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Gravity sees potential for 10 to 15 more sites in the UK, according to co-founder Michael Harrison. 

Established in 2014, the active entertainment business currently operates 20 sites across its Gravity Active, Gravity Social and Gravity Max concepts, the latter of which host experiences such as digital darts, e-sport, karaoke, and street golf, alongside a line-up of F&B vendors. 

Domestically, Harrison tells MCA there there is still substantial room for growth, with four sites designed and “ready to go” in the UK, and the next two set to pop up in Cardiff and an, as yet unamed, northern city.

He says the brand would also like to “have a crack at America”, through corporately-owned expansion. Elsewhere, it is eyeing several international markets for franchising opportunities, and has recently signed a three-site deal in Morocco.

“We’re getting a lot of interest now internationally, for us to franchise. We’re already in Saudi, and Mauritius and the brand is absolutely trading its socks off over there.”

The opening of Gravity’s latest site in Westfield Stratford City, its fourth under the Gravity Max concept, was a “learning curve,” he adds. 

Michael Harrison_Co-Founder & Chief Growth Officer at Gravity

“We budgeted and priced for that location prior to the war in Ukraine, so budgets were stretched, and it was a tough build,” Harrison explained.

Despite opening in a challenging period, the site has exceeded expectations. “We have opened probably in the worst period you could open an indoor leisure attraction in May and it’s absolutely knocking the socks off – it’s trading extremely well.”

“The great thing since our Liverpool ONE site has opened is the exposure we’re now getting, so the exposure from Westfield could be next level.”

A significant part of Gravity’s growth strategy revolves around the large-scale Max concept, which targets families during the day and transitions to a young adult and corporate focus in the evening.

“A 220,000 square foot leisure box isn’t really something that exists; you have the likes of Hollywood Bowl which are obviously much smaller units. And then you have these huge theme parks. But space in the middle is so underutilised,” Harrison explains. 

Additionally, “From a revenue point of view, we can expect probably eight times the revenue in a Max than we do an Active,”

“Gravity Max is a 365-day trading beast, and there is a real art to creating a fun, friendly environment for family during the day and growing into the evening with live music, darker lights and a bit more edge.

Despite this focus, Gravity Active - which caters to 4-12 year olds with trampolines and indoor climbing, remains a strong segment, with several new sites currently under consideration.

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Innovation remains at the heart of Gravity’s strategy and Harrison spends much of his time scouting for new attractions to keep the offering fresh.

The new Westfield Stratford City site includes 12 immersive experiences, over 60 individual games, and e-karting tracks.

From a business model perspective, this approach spreads the risk. “Who knows if darts might become unfashionable at some point, but having 16 to 20 attractions under one roof, we can pull one of these attractions out, put a new one in, and remarket and relaunch a new attraction.”

Currently, the business is working to introduce a new experience, which Harrison describes as “like a real-life Call of Duty.”

Partnerships with major brands are also a key element of Gravity’s strategy. “We hit all the spots when it comes to the demographic that these large companies want to market to. We sell fun and there’s a lot of big brands that are starting to see the value in that.” A bar offering, in partnership with Heineken, and the Coca-Cola experience, featuring themed golf holes and drinks, are prime examples.

“Working with well-known brands is something we’re looking to do moving forward. It’s about having those brands that get excited about what we do.

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When it comes to food and drink, Gravity aims to complement rather than compete with local offerings. “What I don’t want to be is a company that takes away from what’s around us - which is good retail and f&b,” Harrison explained. He envisions partnering with more local restaurants to deliver their food into Gravity’s units via an app, effectively extending the size of their restaurants and keeping customers engaged longer.

“We really do regenerate an area of a city. For example, Liverpool ONE has a huge shift in nearby footfall since we’ve opened, and since then, Flight Club are now opening next door.”

Harrison has observed a shift in the perception of leisure units like Gravity. “Interestingly, the Westfield site which just opened was created for a unit like Gravity. We have gone from being a solution-based company and solving a problem for the landlord, to landlords now really understanding the advantages of having an anchor leisure tenant. 

“We are now what the cinema was years ago, we can drag people in and extend the trading hours of a location or centre.”