Blog post

Competitive Socialising: a new concept on an old theme

According to national surveys, overall average household expenditure on alcoholic drinks has decreased over the last 10 years and there has been a fall in the percentage of adults drinking alcohol since 2005. Dr Sarah Rawlinson, Head of Centre for Contemporary Hospitality and Tourism, investigates a new trend which could explain the changes in the ways in which we socialise.

By Sarah Rawlinson - 9 October 2019

Time to play

Competitive Socialising is a new leisure concept on an old theme that is fuelling growth in the night time economy and providing an answer to vacant premises on our high streets in the UK.

It is the term used for bringing people together in a social environment to play a game. Examples include 'against-the-clock experiences', such as escape rooms and leisure venues offering mini-golf, bowling, karaoke, jingo bingo, (like bingo, except players cover pictures that answer trivia questions instead of calling-out numbers), virtual reality (VR) and gaming.

Playing games as a social activity is not new. People have been going to their local pub to play darts, pool and dominoes, or to the local bowling alley for decades. It is not new, but changing consumer trends and advances in technology are fuelling this trend. Consumers are spending less on physical products and more on creating memorable experiences that they share on social media. According to Deloitte the growth in consumer spending was reflected in the growing demand in the leisure sector and more varied experiences on offer. Their research showed that 36% of 18-34 year old consumers said they would treat themselves to experiences instead of shopping for clothes or shoes. In 2017 spending on entertainment grew year-on-year by over 10% while spending on clothes only grew by 1.4% (Deloitte, 2019).

Sharable experiences

Advances in technology have brought about new gaming concepts such as VR and technology enhancing improvements to some traditional games. There has been a dramatic decline in the number of nightclubs and bars in the last decade - approximately one-third of nightclubs have closed in the past decade - and consumers are looking for other ways to socialise.

Consumers are seeking new and exciting experiences they can share with their friends in the moment and on social media. These new leisure venues bring together a variety of competitive socialising activities and enhance the offer with food and beverage options that extend the dwell time and increase spending. The food and beverage component (particularly the bar) is really important for most brands. Cocktails, craft beers and good food are a must. This new leisure experience is one reason why we are seeing a growth in the night-time economy.

Breathing new life into the high street

It's no wonder new leisure venues are springing up around the country taking advantage of empty retail units on the high street. They are increasing footfall in city centres, extending dwell time and supporting businesses in their vicinity. They also have the ability to keep pace with changing trends, which is good news for sustainability. They can reconfigure their business concept to diversify their offer, either through new food and beverage offerings or a range of different games and experiences which are likely to enhance their chance of success.

Competitive socialising is getting people away from their online computer games and going out socialising with friends. The new leisure venues are quickly becoming part of the retail real estate. The trends include theming of events and venues and sharing the experiences virtually with other groups in other locations. It seems that there are increasing possibilities for a safer, more diverse and interactive social scene on our high streets both day and night.

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About the author

Head of Centre for Contemporary Hospitality and Tourism

Sarah Rawlinson
Former Head of Centre for Contemporary Hospitality and Tourism

Sarah was responsible for the development and implementation of the Centre for Contemporary Hospitality and Tourism's research, teaching and learning strategies and student experience.