The Play Providers Association

Looking to set up an FEC?

View of a member of the PPA

"Starting your own indoor play centre is a dream that only becomes reality for a small percentage of those who look to enter the industry. The most important thing for any potential operator, is to research the local market place in as much detail as is possible, taking into account local competition both direct and in-direct.


Be warned on the outside soft play centres look like a fabulous business. During school hols and wet weekends they look packed and everybody thinks the owners must be rolling in it! However the business is totally weather sensitive and when the sunshines nobody comes in, but the bills still have to be paid. During the week when the kids are in school, customers can be very limited and with social pressures many little ones are in day nurseries (have a look in yellow pages at how many day nurseries there are).  
Avoid being on out of town areas as you will get no walk in trade and there will be no buses, you can not assume everybody has a car. Parking is a massive issue and 50 spaces is a must - Usually 1 child needs 1 parking place.

"Play centres generally have large setup costs, low profitability and relatively poor returns on capital"

The overheads on these places have dramitcally increased eg minimum wage, business rates, utility bills, and insurance premiums all that you have no control over.

All of these pressures and then you are dealing with the general public - stressful at times and you can not please all the people all the time. Oh and by the way customers make a constant mess, blocked toilets, vomit etc !! I think you have the message its not gloss and what might be nice for customers isn't always healthy for the business.

Please get an independant study done on your business proposal, that looks at demographics, competition (and not just other soft play centres). Do not let the manufacturer give you this sort of advice or prepare your business plan as the want to sell you play equipment!

PS - It sounds like I am moaning but actually I succesfully run 3 playcentres and I think too many people are going into opening playcentres without knowing the whole truth, investing vast sums of money and many people are regretting doing it but are so tied up with the finance they can not walk away. (I get phone calls every week!!)

Play Providers Association, Rural Innovation Centre, Stoneleigh Park, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 2LG
Tel +44 (0)24 7641 4999 ::