Just four years after opening, Gravity’s active entertainment venues are central to 12 UK retail sites, with global expansion already underway. As the operator unveils its franchising strategy, Coinslot spoke to co-founder Michael Harrison about the secret to the firm’s success.
Having recently been named the 60th fastest growing company in the country by The Times while only in its fourth year of operation, Gravity is putting the bounce back into the UK leisure market, with a focus on mixed-use entertainment and high-footfall venues.
With the active entertainment firm now employing 500 staff over 12 sites, Coinslot spoke to co-founder Michael Harrison about what singles Gravity out, the importance of a diverse offering, and the firm’s strategy for keeping up with demand.
“Landlords can’t get enough of Gravity, because we increase footfall and dwell time in their centres,” said Harrison.
“We have 12 sites at the moment, we will open 100 sites in the next three years, and we need experienced operators to be able to achieve this. It’s getting to a point now where we can’t keep up with demand from the landlords.”
The first Gravity site, opened in 2015 by Harrison and business partner Harvey Jenkinson at Xscape Yorkshire in Castleford, saw advanced bookings hit £60,000 in six weeks.
With both co-founders initially working the floor to keep costs to a minimum, they were able to identify first hand what would prove the key to Gravity’s success – a complete leisure offering.
“We started off predominantly as a trampoline park, but we’ve developed into so much more now, because mixed multi-use leisure is the future of the high street,” said Harrison.
“The sites we’re developing now have karting, trampoline parks, bowling alleys, climbing, FECs. That, to the landlord, is really attractive.”
With Gravity’s 12 sites now demonstrably improving footfall at centres by 22 to 28 percent, it’s no surprise that landlords are keen to incorporate the concept, and as Gravity’s empire grows farther afield, Harrison is eager to make established leisure operators central to the next stage of expansion.
“I need to grow this company and I need good operators, I can’t do it all on my own,” said Harrison. “I believe we have another two years of taking advantage of these prime locations before we’ve got all the locations we will want and need.
“The biggest opportunity for franchisees is the head office contribution.”
With three sites already franchised out to operators in the UK, and plenty more plans in the pipeline, Harrison is on the lookout for further partners willing to help Gravity continue its national – and indeed global – growth. “Retail is desperate for leisure,” said Harrison, “and we know leisure.”