Two entrepreneurs, with the right imagination and similar outlooks on the retail, leisure and hospitality sector have gone into a partnership that looks set to reinvent the provision of family entertainment in a non-theme park setting. Chris Hayes, Co-Founder of Rocafella Leisure Group and Tim North, Co-Founder of Branded Build have a wealth of experience within the consumer entertainment industry and they spent some time talking to RLI as we learnt more about their new attraction.
With the former launching and operating pioneering trampoline parks, ninja parks and inflatable water experiences and the latter being instrumental in delivering the design and build of major tourist attractions within the UK and abroad, their combined strengths and experiences led them to a discussion that would light the fuse for their next business venture.
It led them to the notion of bringing branded family entertainment to the high street, or shopping mall to be precise, and how this would transform the notion of experiential retail.
It’s not about bringing to life the ‘retail space’ or ‘outlet’, but to bring to life the shopping experience or day out, This was at a time when competitive socialising was in its embryonic state – catering primarily for the adult market.
So how can you take the best of both these worlds and create attractions with a real point of difference in a predominantly adult-focused space, dominated by food and beverage?
The answer is simple, bring the IP to life. Use the power of brands to create an unrivalled proposition in a space where disposable income is readily spent and enhance that day out or retail experience. This embodies the proposition of Rocafella Leisure, “Reinventing Leisure Destinations” and harnesses the power of Branded Build’s offer of “Delivering Exceptional Attractions”.
Chris Hayes, CEO of Rocafella Leisure, comments: “Allowing customers to touch and experience the brand they’re so loyal too beyond its primary function, helps differentiate operators in a crowded market. It gives them the edge over more independent, run-of-the-mill attractions. Like with NERF Action Xperience, we are building a space for NERF brand followers and consumers to live out their ultimate NERF adventures in a purpose-built, state-of-the-art all-encompassing 35,000sq ft active-play arena. If you had said to me, when I was a kid, that there was a dedicated place where I could spend an afternoon to blast my mates, or my sister and brother, I would have jumped at the chance to go – instead we went to an indoor soft-play centre!”
NERF Action Xperience (NERF AX) is a huge indoor attraction dedicated to all things NERF, where children, families and adults alike can experience a non-stop, heart-pounding, fun-fuelled adventure! Get ready to battle it out in five action-packed zones with unrivalled NERF blasters and on-trend sports equipment.
The inaugural FEC will open in the recently rebranded Trafford Palazzo (Manchester) in summer 2023, marking the start of a UK-wide rollout which will see two further locations added within the coming years.
As the build takes shape, investments into local services to launch the new centre, provide a positive contribution to local economic growth. Once up and running, 45 new jobs will be created, offering opportunities to kick-start a career within the leisure and hospitality sector.
As well as creating that competitive advantage and adding value to the underlying brand proposition by amplifying inherent brand values through play and entertainment, using an IP helps with scalability and the speed of how that can happen.
Tim North, CEO of Branded Build explains: “The teams [Branded Build and Rocafella] have been working hard behind the scenes with Hasbro as part of the design concept process to get these attractions ready for market, producing an extensive catalogue of varying games, both digital and physical, all of a modular-build that can be pulled together to make a full FEC that is mapped to the size and structure of the space or unit available. Following a tried and tested blueprint for customer flow and experience, this investment in work up-front enabled the ‘concept to creation’ time to be reduced down from 24 months to around nine months to get an FEC up and running – promoting a real turnkey solution for landlords and franchise groups alike. We’ve also invested in fabrication facilities capable of delivering multiple attractions concurrently, while Rocafella have invested heavily in the operations team to enable an aggressive roll-out of their own wholly-owned facilities.”
As well as the IP providing the opportunity to expedite roll-out, it also helps those landlords wanting to host family-entertainment within their venues have extra reassurance in the commercial security and future-proofing of the performance and longevity of the concept.
“A useful business model for some of our landlord partners to take-up, particularly in more diverse territories the hybrid option of ‘Build Operate Transfer’ is more appealing and suits all parties. Our team will open the attraction, manage it for up to three years and gradually hand it over to the new owners/operators with a fully functional operations team,” Hayes concludes.