Saturday, May 2, 2015

Cedar Fair Debuts New Website + Heard On... 1st Quarter Earnings Call

Cedar Fair has had the same website and logo for as long as I can remember, but it appears all that has changed.  The company debuted a new website last week that features a brand new logo for the chain of theme parks:

The logo is a fairly dramatic change from the previous one used; the new one is quite a bit more modern and relaxed.  The company's new website is pretty slick, it has more information and features than the old version, including a nice video showcasing the properties.  Check it out and do some exploring.

All the parks got these fun graphics, as well.
Cedar Fair also released their 1st quarter 2015 earnings this past week, which were positive overall.  Revenues in the quarter were up 16% - spread over all categories including admission, food and beverage, retail and accommodations.  Attendance was a record for the quarter, and much of this good news comes from the continued great performance of Knott's Berry Farm.

The quarterly conference call covered more about the company's plans for the future, a less about operating results.  Cedar Fair has launched FUNForward 2.0, a new plan to hit $500 million in EBIDTA by 2018.

To do this the company is planning a new set of initiatives, which include:

•  Continuing to seek the "quality" family market with new rides, shows, experiences.  They will use their advancements in marketing data to personalize their efforts.  They will also push to show consumers that May/June are times to visit for a smaller cost, using variable pricing.  To make this work the company will continue to strive to have new attractions open early in the season.

•  Seeking to building upon already fast-growing pre-purchased tickets, including parking, food, and more.  These create a commitment to visit, and have been especially great for season pass sales.  Some sort of new season pass renewal program or push will take place in the Fall of 2015, but Mr. Ouimet was not giving details just yet.

•  Embracing digit technology in the parks.  This is very opposite of "old" Cedar Fair and it is wonderful.  Technology in the parks rages from on rides like Voyage to the Iron Reef to in park signs, but also a new series of phone apps that are already out.  In park photography sales via apps and other technology will be a push soon as well.  In future seasons expanded wifi to the parks will also come online.

•  Maximizing the parks existing potential.  The company is quite pleased with the decision to invest heavily in Carowinds, based off of early season reaction to Fury 325 and other changes.  Valleyfair is again mentioned as a growing market, and the success of working on Knott's branding with "modest" capital expansions has been a home run.

•  Pursue "complimentary" development on land adjacent to the parks.  A general rezoning of California's Great America is mentioned, which is expected to be completed next year.  This would allow additional capital to be spent there, including rides and potentially "commercial development such as retail, hotel, dining and entertainment."  That sounds quite interesting!  Also at Carowinds they have two open plots of land where they are considering more overnight accommodations that would require no capital investment by Cedar Fair, so I am envisioning partnership hotels.

Cedar Fair also plans to enhance their corporate partnerships with companies that can help innovation in the parks, drive attendance, or who have expertise outside the company's expertise - specifically real estate developers are mentioned.  I'm not sure what to make of that, but it could be very interesting.

Capital spend will peak at $170 million in 2015, higher than any year I've seen.  This is mostly due to the Hotel Breakers renovation and huge spending at Carowinds.  Going forward yearly capital spend should normalize around $130 million.