Tenpin bowling on growth curve: Report gives expanding 'family sport' five years to the skittles of market maturity

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S love affair with tenpin bowling is set to continue growing over the next five years, according to an industry survey to be published next week.

The report by the Mintel market research group shows that there are now a record 200 bowling alleys in Britain, 60 more than in the 1960s when the industry was perceived to be in its heyday here.

Tenpin bowling in Britain now boasts an annual turnover of pounds 178m and has increased penetration among adults from 2 to 10 per cent since 1985. The report says the sport has made the biggest inroads among higher- income people aged 15-44 in the ABC1 socio-economic group.

However, with the expected decline in numbers of 15-24- year-olds over the next decade, the large leisure groups that have entered the field have had to look at recasting the sport's appeal. 'Operators have been trying to develop it as a family activity with other facilities like amusement machines, fast-food restaurants and video games,' Mintel says.

Among those investing heavily in these areas are Allied Leisure and First Leisure, both of which have 'Quasar' laser adventure games on the sites. Bass and Whitegate have also introduced laser games, and First Leisure is tesing a concept based on Channel 4's Crystal Maze game programme.

The report says that the distribution of bowling alleys is uneven across Britain. Scotland has 25 centres, while London and the South lag behind because of high development costs and a shortage of appropriate sites.

Concluding that the market will reach maturity after five years, Mintel also warns that operators need to make people more aware of their existence. 'Failure to do this means they will lose business and potential customers in their catchment area will remain unaware of their location'.

(Photograph omitted)