I pressed him on U.S. expansion, and he said that the company had no plans for a new U.S. park. As for the persistent rumor about a Six Flags Florida, he said that the Florida market was always something for Six Flags to consider, but that he had no plans for it.
But in terms of customer service, I'm not sure which is worse: SFStL or SF America. (The place I've noticed the biggest change is SF Kentucky Kingdom. In fact that manager watches the coaster forums and responds to suggestions. I, among others, have showered him with praise for a well run park.) Here's an idea Mark: move him to SFStL and let him fix that!
One more comment: I really liked Shaprio's down-to-earth communication. Saying the Texas Giant needed "some love", now that is definitely not something a big time exec is usually going to say! I think he really wants to improve the brand and make Six Flags a better, more family friendly experience. I am willing to give the man some time, and appreciate his honesty and candor.
Nice job, Robert!
That's the Six Flags advantage that they can exploit heavily this year. Orlando trips are expensive, people are staying close to home this year, and are on a budget. Market the crap out of those three facts in one form or another along with a positive spin on Six Flags. There is huge potential for them to get some market share this year.
Now I am only speaking about SFGA, but I am curious if it is at the other parks as well. SFGA honestly seemed to do very well last season. In fact, they have a new attraction being built on a sizable footprint and unveiled a new roller coaster last year (no matter how bad it was). It was also $35 to enter through the gate without a discount from Coke Cans or Jewel (which makes it cheaper). I paid 70 last year for my Season Pass, 60 this year (got it early!)What about you out there?
Look, Shapiro's a CEO. His job is to be upbeat about every aspect of the organization. I wish I'd better audio quality with my recording so I could have posted the complete interview for everyone to hear. There's interesting stuff if you note the details between proclamations.
He said that improving the parks was an at least three year project. This is the start of year three. Will every park in the chain see improvements by the end of this year? You'll be able to tell us.
He didn't rule out formal bankruptcy, and if creditors don't deal, Six Flags won't have a choice. He really ripped on Premier Parks for destroying value in the company before Dan Snyder's team arrived. They truly do understand how badly the Six Flags value has been trashed.
I found interesting the statement that Six Flags doesn't compete with Disney. Of course it does. It's not a direct competition, a la Universal Orlando vs. Walt Disney World, but all out-of-home, all-day entertainment competes with each other, whether it be theme parks, a day skiiing or going to a NASCAR race. What Six Flags is trying to do is to position itself as a different type of family get-away than Disney offers.
In essence, Six Flags is trying to turn back the clock to the days before Disney redefined a theme park visit as a week-long vacation. Given Disney's success in doing that, Six Flags is going to need to do some significant promotion to reestablish the one-day family theme park trip as a priority for the public. (Instead of the one-day visit being what a gaggle of teen-agers does.) That you offer the alternative isn't enough. You've got to convince the public that your alternative is a worthy one.
This isn't just the topic for an advertising campaign, though a more aggressive one will be required. It demands a complete marketing campaign, including efforts to reach out via websites and other publications to model one-day and weekend visitation plans for families, so people can envision what a fun, engaging and worthy Six Flags visit looks like. Disney's did that with the week-long model, but it took years.
And, FWIW, I loved the dig at Disney over the whole Disney merchandise fetish. I know, Disney's laughing all the way to bank on that one, but the extent to which people will blow money on Disney stuff amazes me, and I think Shapiro's spot on in identifying that some families want to avoid getting caught on *that* ride.
And speaking of the Disney merch. dig, he has not leg to stand on since Disney has started to put some of their stuff in his park stores. The one thing I do not like is Six Flags selling off parts of the parks to Disney, Home Depot, and Geico, especially Geico. SFGA is sometimes like a giant Geico commercial.
Oh and more kiddie rides I think is needed for them too!
Though I, too, think that they are a competitor of Disney. They are both major amusement chains.