Predictions for 2012 and beyond

White Hutchinson Leisure & Learning Group gives its predictions for the future of family and location-based entertainment centers.

Well, here we are in the New Year already, so we thought we’d join the tradition of making New Year’s predictions. We’re working on a major white paper on the Future of Community Location-based Entertainment based on extensive research on long-term spending and attendance trends, changes to the post-recession consumer values and behavior and disruptions being caused by the digital world and different forms of real world entertainment competition for the consumers’ time and money. Some of our predictions are snapshot previews from that white paper.

So here we go, predictions for 2012 and beyond for location-based entertainment (LBE) and family entertainment centers (FECs) in no particular order:

  • Social Stratification: The percentage of the population attending out-of-home entertainment venues will continue to decline and a greater share of out-of-home entertainment attendance and spending will continue to shift to higher socioeconomic households.
  • Staycation: The staycation trend will continue. Out-of-town entertainment venues will need to raise the quality, fidelity and perceived value of their offerings to pry consumers away from their hometowns.
  • Food & Beverage: Quality destination food and beverage that meets the expectations of an increasingly sophisticated dining public (this does not mean a snack bar or concession stand) will become increasing important to success.
  • Group Business: Group business will grow to become an increasing important share of revenues at successful centers.
  • Family Entertainment Centers: Traditional indoor FECs focused on the family market will become a less viable model except in unique markets.
  • LBE Types: LBEs will continue to become more specialized in the market niches they target. Both the adult, children’s and at-home mom market will see most of the growth. New models such as family adventure parks, family discovery farms and bocce-restaurants, as well as new hybrids of entertainment combined with other leisure activities will continue to evolve.
  • Omnichannel Entertainment: We will start to see new models that integrate the real and digital worlds and extend the branded entertainment experience 24/7.
  • Fidelity: To compete with the growing low fidelity digital and virtual entertainment options, successful LBEs will raise their fidelity (read Are community-based entertainment venues falling into the Fidelity Belly?)
  • The FEC Industry: We will see a continued exodus of the FEC industry away from IAAPA to organizations and educational programs more focused on the FEC industry.
  • End of Carnival: Earlier model FECs that are basically a carnival in a box will join the graveyard of extinct dinosaur FEC models (This is a corollary of social stratification.)
  • Regionalism: Successful LBEs will incorporate regionalism into their offerings. This not only includes local sourcing, but also celebrating local and regional cultures. This can give single ownership centers an advantage and will be a challenge chains to localize themselves.  
  • Bowling: Different center models that incorporate upscale open-play bowling will prove to be one of, if not the best, industry growth opportunities in America.
  • International Development: Emerging economies in Africa and in Eastern Europe will become major growth markets for LBEs.
  • Professionalism: The LBE and FEC industries will become increasingly sophisticated and professional, limiting the access of upstart non-industry experienced entrepreneurs.
  • Social Media: Consumers will gain even more clout through social media. Great centers will be praised and frequented; so-so and poor centers will die an even faster death.
  • Gamification: We will see more LBEs integrating game engineering into the guests’ experiences.

All these changes are creating many new and exciting opportunities for white space projects (see White space project opportunities article).