values and tastes. It’s all about serving up the entertainment, the food and beverage and the hospitality at a higher level than what it takes to please the middle class.

And believing that the entertainment is all you need to attract affluents is a big mistake. Even the entertainment has to be served up in a more upscale fashion in order to attract the affluent market.

Affluents make decisions of where to frequent based on the décor and atmosphere of the facility, the quality of food and beverage, the level of hospitality – the quality of every aspect of the entire experience. And they are willing to pay a premium for what they rate as a premium experience. And if it doesn’t meet the higher level of experience they want to have, they will just stay home or do something else. There’s nothing genetically wired in higher income humans that says they have to bowl at some so-so facility, eat mediocre food and beverage or ride go karts with torn seats.

And what becomes a win-win when you design and operate a CBL for high income, college-educated affluents, is our company’s research shows you will still get a share of the middle class when they can afford to come.

Posted in Alcohol & bars, Consumer expenditures, eatertainment, Entertainment, Food & beverage, Location based entertainment, Out-of-home, Target markets | Comments Off on It’s no longer about targeting the middle class

FECs and LBEs now facing new competition

Our company has been conducting extensive research about how digital entertainment and social media are shrinking FEC and location-based entertainment (LBE) venues’ market share of both leisure time and discretionary spending. We have been reporting our findings in both our Leisure eNewsletter and in presentations. Now along comes another form of competition to LBEs.

The other day I had a chance to visit the new Scheels 220,000-square-foot sporting goods store that recently opened in the Overland Park, Kansas area of the Kansas City metro. You might call the store a mega-big box sporting goods store at its 5-acre size. It is the latest addition to Scheels’ 25-store chain located in 10 states.

Unlike a typical sporting goods store or department store, Scheels has a collection of entertainment venues in addition to its sports and sportswear. And the entertainment is FREE!

The free entertainment includes a huge 16,000 gallon aquarium, a 65-foot operating Ferris Wheel, photo opportunities, a wildlife mountain, shooting galleries, a soft-containment play unit for children, mini-bowling, laser shot shooting and sport simulators for golf, soccer, hockey, baseball, football and basketball. There are also two fully animated, talking US Presidents.

Scheels free entertainment copy

And in addition to the free entertainment, there is a deli and fudge shop serving gourmet soups and sandwiches, Starbucks coffee and specialty drinks, 24 flavors of homemade fudge and 18 flavors of gelato (these you have to pay for).

So just think about it. You have a 5-year old girl and a 10-year-old boy and you’re looking for somewhere to go with them one night or on the weekend. Go to a family entertainment center or go to Scheels? I have a feeling both mom and dad would pick Scheels where the kids can be entertained at no cost, the parents can get their Starbucks fix (I’m still suspicious that Starbucks adds some special additive substance to their coffee) and maybe do a little shopping as well.

Scheels is not alone in non-entertainment businesses attracting people with entertainment. It’s a major trend in retail called retail-tainment or experiential retail. Today to get buyers away from their screens and online retail and out of their homes, you need to offer more than just stuff to buy. You need to offer them an experience. Just think about places like Build-a-Bear, the Disney Store or the Apple store. It’s an experience to go there. Scheels has just raised the bar higher with their pure free entertainment offerings.

It’s not just retailers who are becoming experiential. The major mall and lifestyle center developers understand that to drive traffic past their stores, they need to also offer an experience and entertainment. And many are now programming FREE entertainment into their projects, whether it’s a free children’s play area or movies on the lawn at night as just two examples.

This is raising the bar for FECs and LBEs of all types. With expanding free attractive options for entertainment and experiences, FECs and LBEs now need to offer something even better, something with Higher Fidelity in terms of the overall experience, if they expect people to show up and actually pay for it.

Posted in Disruption, Entertainment, FEC, High Fidelity, Location based entertainment, Out-of-home | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on FECs and LBEs now facing new competition