Theme parks expect new rides to boost merchandise sales

The Legoland Theme Park in San Diego County is preparing to launch its new attraction – an area featuring “Star Wars” movie scenes built with Lego bricks – to increase attendance this spring and summer.

But the attraction, which opens on Thursday, is also expected to boost profits with another major money generator for the park: souvenir sales.

Adjacent to the new Star Wars “miniland”, Carlsbad Park plans to open a store called Empire Emporium to sell hats, t-shirts and, of course, Lego kits to build spaceships and Star characters. Wars.

“We are definitely marketing more Lego products for the Star Wars attraction,” said Legoland spokesperson Julie Estrada.

Merchandise sales typically generate around 20% of theme park revenue, but this percentage increases when a park offers new souvenirs, clothing, and hats related to the opening of a new attraction or holiday celebration. according to theme park industry experts.

“Once a new attraction opens, they have a short period – one to two years – to take advantage of it,” said Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services Inc., a Cincinnati-based consulting firm. “They get immediate success, then the champagne effect as sales stagnate.”

As theme parks try to recover from the recession, many are looking for ways to increase their income without increasing admission prices. And with five of Southern California’s biggest theme parks planning to launch new attractions in the next year and a half, merchandise sales growth should help.

The Legoland Star Wars attraction will open first, followed in June by the Green Lantern roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain.

Also this summer, Disney’s California Adventure plans to open an indoor arena based on the 1989 film “The Little Mermaid”. Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park is also planning to launch a gondola ride dubbed the Windseeker before July 4. Universal Studios Hollywood plans to open a 3D ride next year based on the 2007 blockbuster “Transformers”.

With the opening of the new Knott’s Berry Farm ride, the park plans to sell new t-shirts, hats, coffee mugs, bracelets and key chains bearing the ride’s name.

“We have roller coaster enthusiasts and they love to collect this stuff,” said park spokesperson Jennifer Blazey.

In an effort to increase merchandise sales, some theme parks are also capitalizing on their legions of dedicated fans, like Al and Joyce Kessel from Anthem, Ariz., Who visit Disneyland four or five times a year.

Not only do the Kessel each have a premium annual pass to the park, priced at around $ 460 per person, but over the past three years, they’ve also amassed around 600 Disney collectible pins, which sell for between 9 $ and $ 11 each.

“We don’t do a lot of other things with our money,” said Al Kessel, who works as an administrator at Western International University in Phoenix. “We’re going to Disneyland because we know we’re going to splurge.”

Al Kessel said he buys Mickey Mouse ears and his wife adores Disney-themed Dooney & Bourke handbags. “It’s just a hobby for us that we love to do,” he said.

The surge in merchandise sales can be dramatic, especially if new attractions celebrate a popular TV or movie character.

When Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida opened its Wizarding World of Harry Potter attraction last June, park attendance jumped 36% and merchandise revenue doubled from a year ago to 48.7 million dollars for the three months ended Sept. 26, according to a report filed by Universal City Development Partners, which owns and operates the theme park.

Harry Potter attraction merchandise includes souvenir magic wands, Slytherin scarves, Dumbledore mugs and Voldemort key chains, among other items based on the blockbuster movie series.

“The new rides and attractions provide a great opportunity to create fun and unique products that are complementary,” said Eileen Strotz, general manager of merchandising at Six Flags, who plans to offer new clothing, toys and collectibles with the opening of the new Green Lantern. Russian mountains.

Theme parks also capitalize on special holiday events.

During Halloween, Disneyland regularly unveils a collection of new items such as Mickey Mouse ears decorated with Frankenstein bolts, Tinker Bell costumes and lanterns, and candy decorated with Disney characters.

Sales of Halloween products at Disneyland jumped 20% between 2006 and 2009, said John Kirkham, director of operations for the resort’s merchandising. Halloween ranks behind Christmas only in merchandise sales, he added.

At Christmas, Universal Studios Hollywood decorates areas of the theme park to resemble Whoville from the 2000 movie “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” Across the park, shops sell fluffy Grinch hats and long-fingered Grinch gloves, among other Grinch-related memorabilia.

Even relaunching an existing ride can boost merchandise sales. Six Flags Magic Mountain recently relaunched its Superman roller coaster, rotating passenger seats so riders face rearward as they fly 415 feet in the air at 100 mph.

After riding the roller coaster, park visitors can load up on Superman hats, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and magnets. Park officials said the most popular souvenir might be the $ 10 Superman capes with a built-in electronic device that plays the theme song from the 1978 movie “Superman”.

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