Shopping Center Business

MAY 2015

Shopping Center Business is the leading monthly business magazine for the retail real estate industry.

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96 • SHOPPING CENTER BUSINESS • MAY 2015 R E T A I L R E V I E W Susan Fishman The iFLY indoor skydiving experience is taking off in top-tier shopping destinations worldwide. Experiential Retail Takes Flight At iFLY S hopping center developers and owners are recognizing the need to move toward entertainment and experiential retail to lure customers away from their couches and back out to the streets. And there's one highly popular concept that offers an experience like no other. iFLY is a unique offering that gives the rush of freefall skydiving without having to jump from an airplane. A state-of-the-art vertical wind tunnel creates a cushion of wall-to-wall air that allows people to float, simulating the experience of skydiving without the risk. "It's the most unique, exciting new con- cept in the marketplace, globally as well as domestically in North America, says iFLY's Director of Development Patrick Framel. Founded by Alan Metni, a world- champion skydiver, iFLY is the experien- tial entertainment company that created modern indoor skydiving and the clear market leader with 70 percent global mar- ket share, 34 patents and 13 trademarks covering 100 countries. The company designs, fabricates, installs, operates, sells and franchises the wind tunnels, which were originally used both in military appli- cations (for parachute and freefall simula- tion training) and for enthusiast skydivers to practice freefall techniques. Almost all of the senior executives are flying enthu- siasts who understand the idea of flight. Today, roughly 10 to 15 percent of iFLY's business is traditional military or skydiving use, while the rest of the cus- tomer base is the average consumer eager for the thrill of flying. "Mankind has always wanted to fly like the birds," says Chris Miller, director of marketing. "As vertical wind tunnel tech- nology became more accessible to the masses, it was clear that indoor skydiving is an incredible experience for everyone." More than 8 million people from around the world have experienced this high-end flying experience with flyers ranging in age from 3 to 103. The expe- rience, which typically runs about an hour and a half, is highly interactive, starting with classroom training with a certified flight instructor. Flyers then gear up in flight suits, similar to those used by ac- tual skydivers and take turns in the flight chamber, flying one-on-one with their in- structor who helps correct body position and inspire confidence throughout the flight. The airflow is wall-to-wall, making it impossible for a person to fall and safe for all ages, even those with disabilities. The trained instructors are able to provide support to those missing limbs or guide deaf and blind flyers through the experi- ence using alternative techniques. While the majority of shopping center customers are families, iFLY also caters to groups, offering a large conference room and teambuilding opportunities for corporate events. Children can have a birthday party or experience iFLY's STEM-certified education program, which offers an "interactive classroom" for school math and science field trips. STEM-focused curriculum on principals of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math are taught by certified instructors, and is available for grades 2 to 12. iFLY is a high-end experience (the av- erage ticket price is $50 per person, and it's about a $250 experience for families including extras like merchandise, and video and photo packages), so the cus- tomer base is middle to upper-middle in- come. iFLY's retail building is integrated with the technology that makes flight pos- sible. Because of these structural require- ments, the company prefers pad sites in existing retail nodes. The typical building is a 6,000-square-foot footprint requiring approximately an acre of land and around 40 parking spaces. "In most cases, we're not willing to go in and modify an existing building," notes Framel. "We have a few interior mall lo- cations, in Paris and Dubai, but we're not really pushing that model forward. It's highly complex to develop within an existing space." There are currently 36 locations across the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom and Asia, with a goal of opening 12 new, company-owned facilities internationally per year. Locations outside the U.S. fall iFly creates a unique simulation of freefall skydiving in an enclosed atmosphere.

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