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Bowling is a service whose appeal is in decline within the United States. Statistics indicate that over the past decade, bowling members have shrunk by close to 40%. In the late nineties, primary bowling league associations boasted of a 4.1 million membership status. However, at the end of the 2000s, these figures had reduced to a disappointing 2.6 million. Even the number of organizations that still provide the service has reduced dramatically. Now companies that do bowling businesses account for only 45% of the firms that operated in the hey days. Bowling became prominent in the 1960s following the invention of the pinsetter, which automatically realigned pins after clients aimed at them. This was a period in history when bowling tournaments were rampant, and consumers had a choice of 12,000 centers in which to practice. Companies made continual revenues because bowling competitors wanted to perfect their skills, so they visited bowling alleys at least once a week.
Currently, even the demographic description of the typical bowler has changed. In the 1990s, the number of frequent bowlers stood at 8.8 million. However, this number shrunk to 6 million at the end of the 2000s. Conversely, infrequent bowlers increased by 1 million. On average, only 2% of the American adult population will bowl on any given day. Additionally, the social, economic background of the average bowling consumer has changed. It was initially classified as a blue-collar activity. However, nowadays, it has become a recreational choice for white middle-class consumers. In 2010, estimates indicated that only 42% of bowlers made $75,000 while 25% made $100,000. It should be noted that middle-income earners represent 40% of the US population, while 56% of these individuals bowl. Children also account for a new demographic in this recreational activity. Participation rates for members of this demographic group now represent an 80% increase. The replacement of adult buyers with young consumers is sometimes a step downward, and an indication that the service is in decline.
Why the service is declining
A number of analysts assert that the bowling industry is suffering from this continued decline owing to the lack of revolutionary technological breakthroughs in the industry. The only major breakthrough that took place in this industry was the introduction of the pinsetter back in the 60s. Remaining companies have tried to introduce automated score trackers, but these inventions pale in comparison to others in recreation. Several other industries have been generating a lot of revenue because they are highly inventive. Organizations like Amazon, Apple, and Zara lead their competitors because they create breakthrough technologies. While it may not be fair to compare the bowling industry to tech-based firms like Amazon, one must realize that continual innovation is the means with which companies reinvent themselves; technology is the just the platform that they use. Unfortunately, companies in bowling have not embraced innovation, and this has made a number of them to lose followership.
Analysts also explain that bowling centers have failed to match their service offering with changing demographics. Studies indicate that the activity is no longer done for competitive purposes. Instead, people visit the centers for socialization and other recreational needs. Additionally, blue-collar players are no longer the key demographic. Therefore, bowling alleys that lack an upscale aura continue to go out of business. White-collar workers may not feel comfortable in these centers, so they may not show up. Additionally, since children are becoming an important part of the client base, businesses should have responded in kind by offering a family-friendly atmosphere. Several organizations have not adjusted accordingly. The overall result is declining membership.
Bowling alley companies have the opportunity to revamp their businesses by partnering with larger entertainment complexes. This strategy would dwell on making the activity more family-driven. It would have the capacity to attract consumers who would otherwise not have known about the sport without seeing it frequently. The companies would also generate revenue from the sale of beverages and other similar offerings. This strategy would involve the expansion of small businesses into bigger ones. Small units would need to identify entertainment complexes or arcades with space to accommodate them. Alternatively, one may think of such a strategy as a diversion from core activities. Instead of relying on a declining game for income generation, businesses can count on other elements of trade to regenerate revenue.
On the other hand, marketers in this industry can revamp their brands by changing their overall market segment to suit the needs of their demographics. They can change old-style settees, floors, and additional services to suit the upscale consumer. However, the key challenge with such a strategy is that companies have already lost key aspects of their target markets. Therefore, any alterations in the décor and overall outlook of bowling centers will only capitalize on the dwindling numbers of consumers. This will not be a way of expanding the market basket.
Finally, the organizations can reverse this declining trend by taking their business to countries in which bowling has relatively minimal competition. Countries in the developing world know surprisingly little about the activity, yet they have shown relatively high levels of interest in other western-based sports. Therefore, bowling-alley firms can take on an ambassadorial role by selling American culture to people who would appreciate it. It should be noted that such a strategy will lead to the expansion of the market base. In declining industries, it is better to think of strategies that create new market segments rather than fight for a smaller pool of clients. Overseas expansion is the means with which these companies can reverse continued decline in membership and participation.
Best foreign market to market the service
The best foreign market to launch this new service is Ghana (Mensah et. al. 2011). The West-African country is one of the most impressive economies in the continent. Additionally, it is politically stable and suitable for international investment. American bowling companies would do relatively well in this country because of the economy. The country has enjoyed stable economic management and sustainable poverty-reduction policies. Furthermore, the nation has plenty of natural resources that allow individuals to enjoy a relative degree of prosperity. Service –sector businesses are relatively developed in the country because they account for about half of the GDP. Bowling centers, which fall in this category, would be a welcome addition there.
Irrespective of these accomplishments, the country is still position 79 with regard to its purchasing power parity. 28.5% of people in this country live below the poverty line, and 11% of the population is unemployed. While such numbers are unimpressive to Americans, they are relatively remarkable in the continent. This country is ideal for foreign investment because investments account for 25.1% of the Gross domestic product. This means that the country is 52nd in world rankings. Ghana’s government now operates at a budget deficit of -5.9% (CIA, 2012). Inflation rates are relatively reasonable. Additionally, the country trades with China and Nigeria as the key partners. The US and India are the third and fourth most significant trading partners. Therefore, companies from the US would find substantial support from other organizations that have already done business in the nation.
Africa would be a suitable location for an American-based bowling business because of the relative degree of monopoly that it can enjoy in the market. When choosing to go global, a company needs to consider markets that have minimal competition and demand for the product. One must also look at the political and economic environment of the nation. With regard to a favorable competitive climate, Ghana passes the test. Its economy is satisfactory, especially in light of the fact that other African nations have been performing relatively poorly. It is an English-speaking nation that would accommodate American consumers readily. With regard to demand for the service, one must consider how other western-based recreational facilities have performed in Ghana.
Statistics indicate that Ghanaians are highly adaptive individuals. They take on new products and services and use them to serve their needs. The country is multicultural and has modernized quite rapidly. This implies that many of them are open to new ideas (Mensah et al. 2011). Globalization, immigration, and a high influx of foreign products have caused this trend. The open-minded nature of the population implies that the group would be willing to give the service a try. Statistics indicate that people in numerous African countries, including Ghana, think western products have a higher value. They often buy foreign-made products as a status symbol. Affluent Ghanaians are likely to use participation in bowling as a depiction of their comfortable lifestyle.
Product segmentation and position ideas
An American bowling company that relocates to Ghana should target affluent buyers. It is members of the middle and upper class that have the time and frame of mind to try out the recreational event. Therefore, the company can select affluent neighborhoods in parts of Accra – the capital. This will ensure that individuals can access the center conveniently. Marketing will target this group as it will make use of traffic and proximity to its service.
The organization should borrow new trends in bowling in order to succeed. It can achieve this by decorating bowling alleys in new ways. It is unlikely that the company will do well if it tries to use the 1960s, American approach. Since an affluent market will be targeted, then the company should focus on providing recreational services. The organization should promote bowling as a family event. Alleys should be located in entertainment centers. This approach stems from the fact that in the US, strict bowling alleys matched blue-collar followership while entertainment centers coincided with white-collar patronage. In line with the entertainment, the approach is the idea of foods and drinks within the recreational center.
People who come to bowl will not be satisfied with snack bars. Instead, owners will need to place restaurants and other eateries in the premises. Lighting within these facilities should also represent a new paradigm in bowling. The place needs to have attractive lighting that can meet the objective of a family-friendly center. Sophistication should be a key component of service sales (Mensah et al. 2011). The company should also allow for different levels of play. However, because bowling is mostly something that people learn with practice, then frequent access to the premises will be crucial. The center should be open every day of the week and available for long hours on weekends.
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It should be noted that a few bowling alleys exist in Ghana. One well-known center in Harbin Bowling. This is a computerized bowling center in which people can play the game on any day of the week. It is a Chinese investment, which explains why the center also has a Chinese restaurant within the premises. An American bowling company that enters this market should select a neighborhood that is as far away from Harbin as possible.
The key marketing strategy will be positioning. The organization will use the traffic in Arcade to win new clients. However, in order to ensure that new clients try it out, then it should select television and radio advertising as another strategy. Ghanaians in metropolitan locations are keen on finding new entertainment outlets. They often look for this information on television and radio. However, internet advertising will also be critical as a substantial portion of the affluent class use this avenue. Images of the facility in media outlets will sell the exclusivity and sophistication of the activity. Business owners should take images of the facility and display it on the selected media outlet. Affluent clientele is willing to transport themselves to distant locations if they are assured of having a good time.
CIA 2012, The world fact book: Ghana, CIA, Washington DC.
Mensah, E, Bahhouth, V & Ziemnowicz, C 2011, ‘Ethnocentrism and purchase decisions among Ghanaian consumers’, Journal of Applied Business and Economics, vol. 12 no. 4, pp. 20-29.