Honorary secretary for the National Pier Society, Dr Anya Chapman, made it clear at Bacta’s AGM recently that piers are increasingly appreciating how much FECs have to give, calling on arcade operators to keep seizing opportunities to showcase their unique offer.
With a background in arcade management at Blackpool Pleasure Beach and Southport Pleasureland, honorary secretary of the National Piers Society Dr Anya Chapman was well placed to ask the Bacta AGM – “what next for seaside FECs?”
Serving the NPS alongside her role as senior lecturer in tourism management at Bournemouth University, Chapman outlined the myriad opportunities currently on offer for FECs, noting their essential part of the seaside industry.
“I know academics in the past haven’t been friendly to the arcade sector,” said Chapman. “I’m not one of those academics, I specialise in British seaside resorts, and the regeneration of traditional attractions.”
“Those of you who have dealt with the NPS, let me say we’re not all still obsessed with paddle steamers. I disagree with the NPS saying that ships need piers and piers need ships, what piers need are arcades.”
Drawing from her own research into Pier Sustainability, funded by the Coastal Revival Fund, Chapman noted that of the 61 piers in the UK, 56 are still operating, with 32 of that 56 “very much dependent on their arcade revenue to keep them upright.”
Though observing that seaside FECs fell by 56 percent to 438 between 2007 and 2015, Chapman added “it’s a different situation now.”
“The seaside in terms of demand has started to increase again, British seaside visits rose from 17.9 million in 2015 up to 21 million in 2018, and I think our seaside FECs are following that trajectory.”
Dividing arcades into three categories – Retro and Heritage, Seaside Special and Innovative FEC – Chapman urged operators in all venues not to be complacent, and consider the customer experience they are creating.
“You do need to move away from the Cat Cs, Cat Ds, and AWPs, and you do need to move away from the video games. We need to move toward a unique offer that provides a memorable experience. The experiences have to be collective, immersive and interactive. In the ‘Insta’ age they’ve also got to be photogenic.”
That advice was well-proven when Chapman showcased the range of UK seaside arcade images already on Instagram, from colourful prizes to brightly lit pushers, and a dizzying array of arcade carpets.
Though Chapman also observed Brexit will provide opportunities in terms of domestic tourism, she called on operators to “invest in staff,” with almost 70 percent of UK tourism organisations relying on EU employees.
“It’s important to attract UK employees. You can do this through things like ‘onboarding.’ Not just inductions, but actually having a mentoring scheme, or buddying scheme. Upskilling, continual development, the use of apprenticeships.”
“Millenials like their job to have a purpose, so if you introduce corporate social responsibility initiatives, especially charity or environmental related initiatives that are led by those employees, then it increases the attractiveness of working with your organisation.”