Never miss a Bowling discount code!
Get exclusive offers straight to your inbox
Get exclusive offers straight to your inbox
Bowling as a leisure activity has seen great shifts over time, moving from an affordable and considerably working class sport linked with community leagues and local teams, to something which is, in a modern setting, offered as a high end luxury on top of a venue booking or hospitality package. A lot of this has to do with the way that bowling as an activity is now approached by consumers compared with how it used to be regarded, with bowling leagues once dominating the use of community bowling alleys, whereas today bowling alleys are much more likely to be associated with luxury hobbies and leisure activities.
For those consumers looking at the monetary success of the bowling industry, it seems from a surface level as if bowling is on a downward slope - with alleys across the world closing down and being repurposed as large shopping outlets and other leisure spaces. However, does that mean that bowling is losing its place within the leisure industry?
For one thing, the bowling alley is no longer a destination built solely for bowling, with the most successful providers being those who adapt and adjust their position within the leisure industry in line with the growing demand for more choice. Adding restaurants, bars, gaming arcades and other leisure activities to create leisure complexes is one of the main ways that bowling alleys can and are solidifying their position on the modern market; creating package entry passes and tickets which give consumers access to a wider range of things to do and thus increasing the value of a single entry ticket beyond the bowling itself and into other areas. Another way that providers are adjusting their position within the leisure industry is by enhancing the quality of experience of a bowling alley, and tying it to a high end and more luxurious setting – with popular examples being the rise in bowling alleys which are built into top level event spaces and can be hired out as part of a corporate events package or a private event for an extra fee; drawing on the concept of bowling as an unexpected leisure activity which can add a little extra something to an event or occasion.
For many consumers, we assume that the rise in the bowling industry started with ten pin bowling - a sport played on a flat field or surface using a simple bowling ball and ten standing pins. However when you look back over the history of the sport, it becomes clear that bowling has never had a precise number of pins to its name – in fact, evidence supports games with as few as 3 pins and as many as 17 pins. It all depended on who was playing and where they were playing.
In the last 100 years, bowling pins have been discovered in the graves of those who lived during the Ancient Egyptian times – meaning that bowling predates not only a huge majority of other sports and activities, but also the leisure industry as a whole. As with so many other leisure activities at the time, history tells us that bowling was banned at various points through history so as not to distract the training of soldiers before and during various wars, however for the most part bowling has long been a sport and activity which can be enjoyed by consumers of all ages rather than just the wealthy.
From the 20th century onwards, bowling saw a resurgence which made it the popular team and community sport it has been in recent years. After the prohibition of the 1930’s was brought to an end, beer companies and manufacturers started to sponsor local teams and league contests to draw consumers into leisure spaces where they could try their hand at bowling and drink large quantities of beer; meanwhile in 1950 bowling saw yet another boost in popularity with the early televisation of a championship bowling game on NBC.
From there, bowling has seen a bumpy road to where it is today, however the most notable thing about its evolution is how it has moved from a leisure activity played by working class and often drinking individuals in pubs and taverns, to something which can be enjoyed by families of all ages and something which enjoys a particular marketing drive as the ideal party for a child’s birthday.
The beauty of bowling is its appeal to a family market, with bowling alleys around the world investing in developments and alley updates which are designed to make the process of bowling more enjoyable for different age groups and to create more of a complete experience for the captive consumer audience. In action, this means bowling line barriers which stop the ball from falling into the gutters, frames which make the process of bowling itself easier for those who find the bowling action more challenging, and the provision of different weighted bowling balls which enable the consumer to select the weight based on their own upper body strength. It also means finding ways of creating a complete experience within the confines of the bowling alley in order to drive more income and profits, with some of the best ideas including upscale food and drink offerings, targeted leisure activities for both the older and younger audience, and the basic provision of an atmosphere and setting which feels safe for all age groups and which is attractive and enjoyable enough to host a party or spend an evening in.
Much of the progression of the bowling industry comes from the development of community and professional leagues, taking the popularity of leisure activities like boules and golf and creating the same kind of player league which pits local teams against each other. This is widely prominent across the USA in particular, though it is on a downward slope in terms of popularity and so providers are having to find new ways of sourcing the same consistent income which was previously provided by the fees from regular leagues players and community teams.
However, one thing which is slowing the growth of the bowling industry is the obstacles it faces in terms of raising the prominence of bowling as an enjoyable and relevant activity for a modern audience. Many adult consumers remember bowling as it was when they were young – and are aware that as a leisure activity in and of itself, it hasn’t really changed in its years of history. What this means is that despite the rise in technology elevating the experience in terms of convenience and ease, and despite centres and alleys taking on new concepts and leisure entertainment ideas in order to broaden their consumer offering, the basic game hasn’t changed at all and so it is seen by many as outdated and not something which their modern family will enjoy.
The rise in technology and electronics has played a big part in developing the bowling industry for the modern captive audience, primarily because it automises the counting of knocked pins and channels the results of every bowl through to the participants on a small television - eradicating the need for consumers to manually count how many pins they knocked over. It is technology and mechanics which informs the players of whose turn is next, which calculates the points they are owed after each bowl, and which ultimately declares the winner – providing an extra robotic player who essentially acts as the commentator and neutral judge.
Another job which has been automated with the rise in technology is the role of the pinboy, whose responsibility it was to walk onto the alley and pick up the fallen pins at the end of each bowling round. An often dangerous job, the value of this as a job was outweighed when mechanical pinsetters were designed in 1936, before becoming commercial in the 1950’s.
To look at the major trends in the bowling industry it is important to note not just the challenges which face the industry but also the strides that have been made in recent years and further back in history, in terms of elevating the consumer experience and making bowling a leisure activity to be enjoyed by the widest breadth of individuals. As well as the automation of various procedures to do with the art of playing and taking part, another area of development which has made bowling a much more approachable sport for a broader audience has been the rise in different styles and types of bowling ball, moving from the heavy rounded stones of the early days of bowling, through to the modern bowling balls of today which are manufactured according to weight regulations set by the bowling authority, and which are coated in a finishing resin designed to help the ball slide down the alley without losing the grip needed to keep the ball moving down the correct lane.
Another trend in the bowling industry which has changed the way in which alleys themselves operate is the creation and maintenance of the lanes themselves, moving from the earliest days of polished wood to more synthetic materials which are both cheaper to make and cheaper to maintain. These changes in the build and finish of bowling balls and bowling lanes meant that over time, the bowling industry was able to expand into becoming a more competitive leisure activity where bowlers had more control over the ball, and where tactics and strategies were able to become more of a prominent part of the sport.
One of the best ways for the bowling industry as a whole to adapt its offering and create a consistent level of popularity amid modern trends and demands, is for the industry to research and understand its existing core target audience – millennials and those with young families, who see bowling as a way to fill time in a fun and entertaining way. With bowling becoming more of an affordable leisure activity in line with various vouchers and deals which are making the sport enticing for family groups and groups of friends, it seems as though the future success of the industry rests on the ways in which the top industry providers adapt their complete offerings to make the concept of bowling and a visit to the bowling alley more of a full day experience rather than a single activity. Families in particular are looking for ways to fill full days over the holidays, and so the more the provider can do to widen their offering and appeal to a broader demographic, the better placed they will be to drum up and drive more success. Some of the top names in the industry who are doing this to great success include:
As well as these big names in the industry, major cities are also host to a whole array of standalone lanes which offer tailored and unique experiences, including the Ham Yard Hotel which hires its bowling alley out as part of a high end event venue, and Rowans Bowl which ties the provision of bowling in with other arcade games and entertainment activities like karaoke and arcade games.
When it comes to the bowling industry as a whole, the future success of the industry and its demand among consumers rests on the creation of entire experiences which pool together more than just a bowling alley. For consumers who are looking for a way to fill leisure time, bowling combined with decent food and drink and other activities for different age groups to enjoy is an excellent all-inclusive experience; with many able to benefit from a range of different offers and deals which are presented and marketed by experience day sites, third party event bookers, and bowling alleys themselves. The trends taking over the bowling industry all serve to increase and enhance consumer experience more than anything else, while the figures and stats facing the industry indicate that demand is changing in terms of demographic and that adapting is key to ensuring that bowling remains relevant to a young and modern audience.
Enter your email address below and we’ll be in touch with the latest deals and discount codes for