Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cedar Fair Early Season Update + A Look at Their Plans and Developments

Cedar Fair recently had an investor presentation / early season update, at which they were able to report some encouraging figures for the 2013 season so far.

They also covered a lot of different aspects of their operations, which contains some interesting information.

So far this year, through June 23rd to be specific, the company's revenues are up 5%, or 18 million.  Cedar Point, California's Great America, and Knott's Berry Farm seem to be leading the pack in that regard.  Attendance is up 1%, and out of park revenues are up 5%.

These charts are pretty telling as to who the big players are!
Additionally, season pass sales are up 20% compared to this time last year, and group bookings and resort reservations are up as well.

Cedar Fair's e-commerce platform has grown by 50% since it started in early 2012 - and has also helped make a commitment to visits.  For instance, about a third of all Fast Lane passes are sold online for a specific date... meaning that guests are quite likely to then show up that day to utilize them.

Some facts about the park's guests were also revealed, such as 9 out of 10 visitors have been to the parks before.  Also, 40% of the yearly attendance is from season passes, with the expectation that that figure will grow.

Cedar Point is the largest regional park they have, drawing guests from all 50 states.  They also have the highest margins and in park per capital in the chain.  The presentation points out that placemaking is in the works for the park, refreshing areas of the 144 year old park.  Also a "focus on rides and attractions the entire family will enjoy."

Knott's Berry Farm is viewed as the "park of the locals" in the crowded Southern California market.  It sounds like placemaking will continue here as well, much like we just saw with the redevelopment of the Boardwalk.

Canada's Wonderland is quite a force up North - their season pass attendance is over 50% of the total for the year.  That's very significant!  Kings Island is also mentioned as being able to benefit from the "introduction of additional thrill attractions" - probably like the one they are building right now!  Interestingly, Carowinds is listed as a park that is "undersized" relative to its market area - sounds like there are still plans to expand that property.

As far as Resorts go, it seems that new hotels are not something we will see going up, but Campgrounds might make sense.  They're listed as a "low-cost" addition that could go into parks with lots of empty land.  Other efforts by the chain include upgrading "streetmosphere" along the parks midways, and new revenue streams such as the popular Plinko games that let guests win front of the line passes.

How about Food?  They've actually created a Corporate Foods department to get things better organized and create standards across all parks.  Probably a good move if you ask me!  2013 is the first year of trying to redo menus at all parks, and so far food per capita are up 4%.

Premium Park offerings are being rolled out, and some have already become quite successful like Fast Lane.  Fast Lane Plus seems to be working, too, at the parks with the largest thrill rides.

There was also a neat section on Planning and Design, which gives an idea of how the rides we love come into existence.  The focus on selecting new rides is building to scale (a ride that fits a park's size), a long-term look at how a ride will fit in, and a strong identity for big new rides.

Having a in-house design team also helps save costs and better understand what a park really needs.  In fact, the "soft cost" of designing rides at Cedar Fair is among the lowest in the industry.  They also do "cost control through combined purchases, duplicated successes, and 'keeping it simple.'"  That's a pretty interesting, and telling, statement!  New attractions are also designed to be "memorable, repeatable, reprogrammable, and unforgettable."  Reprogrammable is another really telling word to use!

Placemaking, mentioned earlier, actually got a lot of attention in the Design and Planning segment.  "Placemaking is forefront in the development process as we build an attraction or area that the guest is able to identify with."  It sounds like they're taking careful consideration to not just slap down a new ride, but to develop the park around the new ride to be refreshed, modernized, and comfortable.  Smart if you ask me - the presentation shows Cedar Point's new main gate as a prime example of this.

Similarly the Boardwalk at Knott's was a big part of this effort as well.  Just look at how nice that turned out!

Also at Knott's the total refurbishment of the park's Log Flume was emphasized, returning a classic ride to its former glory while respecting the history of the park.

The upgraded point of sale systems that went into all the park are already reaping many benefits, such as allowing room charges at Cedar Point, recognizing tickets purchased on phones for items like food, and the new FastPay program.

As if all this information is not enough, there's even a huge part devoted to the recent marketing programs.  These include the push for season pass sales and other add-ons, and even how creating "The Farm" as a place for locals is intentional and part of Knott's marketing plan.

In all this presentation is almost 140 pages, and you can check out the whole thing on Cedar Fair's website.  It's very interesting stuff!  Things seem to still be looking up for the company, and all this has me looking forward to their future more than ever.