From the July/August issue of the Rinksider:

Partner with local schools to grow your customer base

Approximately 49.8 million students attended public elementary and secondary schools during the 2014-2015 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s back-to-school statistics. An additional 5 million students attended private schools.

In U.S. colleges and universities, 21 million students were enrolled in the fall of 2014. About 22% of the U.S. population enters into a classroom every year, and most of these students are between the ages of 5 and 30.

Statistics aside, what do these numbers have to do with roller skating?

“The key demographic at our skating rink is 8-28,” said Gary Wiser, general manager of Cache Valley Fun Park in Logan, Utah. “We want to make sure we are maintaining relationships with the kids, teens and adults that fall between this age range because they drive the majority of our sales.”

Chris Maganias, owner and operator of Astro Skate Family Fun Center’s four Florida locations, will tell anyone that building relationships with local schools is the most obvious and effective way to market to the key demographic. Establishing positive relationships with elementary and secondary school administrators and teachers, specifically, is a foolproof way to market to students’ parents in addition to the students themselves.

This is why Maganias knows their local schools’ principals, vice principals, teachers, and other faculty members by name, and hosts luncheons every few months to reinforce the relationship. Maganias recently went the extra mile and organized luncheons and free skating days for school food service workers and bookkeepers.

“Most people might think, ‘Why the bookkeepers?’” Maganias said. “Well, they’re the ones with the checks. I want to make as many people in the schools happy as I can. There is no better way to keep your reputation high and keep skaters coming through the front doors.”

A DJ employed by Astro Skate will be found working most school carnivals for the low price of $59. Maganias said this is close to free advertising and the schools love having music to complete their events at such a low cost. Though Maganias isn’t making immediate revenue by hosting luncheons and offering free services to schools, his actions get people talking and over time he has become increasingly popular in the communities and counties where his rinks are located.

Beyond building relationships with local elementary and secondary schools, the Cache Valley Fun Park gives a fair amount of attention to the faculty and students of Utah State University only a few miles away.

Wiser said they reach out to various recreational clubs at USU to draw them into the rink. In rural northern Utah, the university’s country swing club is wildly popular. The rink set up a country swing night on weekdays where the club is invited to use the rink floor free of charge. However, the 100 club members aren’t the only ones interested in dancing the night away. Between 400-550 college-age students pay to practice their moves on the rink floor a few nights per week.

The rink’s “Sk8y’s Night” is also popular among teenage and college-age students. A promotion often accompanies this night that allows skaters in for $5 including rentals. “It’s important to keep prices low for this age group to keep them coming in,” Wiser said. Promoting the country nights and theme nights has proved to add a substantial boost in revenue at times when the rink would most likely be slow.

Wiser hopes to work with USU in the future on adding a roller skating class as a possible elective.

While Wiser spends a fair amount of time marketing to college students, he spends just as much—if not more—time connecting with elementary and secondary schools.

“We are constantly reaching out to schools,” Wiser said. “We give schools activity passes that they can hand out to the kids for good behavior and good grades. In turn, the schools allow us to put posters up and pass out fliers. For instance, there are posters in all of the schools advertising our summer camp programs and each school passes out a couple hundred fliers for the kids to bring home.”

The Cache Valley Fun Center values helping kids stay active, which is why they sponsor a fitness program that is publicized at local schools every year. Of course, one of the ways to stay active is by roller skating. Field trips to the rink are then organized in connection to this program.

“Schools that haven’t been in for a while get paid-for visits and leave wanting to come back,” Wiser said. “I have a sales staff whose job is to build positive relationships within the center and make sure everyone is having a good time. It all comes down to revenue.”