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edition 6 (241)
June 2019
Retail & leisure

Playing while the sun shines

Rafał Ostrowski

Playing while the sun shines
Bertrand Jasiński, CEO of Sale Zabaw Fikołki

Fikołki now has seven playrooms in Poland with four in Warsaw, and one each in Płock, Pruszków and Wrocław. What is the company planning now?

Bertrand Jasiński, CEO of Sale Zabaw Fikołki: At the end of this year we should have eleven or twelve locations. These will be across the country as well as in the Warsaw area. Generally we will be opening in shopping centres, although we haven’t ruled out smaller local centres, such as Alto Wilanów in Warsaw, where we already have one playroom.

What are your plans for the future development of the company?

We want to provide all kinds of leisure facilities. We will be expanding not only the Fikołki brand but also be adding new brands. This year we should be launching our first trampoline park and our first VR e-sports project. We already have a laser tag centre in Płock under our X Laser Arena brand. Our strategy is to devise entertainment concepts not only for children up to the age of 11, as in the case of Fikołki, but also for older children and adults.

Could you tell me more about these projects? What will the trampoline parks be like?

Each park will be around 1,200 sqm. They will be similar to those that already operate on the market. The difference is that we will place these parks together with our other brands, so that a parent could leave a young child in Fikołki to have a go on the trampolines at the same time.

This requires additional space, which is certainly not available in every shopping centre...

So these parks can’t be opened everywhere and it will also take longer to open them all. In Warsaw, where we want to have around ten playrooms in the future, we will have a maximum of three trampoline locations.

When will we be seeing you first trampoline parks?

We are trying to get them off the ground this year. The first VR project, which covers an area of app. 500 sqm, should also open this year. It’s a bit like nurturing a living organism, because such a concept, although examples already exist, is not really available on the Polish market yet.

But I’ve heard that your plans go beyond Poland. You will be expanding Fikołki in Belarus together with CDRL, the owner of the Coccodrillo children’s clothes brand, which is a shareholder in Fikołki...

This is not true. What is true that such an idea has been floated in our discussions with Coccodrillo, but first of all we still have lots to do on the Polish market. We want to be the leader here and the primary entertainment partner for the owners of shopping centres. Secondly, the Coccodrillo chain has just entered the Belarusian market. Let’s give it time to establish itself there and then we’ll take a look at any further development opportunities. Entering the Belarusian market is not on our agenda for now. We will certainly not be tempted to do so this year. For now we are concentrating on the Polish market. We want to have around 30 locations by 2021, all brands included.

Isn’t going to be rather a capital intensive venture?

Launching an entertainment concept of the highest standard, which is what we are doing, is not the cheapest thing we could have done. We have secured the finance, though, both from shareholders and in bank loans. Despite still being at an early stage of development, our business is already profitable in itself and is generating a financial surplus.

And how have your results been affected by the Sunday retail ban?

At first, I even saw it as a possible opportunity; but now, after twelve months of this, I can see that my initial optimism was too high. There has been a decline. The difference in sales between trading and non-trading Sundays is now around 30 pct. So we are looking for ways to eliminate this difference.

So it’s worth coming on Sundays because there are fewer children on that day?

Yes, it is. And that’s one argument that we are using to persuade people.

Is the playroom market very competitive?

It was certainly not a virgin market when we entered it. However, we have introduced a different format. We open entertainment centres that also have features that you might find in a local community centre. This includes the number activity leaders we have looking after the children, introducing them to a much wider range of activities than in the playrooms of our competitors. We provide paid and free classes that have a fixed schedule. We have workshops and classes for parents, those who already have children and those who are expecting them. We also want to provide a café for parents, so that they can meet up here as well as work. We have introduced the Toddler Card, with which a child can play free of charge until its second year.

Is it not the case that this kind of business does well when the weather is bad, because in the summer a playroom is not such a good place to spend time in?

Have a guess in which month of last year we had the most entries. July! This is all down to the services we have developed. When we started out, we were told: remember that you’ll have to work much harder on the business during the summer holidays. This was the first issue that we had to contend with. Paradoxically, however, our summers have been so warm that families are happy to spend time in our air conditioned rooms.

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