Social Gaming: Coming to a town centre near you in 2021

social gaming
13th April 2021Research & Insights

While the demise of retail stalwarts Debenhams and the Arcadia Group will undoubtedly leave a hole in high street shopping, this is far from the death of the high street as some media headlines would seem to suggest.   As champions of the experiential and human connection, at SHUFL, we see an acceleration in the evolution of town centres and a big opportunity for communities as social gaming operators breathe new life into town centres providing more reasons to visit.

What we’re actually seeing in 2021 is the emergence of a different kind of high street experience.

With retail sites sitting empty for prolonged periods, property landlords are being forced to get creative with mixed-use sites that take into account changing consumer behaviours: namely, the rise of online shopping, the demand for experiential and increased homeworking, which looks set to continue post lockdown.  It’s no longer a case of replacing like-for-like but rather attracting a mix of businesses that create a destination experience.

 Experiential focus

Pent-up demand for real-life experiences and human connection post-lockdown, will see consumers embracing venues offering social experiences that bring people together. Meeting friends for a game of shuffleboard, ping-pong or axe-throwing simply cannot be replicated online.  With this in mind, a dynamic new-breed of entertainment operators have been busy behind the scenes during lockdown, ready to satisfy this demand.

Says SHUFL UK Commercial Manager Ben Minter, “While consumers will still head to the high street for some retail therapy, they’ll also be meeting friends for a game of shuffleboard – just as our grandparents and great-grandparents would have done at the billiard halls of bygone days.

“We’ve already seen a new generation of entertainment and leisure operators investing in empty retail sites in the last decade, as retailers like BHS fell by the wayside, but what’s changed is the sheer quantity of sites available since COVID-19 has put the nail in the coffin for so many more.  Social gaming is poised to take advantage of these openings, completing the destination experience.”

One example is Gravity, the experiential brand, which has recently snapped up the 80,000 square foot site of the former Debenhams at Southside Shopping Centre, Wandsworth and is turning it into an entertainment venue.   While in Liverpool, a former Poundland store in St Johns Shopping Centre is being transformed into a competitive socialising mecca by SHUFL partner Boom: Battle Bar and opening later this year.

Pent-up consumer demand

As well as pent-up consumer demand for experiences, the latest Deloitte Consumer Tracker shows that many consumers in lockdown are reporting money savings.  Working from home and being free from commuting costs, as well as the absence of spending on holidays and socialising, 31% of respondents said their savings had increased in 2020 with millennials leading the way (35%).  People are looking forward to going out and spending some of this money on the experiences they have been missing out on.

We’re feeling optimistic for 2021 and look forward to helping our partners get their SHUFL on again and achieve their full potential.

Find out where you can get you SHUFL on here.

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