Is Luda high street bingo experiment failing the litmus test?

Is Luda high street bingo experiment failing the litmus test?

Monday, August 20, 2018 Posted by Luke Massey
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Venues in Walsall, Weston-super-Mare and Leeds were launched last year

Rank Group’s Mecca bingo brand has had a disappointing response to its experimental high street gaming venues which opened for business last year.

Three of the Luda venues were launched in Walsall, Weston-super-Mare and Leeds, but have not lived up to anticipations.

Their performance to date has been below management’s expectations said Rank. Consequently, all three venues have been impaired, resulting in an exceptional cost of £2.1m. It added that they are now under review to improve returns, with modifications underway to create a better offer more suited to their individual local market.

Designed to attract a different demographic than stable mate Mecca, bingo and slot concept Luda aims to deliver a more contemporary bingo experience, one that brings a coffee shop demeanour to the old, established genre.

At the time of launch, Luda MD Alan Morgan predicted: “We’re confident that the new brand will appeal to a wide range of consumers, from groups of friends on a night out looking for a fun time or those seeking to take time out to recharge their batteries. Luda offers a sociable place to meet, play, try new games, have a bite to eat and relax. Our aim is to develop the concept and create a chain of venues across the UK.”

News of Luda’s less than glowing market reception was packaged up in Rank Group’s recent full year results for the 12 months ended June 30 2018. They paint a challenging picture for the firm’s Mecca bingo operations which saw like-for-like revenue fall by 2.4 per cent. Rank claimed, however, that Mecca’s performance was above expectations as a result of good cost control.

In his chief executive’s review, John Reilly stated: "Falling customer visits driven by the ongoing market trend were worsened by the widespread adverse weather in Q3 and Q4. Total revenue for the year fell by 2.6% with two clubs closed in the comparable period. Strong cost discipline led to a 1.9% fall in operating costs in the year despite increases from National Living Wage, however the fall in revenue led to a 4.3% decline in operating profit.

Totally Gaming says: When it comes to bingo, damned if you do and damned if you don’t (modernise that is). Over the years we have seen all kinds of variations on the theme, but essentially it remains a traditional numbers game with an antiquated image that’s proving hard to shake off. Rank’s move to re-imagine bingo for the high street is a brave one, but has yet to be embraced by its target audience. Can it be done? Well a glance over at the automotive world, specifically Skoda, shows that the impossible is possible if you can get it right.

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