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Simon Whicker Harvey Jenkinson and Michael Harrison, Founders, Gravity

Gravity: Levelling Up the Leisure Experience and Entertainment

 Indoor activities and theme parks industry has been mushrooming rapidly over the past decade – playing games and bouncing around the trampoline is not only a fun experience for kids and adults but it also plays a significant role in boosting health and Fitness.
The growing awareness of physical health and relieving stress has led to the opening of various indoor trampoline areas in multiple gyms today. As per study, few minutes of jumping on trampoline will be more effective compared to a half-hour of running.

Simon Whicker, Harvey Jenkinson, and Michael Harrison founded Gravity with an aim to deliver the exhilarating experiences of fun activities for kids and a stress busting environment for adults.
In the following interview with Insights Success, the founders share their story of continuous success and their views about the future of the market they are associated to.

 Kindly brief us about Gravity and its initial journey.

The journey of Gravity started in 2014, and not long after our first site opened its doors – Gravity Xscape Castleford. There are 17 active sites across the UK, Europe, and the Middle East with a further four planned in 2021 with plans to reach fifty by 2023.
The Gravity model has adapted in line with market requirements and consumer needs. From being a single product operator (trampolines), Gravity now provides over 30 different products from split-level e-karting to immersive bowling, smart darts, and many more tech-driven leisure experiences.
The latest addition to the portfolio is Gravity Wandsworth in the heart of London. The former Debenhams store spreads over three floors. The 80,000sqft unit will host a fully themed leisure and food experience, offering consumers a variety of new gaming experiences as well as food and beverage offerings.
Highlights include a Japanese E-karting area with a dedicated street bar and noodle kitchen, a New York-themed area with 16 full-length bowling lanes that offer the latest immersive technology, and an American eatery, live music, and high-end cocktail bar. Further to this, there will be flight club-style Darts, pool tables and ping pong.
This signals a new phase of growth for Gravity, which started as a trampoline park company in 2015 and has since built on its success to provide innovative entertainment concepts as well as a new lease on life for high streets and shopping centres. The venue is expected to open in summer 2021.

What are the key points that you consider while choosing or getting in talks with a new Franchisee?
As with most franchisors, we all share some fundamental criteria we look for in potential candidates. One of the critical attributes for us is, someone who is enthusiastic and passionate about the brand and understands our ethos and what we are aiming to do.

The investment level for these projects can be significant and we are clear from the outset what they are, but because of the support and level of contributions we can leverage its not always a determining factor.
As a business, we sell fantastic, memorable experiences for individuals, families, and friends. It is an amazing and rewarding business to be in and we want amazing people to be on that journey with us.
How do you train and support the new franchisee on-board and track their development?
 The support begins even before the training starts. Because of our relationships, with Landlords, we are able to support franchisees with the financial backing from the start. In some cases, this can be up to 50% of the overall build costs.
We are also on the lease of any agreement we enter into with a new retail space, which provides franchisees with the comfort that we are in it together. We would never agree to a site/project unless we believed it is a viable proposition.
Once they are up and running, we then have a training and development team which support them through induction but also as they develop, and the business grows.
They benefit from support in the following areas.

  • Significant contributions and investment into your business
  • Premium site locations sourced and negotiated on your behalf.
  • Operational site and scheme plan
  • Ongoing support from dedicated specialists:
  • Operations
  • Customer service
  • IT
  • Digital
  • – Fit for purpose recognised staff qualifications and training programmes
  • – Two-week intensive induction programme
  • – Comprehensive operating manuals

– Dedicated online business management system
– Ongoing performance reviews and support
– Access to an extensive and growing product portfolio of over 30 experiences
– Marketing and sales:

  • Dedicated customer portal for bookings and sales
  • Individual web presence within the Gravity brand
  • Marketing support
  • Initial sales and marketing material
  • Social media support and guidance

 What factors differentiate you from competitors and how do you ensure that these factors remain consistent throughout the chain?
 We pride ourselves on several differentiating factors including: 

  • Prime site locations
  • Exclusive agreements
  • Significant contributions
  • Premium products and equipment
  • Exceptional customer experiences

Through our systems and processes these remain consistent across the group.
How do you leverage technology to keep a tab on growth and expansion?
Technology plays a major role in our business, both in delivering our products and our back-end systems.
In the beginning, our systems were relatively rudimentary, as we have evolved systems and technology have begun to drive each area of the business. And we are continually looking at how tech can enhance the customer experiences as well as driving business objectives.
 How do you deal with the franchisee expectations and disagreements, if any?
We have always viewed the relationship with franchisees as one of collaboration and partnership.
Therefore, we have always been open throughout the process, which creates a good working relationship where any challenges are dealt with and worked through together.
What has your past business growth looked like and what are the long-term plans for future growth?
 Gravity has the ambition of hitting 50 sites within next three years, while also expanding our range of activities into the likes of: e-karting, e-sports, urban golf, and immersive bowling. As our co-Founder and company chief executive, Harvey says “Leisure is a fast-moving industry and it’s important we’re always at the forefront of the latest technologies and concepts, we will be launching activities that certainly can’t be found online.”
As an organisation, we aim to provide a much-needed breath of fresh air to highstreets and communities, working alongside centres to tailor offerings which are likely to work best. We are looking to continue being an important part of the community for years to come, and also make a fundamental change, boosting high-street trade and fuel the health of a generation, shaping the ways families spend time with each other.
About the Founders
Founded in 2014 by Simon Whicker, Harvey Jenkinson and Michael Harrison, there was a shared vision of bringing safe, exciting, family fun activities to the masses.
The Gravity brand has subsequently grown to engage with millions of children, individuals, and families both in the UK and abroad.
In 2020 and in the face of disruptions, site closure and product restrictions, the business still engaged with over 65,000 customers per month, with many sites outperforming pre-COVID-19 results.
Despite the challenges of 2020, Gravity continues to drive the agenda on what the leisure sector and Highstreet should look like capitalising on opportunities for bigger spaces, increased contributions, and better commercial agreements.
Among the founders, Michael has over 30 years of experience in leisure and Harvey is the current UK Chair of the IATP and has helped shape and develop the European standard as to what excellence looks like in this leisure space.