In 2012 Innovative Leisure broke into the flourishing garden centre sector with the installation of its first Sky Trail High Ropes Course at Planters Garden Centre in Tamworth, UK. 18 months down the line, we spoke to Richard Morris about how the Sky Trail has taken off and how it has effected business at the award winning venue.
IL: Richard, over a year has passed since we installed the Sky Trail High Ropes Course at Planters Garden Centre. What made you choose the product?
RM: By diversifying in an adventure attraction, we aimed to target different markets other than most traditional garden centre users. We wanted to attract more children and young families but we also wanted older garden centre users to spread the word amongst their families including grandchildren and consider us as a good place for a day out.
IL: Why do you feel Sky Trail works so well for your site?
RM: The main factor is that an adventure attraction has a unique selling point that most other garden centres don’t have. After the first six months, visitor numbers had increased through the door, restaurant spends were up by 15% and new users and target markets were visiting the garden centre.
Overall, Sky Trail has had a really positive impact in filling some of the retail downtime the garden centre experiences in June, July, August and September. This said, Sky Trail really is an all year adventure attraction although understandably, the weather can play a huge part on the numbers through the course on any particular day.
IL: What do you attribute to Sky Trail’s success at Planters?
RM: A dedicated team with a can do attitude. They are very helpful, offer good instruction and excellent customer service. They also offer us the flexibility to make a wide variety of bookings.
We also think it’s successful because it’s so accessible to many users across a variety of demographic backgrounds and both the price point and duration of the activity are very attractive to both new and retained customers.
IL: What do you find is the most efficient way of operating Sky Trail?
RM: At Planters, two methods co-exist. The first is to take a larger fixed group booking that generally fill off-peak periods of any day of the week. This enables us to pre-arrange staffing to be pre-organised.
The second is a dynamic walk-up queueing system that operates during peak periods. This works on a 10 minute harnessing and safety brief element and 30 minutes course time. Both methods allow for effective rotation of loading, unloading on and off the course and the optimum use of the safety equipment we have.
Operating with correct operator to customer ratios is important. This ranges from two operators on slower winter weekend days to three operators in normal periods of up to 15 people per hour. At peak times, such as really warm summer days, up to 6 operators are needed to ensure the maximum throughput of 45-60 participants go through the course per hour.
IL: How does capacity work versus demand on Sky Trail?
RM: We usually hit full capacity of around 45-60 persons per hour for 2-3 hours on busy school holiday days. This will use all of the equipment we have during this period. We have achieved these numbers on approximately 100 operational days so far. This number is to be expected when operating our walk-in queuing system and there are down-times within these days of less course activity.
IL: Do you operate Sky Trail with a defined price structure?
RM: We have defined prices in place of £6 per person and £15 for a family ticket as of the 1st February 2014. We always look to offer good discounts for large groups, and families with more than four persons. We also offer great deals on birthday party packages. Going into 2014 we are looking at heavily developing our on-line booking system and our packages to give our customers the best value for money.
IL: What has Sky Trail done for visitor numbers at Planters?
RM: Over and 18 month period the Sky Trail attraction itself has attracted just under 23,000 participants who have physically experienced the course as either a brand new, intermediate or experienced adventurer. We also have a strong customer base of 3-400 users that return regularly throughout the year.
IL: What sort of response has Sky Trail gained from Planters customers?
RM: We feel the best way to demonstrate the good feedback we’ve had on Sky Trail is to share some of it with you:
“In the grounds of an award winning garden centre, the Sky Trail adventure is virtually a BIG climbing frame for children. The staff are very friendly and take their jobs seriously, giving the children a little safety test before harnessing them and setting them off on their climb. The price is reasonable and they are on for about half an hour. A wonderful café is nearby and parents can leave the children in safe hands whilst having a cup of coffee. Afterwards, a walk round the garden centre is a must.”
Reviewed 27 November 2013
“We took my 13 year old son here and he loved it. The staff are amazing and encourage the children to utilise the full frame without being pushy. We enjoyed a coffee below whilst my son clambered away.”
Reviewed 27 December 2013
General Survey Form Feedback
12th August 2013 – “The sun shone, a pleasant few hours and a happy granddaughter after conquering the course.”
22nd August 2013 – “This is our first visit and we will definitely be coming back. We will probably come here instead of our usual garden centre as it is not much further and we loved the Sky Trail.”
IL: Has Sky Trail benefited any other areas of your business too?
RM: From Garden Centre Association figures, the average growth within the industry is 3.67%, whereas growth at Planters is within the top five in the country with growth at a very healthy 8.72%. This places us very much above industry averages. Success has been evident in many departments and the key advantage of operating a unique adventure attraction has evidently been its ability to bring benefit to the business as a whole.
IL: Finally, how has Sky Trail lived up to your expectations since it has been installed?
RM: Providing something new and unique within the garden centre has been Sky Trail’s greatest achievement and it has obvious links to continued growth and success. It has certainly diversified Planters offering as a visitor destination. It has been a major factor in turning around down time in the garden centre during the Summer months and it is a vibrant dynamic attraction that has put us on the map in Tamworth, a highly leisure orientated town, and the surrounding counties of Staffordshire, Warwickshire and Leicestershire.
View the entire Sky Trail range at www.innovativeleisure.co.uk
Written by Kier Lymn – Part of the Innovative Leisure Marketing Team.