I continue to be dumbfounded as to why new businesses going in around my town so seldom put up a sign very early to say what the establishment is going to be. The ones that do put signs up create all sorts of buzz about coming to town, and many end up getting a big following and seem to do quite well.
When businesses do put up a sign, it's usually a tiny little sign that you have to get really close to read, or it only has a business name. It should be a big banner that is plain and easy to see with information on what your business will be. Why not? The cost is a drop in the bucket compared to the construction and your ongoing marketing costs. Everyone's eyes are drawn toward construction sites. Everyone's immediate question when they see construction is "Oh, I wonder what is going there". It becomes a conversation piece that people tell their friends about.
Granted, you might be so busy with so many things going on to open your store that you don't think about getting a sign up, but that would be a mistake. Get a big sign up early and get up a website - even if it is only a coming soon website. You can start collecting names for marketing use later. You can do something simple like give us your email and we'll send you a special grand opening invitation or offer. I've seen construction take many months to get some places open - this is very inexpensive advertising that creates anticipation for you to open.
Those of you who read my blog know I really like data and companies that do a good job pulling it together in informative ways. I ran across a new favorite today called SizeUp. In about 5 minutes of surfing their site, I found a quick way to identify potential opportunities for golf centers. They have data on businesses and population. Putting the two together, they identified the top 25 markets with over 100k in population with the lowest golf revenue per capita.
Obviously, I would do more research on the market before just jumping in, but this is a cool way to look at how one city compares to another for an industry and could help inform you in starting your next business. The widget doesn't show the whole picture on my site, so check out their page and try it out yourself. You can edit the orange text to change chart.
Being in a good and accessible location that matches your target customers is a key to running a successful indoor golf business. Research on the indoor golf industry points to a few keys to determining the best location for your indoor golf center. It is also critical to make sure you are not paying too much for your location in order to keep your expenses in line. Based on our research, some of the keys to site location include the following:
The higher the proportion of home ownership there is in your target area, the more rounds of golf you are expected to be able to support. This means a higher percentage home ownership in the zip where you are locating, indicates a higher propensity for playing golf. In addition, the average home price tends to also help predict the volume of rounds played. The higher the average home price in a zip, the more rounds you can expect. Look for information on the web about your target zip code and see home prices, percent renters, income and more.
Number of golfers in a 10 mile radius:
Not surprisingly, the number of golfers in a 10 mile radius from an indoor golf center were strongly correlated with the number of rounds reported by that golf center. The more golfers in the radius, the better for your golf center. A great place to find this sort of information is from marketing list companies. They gather information on golfers from things like magazine subscriptions and website registrations. Some may provide you these numbers as part of the process to price a list and you can get the number without paying for the list.
This probably doesn't help pick an area within a city, but can give you a sense of how viable a given city is for an indoor golf center. The higher the number of rain / snow days there are per year, the higher the number of rounds played. Indoor golf centers in the United States experienced as many as 156 days per year with rain or snow, while others had as little as 90 days. Centers on the high end of this range get more play.
Average Annual Daily Traffic:
I am including this as a probable driver of rounds played, as traffic data was somewhat difficult to get with enough precision to be confident in analysis. That said, with a high number of first time visitors during the first year of an indoor golf center business, it stands to reason that a higher volume of traffic outside a location would be better than a location with lower traffic. The traffic statistic in question is often called Average Annual Daily Traffic and most reports abbreviate it as AADT. You may be able to search for it on the web for your target area in question.
We took a look at the impact of geography on golf center performance. As a proxy for geography, we assigned each of the golf centers in our study to a planting zone (think gardening planting zones where 4 is up north and 9 is down south). We than took a look at hours per month per simulator to see if we noticed any trends based on geography. For the most part, the farther north a facility, the more hours per simulator and more simulators the geography will support. The cart below is based on average monthly hours per simulator, peak months are much higher and low months are a good bit lower. There are some impacts from age of the indoor center here as some of the southern facilities are a bit newer and new centers tend to have a bit less traffic than established centers.