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I think this recession is going to last a while.
Even though productivity per worker has increased, we have less workers. The middle-class worker who produced regular 'boring" stuff is now finding that stuff mechanized, out-sourced or limited to the lowest-cost producer. And it's hard to differentiate paper clips, toothpicks and other boring stuff and sell it at higher prices.
So good bye to the middle-class worker of "boring stuff." In fact, since this recession started, we have lost 8,000,000 jobs. And we are seeing a net replacement of just about 80,000. Do the math. It will take us 100 months or 8-1/3rd years to get back to where we were. Think it can't happen? It happened in Japan. They lost a whole decade.
Stimulus, protectionism, spending cuts, tax incentives, etc. are NOT going to fix this problem. But you can if you view this as an opportunity to be faster, better, smarter, and OFFER A GREAT ENTERTAINMENT EXPERIENCE.
Because if it is not great and I can live without you or get it less expensively somewhere else, guess what happens to you? "Bye, bye, Miss American Pie!"
Do something different than cutting prices. A couple of ideas:
- Train your employees to deliver great service. Yeah, yeah you may think you do this, but do you do it with every new employee; or every month; and do you make this a VALUE that your center must ALWAYS uphold?
- Make sure your center is clean, clean and clean. Outside where the cigarette butts are, lights that are out in the parking lot, or corners in the bathrooms that haven't been cleaned for years.
- Build relationships with your customers via Facebook, emails, etc. that prove to them that you are concerned. "Here's some suggestions about kids' Halloween safety, health tips, where to get flu shots, spending for vacations and fun." And oh yes, add some coupons for "family entertainment savings."
- Ask your league bowlers for company party referrals and reward them.
- Go visit the businesses in town YOURSELF, build relationships with them and invite them in for free parties (on those nights where you are trying to fill holes or build open play).
So stop trying to treat this recession like the others.