The Concept of Competitive Socialising

Competitive socialising: a leisure trend currently sweeping shopping centres and mixed-use schemes across the UK and internationally.

There has been a notable rise in escape rooms, trampoline parks, table tennis, activity centres, darts and mini-golf courses popping up in London and across regional cities. A crucial synergy between all these activities is they take little explanation, meaning consumers can quickly start enjoying the activity upon arrival. This factor is important because many of these operators are located next to F&B units with visitors commonly enjoying dinner or drinks before or after their booking. Consumers use these operators as an activity to enhance the evening – not the sole purpose, they want to socialise and don’t want to listen to a half-hour safety talk or strain their brain to understand the rules.

These simple leisure concepts in the commercial market create a USP, allowing venues to compete with F&B businesses. Shopping Centre Magazine has revealed there has been a dramatic decline in the number of nightclubs and bars in the last decade – people are looking for other ways to socialise which stimulates them and creates friendly competition.

This new competitive social trend has delivered the opportunity for landlords to create a more diverse tenant mix, advance their offering and improve the overall guest experience. Not only that, if a scheme signs a new leisure tenant, it’s likely F&B and retail units will benefit from increased footfall and sales from customers who want a drink before or to grab some food after – drastically increasing dwell time for the scheme!

These activities often generate a ‘photo opportunity’ and a shareable experience, meaning consumers are likely to post pictures and share their experience on social media channels – reaching a much wider audience. It is common that a personal reference is the best way to sell a product or generate interest, so these commercial operators could be a great driver of footfall!

Due to the nature of these leisure tenants being new concepts, some landlords may be sceptical as they are untested, and for the tenant, they may be hesitant to commit to a long lease as they haven’t built a reputation for their activity in the market. However, these untried commercial concepts have the potential for long-term success and landlords have the opportunity to be the first centre to host a certain activity, creating a great USP for a scheme! This could lead to shorter leases to make space justifiable or commercialisation teams working with the operators to utilise mall space to pilot the activity with the market.

Across Manchester alone there are plenty of leisure activities to enjoy such as a baseball bar, axe throwing, go-karting and crazy golf to name a few – all of which I have enjoyed. Shopping centre teams need to integrate these competitive socialising operators into malls and think outside the box to make a basic activity an experience worth traveling to!

People like an excuse to come together and who doesn’t secretly love some organised fun? Looking forward to what’s next to come…

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