Inside New York City’s new Virgin Hotel, you’ll find Gen X and Gen Z professionals, Millennial urbanites and even Boomers—eating, drinking and trying their best to win at “crazy golf.” Swingers, the sprawling 22,500-square-foot social venue with three nine-hole golf courses, elevated dining vendors and live DJs, is part of one of the fastest-growing retail and entertainment concepts: competitive socializing. Combining high-end dining with interactive games, competitive socializing provides not only a much-needed, out-of-the-home experience for consumers, but a unique business opportunity for real estate investors.
“The competitive socializing category is very active in the US and is something that provides landlords the opportunity to bring new energy and reoccurring business to the property,” said Jason Greenstone, executive director of retail services at Cushman & Wakefield. “It’s profitable, scalable and it’s a welcome addition and draw for so many retail neighborhoods.”
London-based Swingers’ crazy golf is just one example of the growing competitive socializing trend. The range of activities that fall under the umbrella of competitive socializing is diverse and includes mini golf, darts, racing, axe throwing, and escape rooms. These experiences are becoming increasingly popular in urban environments with dense populations and plenty of foot traffic—providing a source of entertainment and fun for the community and an opportunity for landlords to revitalize aging assets and fill large, underutilized vacancies.
Competitive socializing concepts are also emerging across suburban landscapes, where their popularity is growing among multigenerational families seeking ways to connect and spend time together. Shopping malls—with a current vacancy rate of 8.8% and average size of 10,000-30,000 square feet—present real opportunity to creatively incorporate competitive socializing concepts into their spaces, especially if they are in competitive locations.
According to research from Cushman & Wakefield, the concept of competitive socializing has grown 386% since the beginning of 2021—making it very clear that while people love to eat and drink, and people love to play games, what they love most is being able to do it together with their friends, family and colleagues in a fun, lively atmosphere. With Gen Z and Millennials making up nearly half of the full-time workforce, there’s a bonus if the interaction and experience can provide a share-worthy backdrop for social media.
“Competitive socializing is not only one of the hottest retail trends, but it’s also a win for everyone,” said Barrie Scardina, head of retail in the Americas for Cushman & Wakefield. “It engages consumers who are spending on experiences instead of products, and it drives traffic, duration of stay and frequency of visits to retail centers—a win for the developer or landlord. These competitive socializing concepts enhance a community and bring people together to have fun!”