Posted January 14, 2009, 9:25A | Contributed by Jeff

Cedar Fair (NYSE: FUN), a leader in regional amusement parks, water parks and active entertainment, today announced that attendance in 2008 at its eighteen locations totaled 22.7 million guests, up 3% from the Company’s total attendance of 22.1 million in 2007.

“We experienced increases in attendance at many of our parks during the fourth quarter, as strong fall promotions and a favorable calendar increased attendance 8%, or 205,000 visits, from the same quarter a year ago,” said Dick Kinzel, chairman, president and chief executive officer. “For the full year, on a regional basis, our northern region and southern region parks experienced a 3% and 8% increase in attendance, respectively. The northern region, which includes the standout performer for 2008, Canada’s Wonderland near Toronto, and our flagship park, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, entertained 12.8 million guests compared with 12.4 million guests in 2007. Our southern region parks entertained 4.4 million guests in 2008 compared with 4.1 million guests a year ago. Our western region parks hosted 5.5 million guests in 2008 versus 5.6 million guests in 2007, a 2% decrease. Meanwhile, preliminary results report average in-park guest per capita spending down approximately 1% between years.

Read the entire press release from Cedar Fair.

January 14, 2009, 9:32A

Jeff

Jeff's avatar

This really says to me that the admission pricing is perceived as a good value, but the stuff in the park is not. I truly believe that per cap spending could rise if it felt like you were getting more for your money. Five bucks for fries, that's not gonna sell me.


Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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January 14, 2009, 9:38A

wahoo skipper

Good observation Jeff. As a parent I would agree. You have to eat a meal or two in the park...but beyond that we really make a conscious decision not to "snack" and we are careful with our merchandise spending. Fortunately, I got my kids onto the penny presses so our souvenirs are downright cheap.

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January 14, 2009, 9:49A

rollergator

rollergator's avatar

I'm also forced to wonder how much people are put off from additional visits when the in-park pricing is so ridiculous. If they get a lower profit margin but a guest comes back, you get shots at additional admissions (even SP-holders often bring family and friends), plus you get a chance to charge again for parking, food, souvies all over again. Perhaps they'll look at the numbers and recognize where in-park spending is off-base....the 25-cent cotton candy was certainly IMO "fixing what wasn't borke". The real FOOD (i.e., meals) and beverages are where people will willingly shove an extra dollar or two across the counter, or even more if the quality is there, but when you're seriously profit-margin hungry AND the quality is less-than-warranted by the pricing, then people respond with fewer purchases....and maybe even fewer visits.


Huge shout-out to Seaside Heights for saving the antique "Moreland Carousel" - a Dentzel-Looff classic now saved twice AFTER Sandy passed.

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January 14, 2009, 10:29A

Zakkster

Park food has gotten so bad (price, quality and quantity) that last season we would leave the park to get lunch or dinner and then go back. Granted as an enthusiast our habits are a bit different with the number of times we visit etc, but if the food was good and reasonable we would spend our $ there. At CP, Famous Dave's is great and a good value (is it a CF owned franchise?), but in the park $20 for fries, chicken tenders and a pop is crazy!

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January 14, 2009, 10:43A

Jeff

Jeff's avatar

Famous Dave's is a park-owned franchise, and I'm still amazed that they've kept the pricing there as reasonable as they have. It and the Breakers Friday's tend to be about a buck or two higher per plate, but not to an unreasonable extent. Of course, the service at Friday's has reverted to awful, but Dave's still seems like a well-oiled machine. It's really the last place at that park I'll spend any money on food, unfortunately.


Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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January 14, 2009, 10:56A

Brian Noble

Against our better judgement we had breakfast in Breakwater Cafe during Halloweekends. My shoes almost came off, stuck to the floor, on the way to the buffet.

Ick.

I don't know why Foods is the red-headed stepchild, but it is.


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January 14, 2009, 11:09A

Pagoda Gift Shop

Pagoda Gift Shop's avatar

Congrats to Canada's Wonderland. Let's hope a new B&M at KI will kickstart things there in a similar manner.

I used to think August was always the worst month to visit a park to ride coasters, but more and more it's becoming October.

As for food, I still refuse to pay over $6 for a 6" sub at Subway.

Last edited by Pagoda Gift Shop, January 14, 2009, 11:09A

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January 14, 2009, 11:40A

Parker17

Well, this is great news for CF! Especially after the economic crisis.


RIDE ON!

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January 14, 2009, 12:33P

Ensign Smith

It will be interesting to see if FUN begins to moderate upward relative to the market. By all rights, it should.

This is surprisingly good information -- though I hope Kinzel and the board will see the writing on the wall for in-park pricing.


Now standing and operational: Chums of Coasterdom.
chumsofcdom.wordpress.com/

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January 14, 2009, 12:50P

Jeff

Jeff's avatar

After the economic crisis? I think things are going to still get worse before they get better, despite the Obaptimism.


Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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January 14, 2009, 1:30P

Ensign Smith

Well, it's true that most of the chain's attendance figures came before the bottom really dropped out of the market and economy in October, so that could definitely impact how 2009 unfolds for CF (and other parks).

It could be the difference between (2008) a family not being able to take a two-week trip to the Rockies but still able to take a day trip or two to the regional amusement park, and (2009) that same family eating out of dog food cans a la Mad Max while poking the dog with a stick for entertainment.


Now standing and operational: Chums of Coasterdom.
chumsofcdom.wordpress.com/

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January 14, 2009, 1:38P

Lord Gonchar

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Jeff said:
This really says to me that the admission pricing is perceived as a good value, but the stuff in the park is not.

Because that's pretty much how it is.

The gate is too low (good value) and the food is too high (poor value). :)

Normally, I'm all for the high in-park pricing, but given the self-fulfilling ecomomy woes (I still think enough people were told it was bad that it became bad) I'm not sure now is when you push the in-park thing.

I'm also not sure how they're going to lower prices when the prices of almost everything has gone up.

It's also not a good time to push Gonch's business model because even people who can spend are being told they can't...and shouldn't.

However, the fact that attendance went up is a good sign - those who say such things say the recession began a year ago and more people came to the parks in that time. Perhaps people see a day at the park as some sort of value?


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January 14, 2009, 2:10P

wahoo skipper

Obaptism. Funny stuff.

No doubt the economy is going to get worse before it gets better. And, a lot will ride on what Obama does with taxes. I make relatively good money and we are watching everything closely. Don't know how the average teacher is making ends meet right now.

If you have the choice of paying $250 for a Wii or $250 for a day at Cedar Point, more people are probably going to choose the Wii right now since the fun lasts more than one day.

But, that brings up the biggest ? I have. If the economy is so bad, how come Best Buy is packed EVERY SINGLE TIME I walk in there? I'm sure it is about priorities (or maxed out credit cards) but it just doesn't cease to amaze me.

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January 14, 2009, 2:28P

Lord Gonchar

Lord Gonchar's avatar

wahoo skipper said:
But, that brings up the biggest ? I have. If the economy is so bad, how come Best Buy is packed EVERY SINGLE TIME I walk in there? I'm sure it is about priorities (or maxed out credit cards) but it just doesn't cease to amaze me.

Exactly.


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January 14, 2009, 2:56P

Brian Noble

I'm also not sure how they're going to lower prices when the prices of almost everything has gone up.

I'm sure they won't. They believe they tried it at CP. They stopped doing it. They're not going to do it again.

There's an outside chance that the regional parks are going to escape. The season closed before the stock market collapse really percolated into the national zeitgeist. If consumer sentiment recovers by July 1, they're in business, 'cause that's when they do the bulk of their business.


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January 14, 2009, 3:13P

d_port_12E

wahoo skipper said:
Obaptism. Funny stuff.
But, that brings up the biggest ? I have. If the economy is so bad, how come Best Buy is packed EVERY SINGLE TIME I walk in there? I'm sure it is about priorities (or maxed out credit cards) but it just doesn't cease to amaze me.

Best Buy is definitely not doing well, here is an article regarding that:

http://www.telegram.com/article/20090111/NEWS/901110593/1002/RSS01&source=rss

Also, if the whole Cedar Fair "bad economy = good business" theory is correct, and the worst (economically speaking) is yet to come, shouldn't attendance rise even more in 2009???

Last edited by d_port_12E, January 14, 2009, 3:14P

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January 14, 2009, 4:54P

Jeff

Jeff's avatar

I go to Best Buy only if I want to see something before I buy it on Amazon.

The unemployment rate is not imaginary, and if credit resources continue to be tight, businesses can't pay people. If they can't pay people, the jobs go away. That's just the reality. There's nothing self-fulfilling about that. If people are cutting back on discretionary spending out of fear, that's probably a good plan. There aren't many businesses that are totally safe from what's going on.

I think the real question is whether or not we'll back off of our high level of consumerism and finally take saving money into our own hands. I certainly waited too long to do it, and now I feel behind. I suspect this is even more true for long-time blue collar America, as they watch pensions disappear. If you enjoy your lifestyle, you should be taking a hard look at how to preserve it in the long term.


Jeff - Webmaster/Editor - CoasterBuzz.com - My Blog - Twitter - Video

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January 14, 2009, 5:00P

RideMan

The whole economy thing is something you have to take with a grain of salt.

Yes, my retirement fund value dropped about $30,000 last year. But right now, that has no direct effect on me, except that it means that each month I get more units of the aggregate fund, which means if the unit value recovers to where it was a year ago, I'll come out *way* ahead when I retire.

Yes, I'm struggling a little. But that's directly attributable to my general dislike of debt and the fact that I took on about $2.5k of additional debt at a time when they were screaming on the news about how nobody could get credit (Huh? News to me...).

The real fact is, I am a lot better off today than I was two months ago. What changed? I'm not paying $4/gallon for gasoline. I have a job that pays me slightly more than I need to cover my expenses, and those expenses include visits to my favorite amusement parks.

In reality, *most* Americans are in that kind of situation. Many did irresponsible things and spend more than they earn, but the vast majority of people are not really hurting much if at all from this economic recession. The problem is that there is a non-trivial number of people who are hurting *really badly* because of this. People whose overindulgence can no longer be financed out of rapidly vanishing home equity. People whose jobs have evaporated. People who were trying to live on or retire on those stock funds that lost 50% of their face value.

Economic news comes to us on a macro level, giving us an aggregate picture of what is going on in the nation's economy. On a macro level, when you combine the people who are doing OK with the people who aren't doing OK, and it looks pretty bad. But break it down in a different way, and there are still some bright spots, and to the extent that many if not most of the people who visit places like Cedar Fair's parks can still afford to do so...they will!

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

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January 14, 2009, 5:59P

Lord Gonchar

Lord Gonchar's avatar

Brian Noble said:
I'm sure they won't. They believe they tried it at CP. They stopped doing it. They're not going to do it again.

Prety much what I was getting at, Brian. The in-park pricing isn't going to change.

Jeff said:
There's nothing self-fulfilling about that.

I think it's self-fulfilling in that people kept being told it would be bad and they stopped spending. No spending means businesses start to hurt. Begin vicious circle.

Yes, I'm arrogant enough to believe that most people have changed habits not based on need but based on fear...and I don't buy that as the answer. I think it was the start of the problem.

RideMan said:
Yes, I'm struggling a little. But that's directly attributable to my general dislike of debt and the fact that I took on about $2.5k of additional debt at a time when they were screaming on the news about how nobody could get credit (Huh? News to me...).

The real fact is, I am a lot better off today than I was two months ago. What changed? I'm not paying $4/gallon for gasoline. I have a job that pays me slightly more than I need to cover my expenses, and those expenses include visits to my favorite amusement parks.

In reality, *most* Americans are in that kind of situation.

See, I agree with this 100%. I have friends, acquaintances and family with incomes spanning the gamut from 'getting government assistance' to 'essentially what we call rich' and I don't know too many people who've seen much serious impact.

Hell, I totally believe that what 'problem' there currently is isn't a problem at all, but the 'correction' to the problem. This doesn't need fixed, this is the fix.

Then again, I'm the guy who just bought a house, so go figure. In what is supposedly the worst economic time in a while, my family has chosen to spend more than we ever have.

I've placed my bet. :)


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