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Experiential Chains Heating Up This Summer

by 
Ezra Carmel
 on 
August 23, 2023
Experiential Chains Heating Up This Summer

Entertainment and experiences are becoming increasingly important parts of the retail landscape. From “eatertainment” to sporting goods stores, location analytics indicates that demand for unconventional experiences remains high. During the summer months, with vacations in full swing, interest in experiential offerings seems particularly strong  – and chains like Build-A-Bear Workshop, Chuck E. Cheese, and Buff City Soap engage consumers enjoying more free time. We dove into the location intelligence metrics for these brands in order to take a closer look at the consumer behavior driving foot traffic to experiential retailers in recent months. 

Beat the Heat

Build-A-Bear, Chuck E. Cheese, and Buff City Soap all experienced elevated year-over-year (YoY) visits for a majority of months in 2023 so far. Some of the YoY increase in January and February 2023 can be attributed to the comparison to the Omicron-plagued period in 2022, when many consumers avoided indoor gatherings. But the YoY visit growth in recent months is a testament to these brands’ capacity to drive foot traffic even during times of economic headwinds. 

Since June 2023, all three brands have experienced monthly YoY visit growth. Most recently in July 2023 YoY visits were up 13.8% for Build-A-Bear, 3.0% for Chuck E. Cheese, and 16.0% for Buff City Soap. 

This summer has been one of the hottest on record, and it’s likely that extreme temperatures gave consumers extra motivation to seek out indoor activities – like building a bear, making soap, or playing arcade games. As high temperatures persist, foot traffic is likely to remain elevated through August 2023.

Weekday Wonders

In addition to extreme weather, summertime also means families with children and teens – and adults taking vacation – have more time for activities. In particular, parents and summer camps looking to keep kids occupied are more likely to visit these chains on weekdays – days when children aren’t typically available during the school year. More birthday parties can also be planned for weekdays as summer vacation allows for greater flexibility.

And looking at the weekly visit distribution indicates that these chains are likely benefiting from consumers’ more flexible summer schedules. Build-A-Bear, Chuck E. Cheese, and Buff City Soap all drove a relatively higher share of weekday visits in May, June, and July 2023 than in April 2023, when most schools and colleges were still in session.

The data suggests that these brands should be prepared for increased weekday traffic during the summer and may consider gearing marketing efforts towards camps, parents, and other groups during the vacation.   

Fun Times

Along with an increase in weekday visits, an understanding of the more popular times of day at the various experiential chains can provide further indication of the consumer segments driving traffic. 

An analysis of visit times in H1 2023 revealed that Build-A-Bear attracts visitors relatively early in the day, which suggests robust visitation from families with younger children. These consumers are typically active in the first part of the day but go home for relatively early dinners and bedtimes. 

With its popular menu, Chuck E. Cheese typically sees visits pick up around midday for lunch and an additional foot traffic surge around dinner time. The strong visits to Chuck E. Cheese continue into the evening, which suggests that visitors with older children and teens – along with game-loving adults – are driving visits to the chain. 

Buff City Soap generally experiences the largest share of morning visits as consumers on their way to work may make a stop to pick up toiletry essentials. The brand also experiences a relatively large share of 5:00pm-6:00pm visits as working adults are likely to make a stop on their way home.

Location intelligence for heavy foot traffic times could enable these retailers to optimize staffing and facilities management and inform decisions about which products or games may best resonate with consumers. 

A World of Experiences

The success of Build-A-Bear, Chuck E. Cheese, and Buff City Soap is indicative of the prevailing consumer demand for experiences. Analysis of these retailers suggests that visitors of all ages are interested in retail experiences of different kinds. With summer underway, these brands appear to be gaining an extra foot traffic boost from consumers with greater availability during their vacations. 

‍For updates and more data-driven foot traffic insights, visit Placer.ai.

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