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Let’s Have Some Fun! Going Out Is In

Ezra Carmel
January 17, 2023
Let’s Have Some Fun! Going Out Is In

The past couple of years haven’t been easy ones. But the uncertainty and stress brought on by the pandemic and the rising cost of living haven’t stopped consumers from seeking out fun things to do with friends and family – in fact, quite the opposite. Even though budgets are tight, many have a new post-pandemic appreciation for going out and continue to prioritize recreational activities as a way to de-stress and find joy and fulfillment. We analyzed foot traffic for three leading brands – Dave & Buster’s, Bowlero, and X-Golf – and broader entertainment categories in order to take a closer look at the impact demand for fun is having on visits. 

Chasing Thrills

We analyzed four entertainment categories, some long-time favorites – like bowling alleys and food and gaming venues – and some newer players such as specialty golf and axe throwing. Despite consumer cut-back on discretionary spending and soaring inflation that plagued several retail categories in 2022, these four categories saw foot traffic growth for the majority, if not all, of the second half of the year. The positive foot traffic is particularly significant in light of the strong overall retail foot traffic in 2021 as consumers were excited to be out and about post-lockdowns. 

Visits to the four entertainment categories were up year-over-year (YoY: 2022 vs 2021) in December 2022 for all four categories as the holiday season meant more time to go out and socialize with friends and family. It’s clear that many Americans were still prioritizing social experiences and entertainment in the second half of 2022 – something that was severely lacking during the pandemic period. 

Recreation’s Renaissance

Entertainment destinations have come out of the pandemic on top – exceeding visits compared to the previous year but also compared to pre-pandemic levels. It’s evident that people are seeking out fun more than we’ve seen in recent memory. 

Visits to all four categories throughout 2022 have remained above or near a January 2019 visit baseline. And most categories saw 2022 visits elevated in comparison to the corresponding month in 2019. The overall change in visits since January 2019 confirms that the out-of-home entertainment industry is growing rapidly. 

Booming Brands

The growth of the entertainment industry boils down to the individual successes of leading brands such as Dave & Buster’s, Bowlero, and X-Golf. Bowlero has been expanding its bowling market share through acquisitions, while Dave & Buster’s opened new locations and added fellow “eatertainment” brand Main Event to its portfolio. X-Golf, which operates indoor golf simulators and serves a full menu of tasty eats, has opened several new locations – including a two-floor facility inside an MLB stadium – and plans to expand even further in 2023. The expansions of these top brands support their year-over-year (YoY) visits which have been positive since August 2022.

The Fun Don’t Stop

In recent years, entertainment venues have become increasingly popular as people look for ways to relax and have fun. The desire for socialization and connection and the need for distraction from the stresses of daily life appear to be winning out over general consumer spending cutbacks. As a result, entertainment venues are likely to continue their strong visit trends for the foreseeable future. 

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