Nightclub king signals big market change

By The PMA Team

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nightclub Milton keynes Steve thomas

Charity: Has Thomas anticipated what the market wants again?
Charity: Has Thomas anticipated what the market wants again?
The traditional nightclub has been well and truly side-swiped by a half dozen different crunching factors, says The PMA Team.

As Sophie Ellis-Bextor once trilled, it's murder on the dance floor.

The traditional nightclub has been well and truly side-swiped by a half dozen different crunching factors in the past half decade.

Not least in importance is the erosion of its traditional post-11pm near-monopoly with the arrival of longer hours for pubs and bars a half decade ago.

Fewer hard-up revellers are prepared to fork out a fiver to enter a nightclub when there are multiple free options.

The bigger your nightclub, the more likely you are to be suffering. If you run one, you need to be offering proper reasons for customers to pay to cross your threshold.

Nightclub giant Luminar, still running 70-odd sites, has teamed up with Jongleurs to offer comedy nights to pull in the punters. Even so, the company is fighting for its very future as sales slip year after year.

It was poignant and symbolic that former Luminar boss Steve Thomas opened his new venture, a cabaret and entertainment bar called the Greene Room, in Milton Keynes last Thursday. The venue is a stone's throw from a huge Luminar Oceana venue. It's the sort of giant nightclub that's becoming harder and harder to fill, especially on a Friday night when younger punters are increasingly finding other things to do.

Thomas kept Luminar at the cutting edge of late-night entertainment for almost two decades. His new venture, a former Rat & Parrot, is a case study of how the market has developed. It's not like the old days, when Thomas could throw capital at a large building in the knowledge that 2,000 youngsters will turn up on a Saturday night and you can clear a million pounds or two a year in a single site.

The Greene Room is offering entertainment across the week — film nights, burlesque nights, comedy shows, live music and speed dating — to avoid over-reliance on a couple or three trading sessions. Colleagues who visited last Thursday report that the soundtrack harks back, ironically, to the concept that was the cornerstone of Luminar's success in the early years — its Chicago Rock brand only played classics in the music stakes.

Thomas has clearly given up on the 18 to 24 demographic that used to fill his super-sized Luminar nightclubs. The Greene Room is looking to attract 25 to 35-year-olds, a group less badly affected by the downturn than the slightly younger group. It seems there will be no over-reliance on a couple of key trading nights here, something that has hampered the late-night sector for too long.

Thomas points out that "people want to be entertained" — and they will pay for the right kind of entertainment packaged in the right way. This particular demographic is a hard nut to crack — it has tended historically to reduce its going-out budget in favour of servicing the mortgage. But Thomas understands the dynamics of live entertainment better than most. Time will tell on whether he's pulled off the trick of anticipating what the market wants yet again.

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