The new chief executive of five-a-side football firm Goals Soccer Centres is hopeful that the East Kilbride company could have “dozens” of sites across the US after seeing it move back into the black.
Mark Jones, the former Grosvenor Casinos managing director who succeeded previous Goals boss Keith Rogers in July, told The Scotsman that the group is focusing its expansion efforts on Los Angeles, where it currently has two centres.
“It took us seven years to open our second one, but we’ll have our third site open in the next six months,” Jones said.
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“It’s a flagship site and we’ll build it at nearly half the cost of the first one. We’ll be cautious about how we expand in the States, but we see it as a growth area. We’ll start with Los Angeles but it’s a huge market – we could potentially have dozens of sites across southern California. We know that in the rest of the US, whether that be Florida or Texas, there’s a burgeoning soccer market, but our focus in the medium term is on Los Angeles.”
He added: “We’re going to do it cautiously – we’re not going to add ten a year – but we’re excited about that market.”
His comments came as Aim-quoted Goals, which has 46 centres across the UK, said it returned to sales growth in 2016, with takings up 1.6 per cent on a year earlier to £33.5 million. That helped the firm move back into the black with a statutory pre-tax profit of £3.7m, compared with a loss of £6.2m a year earlier.
On a like-for-like basis, stripping out the effect of new openings, sales were up 0.5 per cent compared with 2015, when Goals suffered a 4.9 per cent decline, and the recovery accelerated in the second half of the year, with sales growing by 2.9 per cent.
Edison Investment Research analyst Paul Hickman said the results showed “positive progress” for Goals, which has been revamping its pitches, but noted that the firm was facing “cost headwinds” arising from the introduction of the national living wage.
As well as upgrading its pitches, Goals is overhauling its food and drink offering as part of its “Clubhouse 2020” strategy, which will be introduced to three centres across Glasgow and London in the first half of this year at a total cost of £1.1m.
Jones said: “The plan is to take the learnings from those sites and roll that through the rest of the estate over the coming 18 months.”
Customers will see modernised check-in facilities and improvements to what Jones said was currently an “extremely limited” food and drink menu as the group seeks to generate more spending among its users.
He added: “It’s a very significant change to what people have been used to, because the vast majority of our customers just walk through the front door and out onto the pitches; we’re creating a facility where they can book a table after their game to share a pizza or a beer. We believe that will drive strong ancillary spend from customers.”