Sky Zone Plans More Non-Traditional Locations, Bad Timing Aside
Sky Zone opened the first trampoline park on a Carnival cruise ship last December. Then came COVID-19.
If timing is everything, consider Sky Zone's first foray into the world of non-traditional locations as a case of the bad. President Jeff Platt and his team were excited to ink the licensing deal last year, after about two-and-a-half years of work. Theirs was to be the first trampoline park on—wait for it—a Carnival cruise ship.
"Now that park is officially docked," Platt said ruefully in an interview last week, along with the rest of an industry thrown into crisis after the U.S. State Department warned Americans March 9 against traveling on the high seas.
"Not that I'm not empathetic to Carnival," Platt said, but he figures the world's largest cruise operator will find a way to regroup from the COVID-19 pandemic. Carnival Corp. said yesterday it was seeking at least $6 billion in debt and equity to weather the crisis.
"I'm much more concerned about our franchisees." Nearly all of the parent company's 320 locations in 13 countries (about 220 of those franchised) are closed, with a few exceptions. "We have one in Hong Kong that's open, but we're thinking of closing it because it's flaring up again," Platt said.
"You can't plan for this. There's no playbook you can turn to. You're moving very quickly to make fast decisions that aren't always going to be the right decision," he said, adding "you can't overthink things."
Platt said the franchisor was focusing on "trying to think of what resources our franchise owners need right now. For one, they need cash and liquidity. We cannot give liquidity to 200 locations. But we can be up-to-date and on the ball so they can access funds through the SBA."
His team has created financial tools so franchisees can forecast their cash needs, for example, and navigate the new relief laws coming out of Congress.
"Now we're moving into a phase of, how are we going to engage with our guests during this time," he said. "We're dark physically, but that doesn't prevent us from talking to them on social media and email."
Last Friday Sky Zone unveiled a way to throw kids' virtual birthday parties. Sky Zone takes care of creating the invites and setting up virtual links for families to share. Customers also get a Sky Zone "Party Pro" who will be present virtually and lead the guest of honor and their friends through 20 minutes of active games.
Despite the timing of the Carnival/Sky Zone deal, Platt still sees opportunity in non-traditional locations. "We're not really sure how big a business it could be for us. This was put a toe in the water," he said about the first park on a ship. "So if this works well, we can see us expanding to their other ships. Then it raises the question, how does this work in a destination resort environment, on land?"
Sky Zone is part of CircusTrix, a developer, operator and franchisor of trampoline and active entertainment parks.