In This Issue

• News • Brexit bouncebackability • Sector attends Walsall meeting • Farming new customers • Is your offer inclusive enough? • Play policy gets an upgrade • Five minutes with… • Worm food’s way into children’s affections • The Pokémon opportunity • Meet the team • Hootz Man! • Secret Players • Take a break from it all • Chance to escape • Policy Watch

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Past Issues

Green light for sustainable sourcing

Sustainable sourcing has become a hot topic in just about every sector. Whatever the volume of goods you procure, you will be creating your very own carbon footprint. Matt Roper, founder of, recognised this and we ask him what lies behind his successful business...Read more

Jump Xtreme tastes success in Bolton

Not even six-months in from the opening of its first trampoline park in Bolton, one of the UK’s leading and most innovative operators Jump Xtreme is thriving. We catch up with director, Cliff Nicholls, to see how he’s getting on with his new venture...Read more

A world of opportunity

Soft Brick Company is known in the indoor-play and family-entertainment centre sphere for its high-quality bespoke offer and products with an educational twist, such as World of Play...Read more

Mad Lex, the Marathon Man

Morton Michel’s print and digital designer Lex Parkinson is running his first marathon in April, on behalf of Genetic Disorders UK. We asked him how the preparation is going...Read more

CAA rolls out accreditation

The Children’s Activities Association has begun to roll out the first independent accreditation for all children’s activities in the UK...Read more

Scallywags breaking records

It’s been 18 months since we last caught up with Jon Skelding and the two Scallywags sites he operates in the West Midlands...Read more

Embrace the first digitised generation

Love it or loathe it, we are in the digital age and its technology – hand-held, touchscreen and wearable – is all a part of your young customers’ lives...Read more

Turning Galaxy into a world beater

Celebrating 25 years in business this year is Galaxy Multi Rides. Now it is a multinational business with manufacturing and sales offices in Florida as well as Yorkshire...Read more

EYP – your stepping stone to success

EYP Direct is a recently launched supplier to the early years and primary sectors with the aim of becoming a truly one-stop shop to the sector...Read more

Dealing with Underinsurance

One of the questions that clients often raise with Morton Michel on our Indoor play account is the subject of underinsurance, writes commercial account handler David Williamson...Read more

Getting ready for auto-enrolment

From March 1, businesses with between 30 and 58 employees have had to comply with the new auto-enrolment pensions legislation; by June 1, those with fewer than 30 staff will be captured by the legislation... Read more

A story worth publishing

Having enjoyed careers in the media, Lorraine and Ian Kearney have built a soft-play business in the north west of England, underpinned by the philosophy that reinvestment drives future growth... Read more

Dunphy outlines industry outlook

As our news story on page 5 suggests, the family entertainment centre sector has started off 2015 on a much more positive footing than any other year since the financial downturn in 2008... Read more

Steers of a clown

James 'Jimbo' Sinclair started his first events company at 15 and is now the man behind Partyman World and its stable of branded play centres, party venues and nurseries that employs more than 300 people... Read more

Duncan’s 360° view on life in leisure

Duncan Phillips is managing director of 360 Play, a successful chain of indooroutdoor family entertainment centres designed to breathe new life into the softplay sector by offering children a physically, mentally and socially stimulating place to play... Read more

Mothercare at play with Jellybugs

When Indoor Play last talked to Paula Dixon at her Jellybugs indoor-play centre in Kingston-on-Thames at the beginning of 2013, Paula and her husband Gavin were talking of further expansion through franchising... Read more

Benjo has bags more to offer

It is more than a year since Indoor Play Magazine last spoke to Benjo Bags about its party-bag business. Now with a new ecommerce offering the company is branching out to provide tailored services to clients as well as a retail offer for the public... Read more

Fawad finds the fun factor

Fawad Munir and his family run two indoor-play venues in the north west – Yellow Sub in Liverpool and Play Factore just up the road in Manchester... Read more

A career in innovation

Phil Pickersgill, managing director of Innovative Leisure, talks to Tommy Leighton about his route into the play sector and his 25-year career in the industry... Read more

Once upon a time in the West Midlands

A response to an article 18 months ago in Indoor Play has led Jon Skelding’s Scallywags chain down a new path... Read more

Now local kids can play at Wembley

North-West London has a new indoor-play and family entertainment centre, sitting proudly in the shadow of the iconic Wembley Stadium and adjacent to the brand new retial and leisure complex that is the London Designer Outlet (LDO)... Read more

Half a century in insurance

Morton Michel is celebrating 50 years in insurance this year and while the majority of Indoor Play readers will know the firm as a friendly insurance provider to this sector, the roots of its success predate the indoor-play industry, and lie elsewhere in play and care for children... Read more

Robson strategises Scottish play

City of Edinburgh Council appointed a play champion at the end of 2013. Indoor Play catches up with Councillor Keith Robson to find out more... Read more

Tesco monkeys with in-store play areas

Tesco began a new foray into indoor play with the opening of two in-store play centres in November... Read more

Splash landing for Lemurs

When Lemur Landings opened at Tower Park in Poole, Dorset, in July 2012, it marked an expansion for a business previously involved with wet, rather than dry, fun... Read more

360imagery adds virtual perspective

360imagery is one of the leading virtual tour providers in the UK, set up by Stuart Thorp back in 2007. He talks to Tommy Leighton about the company and its work in the indoor play sector and beyond... Read more

Music Bugs launches new nursery rhyme celebration

Music Bugs, the provider of sensory music and singing classes for under fives, is launching National Nursery Rhyme Week in November. We talked to founder Claire Bennett to find out more about the week and how indoor play centres can get involved... Read more

SEGA spots soft opportunity

SEGA is world-renowned for its hugely successful arcade video games. However, fundamental changes in that sector around the world have moved its products more into the sphere of the family market, including indoor play, says Justin Burke, general manager – sales, SEGA Amusements Europe Ltd... Read more

Bags of potential

Operators hunting value for money are beginning to view party bags as more than just, well… party bags. Benjo Bags believes its offer not only provides a reasonably low cost option, but can also drive revenue into a soft-play business if used judiciously. Owner Neil Bennett explains...... Read more

Welcome Guest

Barry Guest is the play industry’s archetypal poacher turned gamekeeper. Having first worked as an equipment installer, then moved through most positions within the firm that started life as The Play Company and evolved into SPI Play... Read more

Janice channels enthusiasm to benefit sector

Indoor Play magazine is introducing a Personality Profile article in each issue, to highlight what lies behind the success of some of the leading lights in your sector... Read more

Zone hits a ton

Fittingly in an Ashes summer, Zone Leisure Technology has just raised its batfor supplying a century of UK sites... Read more

One-way ticket for rides

When we caught up with David Robinson of World of Rides recently, he was pretty bullish about the performance of the indoor play sector so far in 2013... Read more

Helping you net customers

Since making the transition from mover and shaker in the fishing industry to key driver of the evolution of equipment for the play industry... Read more

Soft play with a conscience

The Fun Factory may be Dundee’s newest soft play centre, but it has already made its mark on the local community... Read more

Tiny Acorns grows with play

Laura Anderson-Smith is the owner of Tiny Acorns Ltd, which delivers its own brand of highly successful baby and toddler classes in the Home Counties... Read more

Fozzy’s fosters growth

Childhood nicknames are often left behind at the school gates but Bethan Foster Jones, owner of Fozzy’s Soft Play Hire, has embraced hers... Read more

Finding the right formula

Formula K is a specialist manufacturer of go-karts, coin operated mini cars and amusement vehicles for the leisure and amusement industry... Read more

Catch the music bug

Music Bugs is a provider of sensory and play-based music classes for children from newborn all the way through until they start school... Read more

Profit line in the sand

The Kids Bee Happy Sand Art experience has spread swiftly around the country since its UK launch less than two years ago... Read more

Teamed up in Notts

Chris and Steph Bramall opened Ollie’s Fun Shack, in Ollerton, Notts, last June... Read more

Inspired to create

Helen Brady founded her Inspired Spaces business three years ago, to create bespoke murals and decorative painting for all manner of settings... Read more

Bowled over

When Indoor Play interviewed iKidz owners Chris Sharman and Rachael Pountney in March this year, they were busy bedding in their second iKidz Activity Club in Banbury. Fast forward to November, and after a chance meeting with the operations director of Bowlplex, the iKidz brand is introducing soft play into the world of ten-pin bowling.... Read more

Hunts find a new kingdom

For our third Mr & Mrs interview we visited Caroline and Ray Hunt from Space Kingdom in Clacton on Sea... Read more

Keeping an industry up to scratch

The Play Inspection Company (PIC) carries out hundreds of inspections of play equipment, both indoor and outdoor, every year... Read more

The Carlisle Aztecs

For our second Mr & Mrs interview, we travel virtually the length of England, from Drake’s Den in Plymouth to Aztec Soft Play, in Carlisle, Cumbria. Husband and wife Mike and Lynn Steadman set up the business in September 2011 and reveal all to Indoor Play... Read more

Pelican with Relish

Pelican Buying Company has developed a range of solutions for members who want to provide customers with healthier food and drink alternatives... Read more

Party Time

Monster Parties has been a leading purveyor of a full range of party supplies to the leisure industry for more than seven years. Owner Laura Fowler tells Indoor Play how the party sector is shaping up and how operators can benefit... Read more

Financial state of play

No Indoor Play reader will have been unaffected by the economic uncertainty that envelopes the nation. We ask Johnson Reed's Mark Johnson for his take on the UK finance scene and how this is impacting indoor play operators... Read more

Duck and Drake

Indoor Play talks to Paul and Trudy Selvester, who own successful Plymouth play centre Drake's Den, about the ups and downs of combining marriage and running a business... Read more

Show time for sector

David Sanvoisin was appointed event manager for Leisure Industry Week in March, marking his return to the fold after four years as an exhibitor with Simworx, which sells 3D special effects theatres to theme parks. He talks to Tommy Leighton about this year’s show, his newfound empathy for exhibitors and aspirations to restore the Play & Attractions section of LIW to its former glory... Read more

Get a pizza the action

Pizza & Baguette Ltd is a small family company founded in 2008 by brothers-in-law Paul Negus and Chris Ewell to import and distribute the range of frozen products manufactured by Pizza & Baguette GmbH in Austria... Read more

In the Zone

Lasertag and soft play may have traditionally seemed unlikely bedfellows, but increasingly centre operators are marrying the two as a lucrative way of broadening their age range and party market... Read more

Bumpee ride

FitKid, the fun fitness provider for children, teamed up with increasingly popular collectible toy Bumpeez to encourage more children to get active whilst having fun. Indoor Play asks FitKid director Nicky Kay how the initiative can be put to good use in indoor play centres... Read more

Blue Cap Coffee hot to trot

A branded hot drinks distributor is providing indoor play operators with a sought-after premium offer in coffee, tea and hot chocolate. Louise Newton, who co-founded Blue Cap Coffee, gives Indoor Play readers the lowdown... Read more

Dragon dryers make hand washing fun

With a background in play-sector hygiene and a 3-year-old daughter suffering a hand dryer phobia, entrepreneurial mum Susan Coghill set about finding a solution that could make hand-washing fun... Read more

Innovation's What you need

Graham Robinson, managing director of Soft Brick Company, one of the leading suppliers to the indoor play market, tells that innovation is on its way back in 2012... Read more


DEBBIE BOWERMAN and husband Paul set up Smallganics in Billericay, Essex three years ago. With a wide array of customers, including national chains, the story to date is one of success... Read more

Making friends made easy

TEDDY MOUNTAIN® is the leading provider in the ‘Stuff your own Teddy Bear’ industry. The company has five distribution centres serving customers worldwide with a brand renowned... Read more

Organised Kaos - December 2011

It is less than two years since Sarah and Rob Ansell decided to revolutionise the provision of rope courses to the UK market... Read more

And… relax - October 2011

Massage and play are not obvious bedfellows, but practitioner Stephanie Wood has been treating parent and children at Heaven in Nuffield... Read more

The theme’s the thing - August 2011

The Theme Team’s Holly Panter explains the value theming can add to a centre’s image... Read more

LazyTown interview - June 2011

Sportacus, the energetic star of smash-hit kids TV show LazyTown, tells Indoor Play why he is hell bent on improving both the dietary and exercise habits of the nation... Read more

Fit for everything - April 2011

Fit For Sport’s Craig Jones tells readers why his organisation’s training programmes are the perfect fit for soft play... Read more

Timto - April 2011

Two brothers from Cardiff look set to take the birthday-party industry by storm as they forge links with indoor play operators and try and spawn a new generation of caring, sharing youngsters... Read more

Robinson rides on - February 2011

At World of Rides David Robinson has spent more than 40 years developing coin-operated rides for the retail and indoor play sectors and believes that additional revenue streams are crucial to the long-term viability of play operators... Read more

Top Catz look to build on success - December 2010

Maria and Darren Johnson talk about their successful approach to running a multi-site indoor play operation and provide advice for operators starting out on the road to hopefully emulating their achievements... Read more


Tesco monkeys with in-store play areas

Funky Monkeys at TescoTesco began a new foray into indoor play with the opening of two in-store play centres in November. Northern Irish indoor-play franchise Funky Monkeys Soft Play Café is the chosen partner for the first two stores and we asked both parties for more detail.

Funky Monkeys has leased space at Tesco stores in Stockton-on-Tees and Newport, Wales, and opened for business on November 21. The centres are located in Tesco Extra stores, but will have their own separate entrances and feature the Funky Monkeys branding

The Stockton store will have a 6,500 square foot play centre, while Newport will be slightly smaller. James Wiggam corporate affairs manager at Tesco told Indoor Play: “We have worked with Funky Monkeys before on our Clubcard whereby customers can exchange Clubcard vouchers for Days Out Clubcard tokens and we were keen to build on that existing relationship and work with them in an actual store.”

It is no secret that with a growing percentage of Tesco’s overall income derived from online shopping and a waning spend in store, the UK’s no. 1 retailer has been looking how best to use store space now it requires less for nonfood items. However, Tesco is careful to stress that opening play centres in these two stores is not the start of an offensive by the retail giant on the indoor-play sector. Wiggam says: “We were looking at how we could refresh these two stores and make them a better destination for our customers. We believe that a play centre is right for these two stores, but we will look to see how well received they are and it might be that a play centre is right not just for these two stores but for others as well. We are very keen to see how our customers perceive them.”

And Funky Monkeys believes its offer is a good fit for the retailer too. Director Mark Simpson says: “We pride ourselves on providing the perfect environment for children to let their imaginations run wild, have adventures, get active, make new friends and simply have fun, while for parents and grandparents, our centres offer a welcome break, providing a chance to relax over a great cup of coffee. We hope that these key values, as well as our newly established links with such a well-known brand as Tesco, will help to quickly establish the Funky Monkeys name in the rest of the UK.”

The Clubcard tie-in will continue and expand to the Newport and Stockton stores, which Tesco has identified as being used by families with young children that will welcome the opportunity to combine shopping and leisure. Wiggam says: “The soft-play centres will give busy families in Newport and Stockton the opportunity to combine the weekly shop with some fun for their little monkeys, making our two stores even better destinations for customers.”

Funky Monkeys Soft PlayThe new centres will be in line with Funky Monkeys Irish offer, which has proved very popular since it was established in 2008. Simpson and his wife Alison spent a year developing the model before piloting the first franchise in 2009. After testing their concept for another year as a franchised outlet and making the necessary tweaks, they continued the roll out with the changes made from the original, buying the master licence agreement in 2010.

This gave the business the rights to develop the brand as a separate entity in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. In 2011 they were joined by business development director Henry Moore and have continued to build their team with marketing, training and support staff. In March last year, the business took the opportunity to acquire the brand and trademarks for the UK and Europe.

Funky Monkeys Soft Play Café opened its first facility in Lurgan and the group now has eight centres located throughout the province at Dungannon, the Kennedy Centre, Newtownabbey, Cityside Belfast, Downpatrick, Larne and Junction One.

The Larne venue was one of four runners up in the Northern Ireland region of the recent Netmums soft-play awards. The centres in the province feature jungle-themed play frames, mini-football pitches, car tracks with Cozy Coupe cars, imaginative kitchen play areas called Suzie’s House, twin wavy slides, horizontal rollers, dizzy discs, splat pads, sky glides, vertical rollers, V-net bridge, cargo nets, spiders webs and bash bags. Funky Monkey centres also have separate play areas for babies, a healthy-eating café and a variety of party options. Plasma screen TVs, newspapers and magazines, comfy leather sofas to read them in as well as fresh coffee are offered to make parents’ experience enjoyable. And Funky Monkeys also has a family membership scheme with discounted party rates.

The move into England and Wales marks a new departure, which Mark Simpson says is all part of the masterplan: “We’ve established a great brand and reputation within Northern Ireland and the move across the water seemed like a natural progression for the business,” he says.

December 2013

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