Business Seasonality – A lane for all seasons
There was a time when bowling was considered a pastime for the “common man.” And despite the political correctness of the current connotation, “common man” used to infer an individual who was uneducated, incurious, and a dweller at the lower end of the socio-economic scale. Well, things have changed dramatically over the last decade or so, to the delight of bowling alley owners and bowling aficionados everywhere.
Nowadays, go into a bowling alley, and you’re as likely to run into a corporate CEO or college professor as a mechanic or Ralph Kramden (of the old Honeymooners TV show fame) style bus driver. The average bowler seems to be getting younger, as well. The reasons for the shift in demographic are likely as varied as the bowlers themselves, but it’s a pretty safe assumption that economic as well as social and seasonal factors have played significant parts.
For the family that wants to enjoy an evening out together, bowling seems to be a great choice. Not as static an activity as going to the movies, an afternoon or evening spent bowling encourages shared laughter (especially at Dad’s fifth gutter ball, or the boom as somebody releases before they swing), in addition to continuing interaction. Face it, you’ve got to be in a really foul mood to frown in silence while bowling.
Furthermore, despite the proliferation of enclosed, air-conditioned and heated sports venues, there are few activities better suited than bowling to being enjoyed during inclement weather. Even if you have tickets to most sporting events, parking is so removed from the actual venues that participants are faced with a long walk from the vehicle to the stadium – not a particularly pleasant prospect if it’s a hundred degrees outside or it’s snowing, raining, or otherwise miserable. The entrance to the average bowling alley, however, is usually just a few steps from any parking place in the lot. And once you walk in, the weather just doesn’t exist. It’s a delightful 72 degrees inside, and the only precipitation you’ll encounter is the sweat you’ll be losing as your kids show you up.
Economics is yet another factor that has contributed to the upsurge in bowling’s popularity. Even before this latest Season of our Economic Discontent, fans – and especially families of modest means – were feeling the incredible pinch in the wallet when they wanted to take in a professional sports competition. Between those multi-billion dollar stadiums and the multi-million dollar salaries paid to athletes, most professional sports have priced themselves out of the reach of the average middle-class household. Compare the hundreds of dollars it costs to take a family to a ball game and feed them each a hot dog and a pop to the forty or so dollars that the same family would spend on a night of bowling, burgers, soda, and beer, and it’s not too difficult to understand the economic appeal.
Bowling is all about fun, and you and your business can make it even more fun (and profitable) by offering seasonal specials and events that will allow participants to get even more bang for their buck. For example…
- Host Summer Family Fun Nights. During the school year, the kids are generally busy with a full plate of extracurricular activities, and their parents, more often than not, are preoccupied with carting them to and from those activities. For many families it’s difficult to schedule a sit-down dinner together, much less a night of bowling. In the summertime, the living is easy, or at least a little easier, and people’s schedules are often much more flexible. Take advantage of the season and offer family discounts and special drawings for a range of prizes.
- Offer specials for summer camps, dayschools, swim groups and other summer groups. Bowling is an activity that can be done rain or shine, will be especially attractive to kids if you add other features such as cool music and fun food.
- Offer pre-season specials. Many folks don’t know that bowling has its seasons like most other sports. The fall/winter bowling season actually begins in August, so July is a hot (in more ways than one) month to offer those pre-season specials. Of course there are summer bowling leagues as well.
Speaking of league bowling, you would do well to host competitions whenever possible. Repeat bowlers who belong to various competitive leagues can be one of the richest sources of income for you. You can set up adult or kid competitions or both. Competitions normally last twenty-four weeks, with the competing teams bowling once per week. Of course, you need to be sure that you promote the competitions via advertising, Web site, and social media.
For the bowling alley owner, the challenge of finding new customers and keeping repeat ones is pretty straightforward and relatively simple to address, no matter what time of year it is. Let the public know how little an evening at the alley costs, how much fun they’ll have, and how quickly they’ll forget about the heat, the snow, the bills, and even the in-laws back at the house, and the customers will be flocking to buy a ticket to a past that most of them are too young to have experienced, much less remember. Who knows? They might even find themselves celebrating their success on the lanes by blurting out Ralph’s iconic “How sweet it is!”