Innovation is key to stay ahead of the game

RetailME Bureau

Saudi Arabia-based Al Hokair Group has undertaken several innovative initiatives to add more flavour to the existing leisure and entertainment landscape in the region, especially in the family entertainment centre (FEC) segment.

Currently Al Hokair Group boasts a strong network of FEC locations, including its well-known brands such as Sparky’s, Sky Zone Trampoline Park and Snowy Forest. The group aims to further expand its offerings. “Five years ago, we had around 50-plus locations. The number has increased to well over 90 now,” said Mishal Al Hokair, deputy CEO & general manager of entertainment at Al Hokair Group. “We have taken our talents and products to fresh greenfield sites within Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East.”

In a bold step, the Al Hokair Group decided to move away from the traditional approach of only locating FECs in retail centres. The group created a standalone, resort-style FEC called Al Hokair Time. Following the success of the model, more venues now supplement the initial Riyadh location. These Al Hokair Time venues comprise of Sparky’s, Sky Zone Trampoline Park as well as Snowy Forest. Some food and beverage (F&B) brands have been added to the Al Hokair Time venues as well, creating an electrifying mix.

“We believe that FECs can now become destination resorts by themselves. Our strategy to open Al Hokair Time in 2017 has been a proven success. The traditional set-up of large air-conditioned environments with rides, games, children’s hairdresser, F&B and soft play has now been upstaged. Al Hokair Time has changed the game. Along with Sky Zone, Snowy Forest and Sparky’s it is a unique combination,” Al Hokair stated. Being one of the cinema licence holders in Saudi Arabia, the Al Hokair Group also plans to open cinemas within some of the Al Hokair Time locations.

Another step forward for the Al Hokair Group has been the launch of Sparky’s Virtual Reality (VR) Zone – in partnership with Immotion Group plc – within the existing facility at Mushrif Mall in Abu Dhabi in June 2019. Sparky’s VR Zone offers a range of fully-immersive VR and gaming experiences, along with cinema pods, motion simulators and wraparound sound. Chimpact is a new and exclusive addition in Sparky’s range of VR experiences. The group is now gearing up to launch Sparky’s VR Zones across Saudi Arabia.

Staying with Sparky’s, Al Hokair Group’s flagship entertainment brand, it is now planning to spread its wings further via the franchise route. “We launched the Sparky’s franchise business model at the 2018 IAAPA Expo in Orlando. Following the success of Sparky’s in the regional market, we strongly believe that the time is right to replicate the model in the global market,” Al Hokair emphasised. “We have an indoor play experience that dares to be different by design. It supports the view that the days of the shopping mall-based FECs are numbered.  It has pioneered a fresh approach to traditional family days out and location-based entertainment. Sparky’s has truly emerged as the biggest name in the region’s entertainment industry,” he concluded.