Dream & Consider
Jürgen Ettinger, ELI Play Slovakia s.r.o., on the differences between Eastern and Western Europe
"Kids determine where mom does the shopping”
Is a Russian customer very different from a French customer? How about kids in Slovakia; do they actually like to use other climbing equipment and games than kids from Western European countries like Belgium or Germany? Eight statements for Austrian Jürgen Ettinger, Director of ELI Play in Slovakia.
1. If you live in Austria and work in Slovakia, you are actually too busy.
"Well, it sure is busy. I still live in Austria and came to Bratislava in 2006 to set up the subsidiary ELI Play - ELI Play Slovakia s.r.o. - I commute between Austria and Slovakia and spend the weekends with my wife and two kids, which has been fine for many years, so don’t worry!”
2. Hard work is fine, as long as you have fun.
"And I do. My job is about fun. What more do you want? I am 36 now and started when I was 12. I grew up in a farm with many machines and soon built my first sandpit, slide and swing. Then my career started. I actually do the same work now although I don’t develop the equipment. I'm in charge of sales in Eastern Europe and I’m responsible for installing playgrounds worldwide, together with a colleague.”
3. Eastern European indoor entertainment is positively influenced by the west.
"It is certainly true that this market has come over from the west. Eastern European operators are now realising the huge potential for entertainment and leisure. This phenomenon is usually combined with shopping here. For this reason, most playgrounds are part of a shopping mall. This is a big difference compared to the western markets, where the equipment is usually located in entertainment centres. Here the woman goes shopping and the man stays with the kids in the playground. They worked all week and like to spend their time having fun with the kids while the woman spends the money. This is a somewhat unfair way to explain it.”
4. Russian entrepreneurs have a unique approach of the indoor entertainment market.
"They only look for one thing: a unique experience that attracts more customers to their mall. That is the key to success. Every shopping mall needs something unique to attract customers. It’s no surprise that kids are usually in charge on days off. They say where they want to go and the adults follow their lead because they want to do their shopping peacefully.”
5. ELI Play offers a broad spectrum; it not only offers equipment but also the latest 3D animations. The Eastern European market warmly welcomes these innovations.
"Oh, the business people and their guests are definitely quite ready for these innovations: there so many opportunities for new possibilities here. At the moment, the trend is moving towards 3D theming: by using the 3D models, play elements and play facilities get a three-dimensional addition to a story line. We are currently very busy implementing interactive and virtual games next to our regular games, Trampoline Parks and our Ninja Track Sector. "
6. Kids are kids. Whether they come from Amsterdam or Bratislava.
"They’re the same everywhere, they all want to enjoy their free time and they all want to move and have fun, all around the world. The only difference is the implementation model. For example, the rent of real estate in Bratislava is even higher than in Western European cities like Amsterdam, Brussels or Paris. The business model in the centres therefore needs to be adjusted to an hourly entrance fee rather than per day, as is customary in the Netherlands and Germany. Otherwise many people won’t come.”
7. The west can learn a lot from the east.
"The Eastern European market is of course a much younger market, so Eastern Europeans usually choose the best of the west when they have the money. We have been making the same kinds of playgrounds in large halls for 20 years, but this is not the case in the east. There, a space measures only 200 to 300 square metres and the entrepreneur wants to make the most of it. If you take a closer look at the Russian market, the concept is very different. If there is a budget, they even include spectacular attractions such as rollercoasters. The west can learn from how fast progress is going in the east and how efficiently they deal with this and focus all attention on the uniqueness. The east develops ‘our’ concept quickly and innovatively. In the west, entrepreneurs are more conservative in nature."
8. Finally, you started in 2006 and survived the crisis, which may be called a miracle.
"Not a miracle, because the ELI Play playgrounds, trampoline and sports parks are safe investments for entrepreneurs who step in. Between 2008 and 2010, all projects continued to run very well, even better than before. During the crisis, consumers no longer flew to the Caribbean for a vacation with their entire family; they stayed home more often and enjoyed small highlights like a visit to a playground. This is therefore a really safe business model for our customers, whether there is a crisis or not.”