Coral & Ladbrokes To Digitise Betting Shops With Café Style Hosting Spaces
Entain, the parent company of the likes of Ladbrokes, Coral and Eurobet, is considering a move to make its shops more than just betting venues. The idea, which they will also introduce in Italy, will see the retail stores become more like cafes than betting shops. The hope is that it will help the stores appeal to younger customers, perhaps enticing them away from the likes of Starbucks and getting them to meet and socialise at a Ladbrokes or Coral instead. Entain wants to make them ‘hosting spaces’ instead of merely betting shops.
Quite whether this is something that will work in the United Kingdom remains to be seen. Italy is a country known for its coffee shops and relaxed nature, but the same cannot be said of Britain. It feels as though it’s an idea that will please nobody, with traditional bettors unlikely to be pleased by the sudden presence of millennials in their betting shops and those heading to the spaces arguably too ‘woke’ to enjoy a horse race playing out in the background whilst they’re trying to post a selfie to Facebook or Instagram their coffee.
What The Digitisation Plan For Shops Entails
Entain Plc is looking to spend around £100 million on a group-wide change that will involve innovation of the way that its retail environment works. According to the FTSE100 company’s statement, they’re hoping to turn the betting shops that they own into ‘contemporary, digital, spaces to enhance the omni-channel experience for customers’. Put another way, they’re looking to make the in-store experience more akin to what online bettors get to experience when they use a betting site, allowing for a crossover of sorts.
Rob Wood, Entain’s Chief Finance Officer and Deputy Chief Executive, said on the matter,
“Entain is a global online operator, but we are focused on delivering a great local experience for our customers. This investment allows us to give a more immersive and joined up online omni-channel experience to our customers.”
It will be Entain’s biggest ever retail project, upgrading what the shops offer and the manner in which they’re used by customers, both long-term ones and the new ones that they’re hoping to attract.
Beyond ‘Traditional Capacities’
There has already been a move to introduce the concept across the United Kingdom, with 18 new ‘digital hubs’ having been opened around the country. The plan is to have a total of 30 of the new-look stores in operation by the end of the year. They offer customers a ‘dynamic experience’ that takes the experience beyond the ‘traditional capacities’ being offered by rival companies. The new digital hubs will have interactive sport and gaming content, offered on interactive displays that will allow for live events and promotions.
Andy Hicks, the Managing Director of Entain Retail in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, said,
“Our shops are at the heart of local communities and employ around 13,000 people across the country. We want to bring the experiences customers have with us online into our shops, also making them more digital and contemporary environments. We want to offer local customers a place to socialise, enjoy sports, bet and play games in a relaxed and enjoyable way.”
Whether customers will respond positively is a different matter.
That being said, there is certainly a belief that punters are keen to enjoy more where they can. Wood said,
“Since high streets re-opened, our retail customers have returned in large numbers which reflects the continued demand from customers for an engaging in-shop experience. This digital makeover of shops, together with ongoing investments into our industry leading tech platform and £100m of innovation investment over the next 3 years, are important drivers of our future growth.”
Will It Work In The UK?
The obvious question that needs to be asked is about whether or not such an experience is one that UK-based customers will really take advantage of. Speaking about how it will work in Italy, the Managing Director of Entain in the country, Andrea Faelli, said,
“This is all about offering a different and more distinctive experience to new and existing customers. We want to move from simply offering betting shops to hosting spaces in town centres where people can come to have a good time, which may or may not include having a bet.”
What isn’t clear is who, exactly, this is likely to appeal to in the United Kingdom. Traditional bettors tend to enjoy visiting a betting shop rather than placing a wager online precisely because they like their traditions. They want to sit with the newspaper and pour over the form with the sound of a horse or greyhound race in the background, rather than some soft jazz music and the noise created by millennials tapping away on their keyboards or ordering a caramel macchiato, so will they be pleased by the changes that are coming?
Equally, will young people, who are used to sitting in Starbucks and having to battle young mums with prams for the seat by the window, be all that keen to head into a betting shop in order to write their latest blog or upload a video to TikTok? The notion of turning betting shops into Eurobet Cafes might be one that appeals to Italians, but is it one that the UK market will take to in the same way? The fact that Entain hope to change 200 Eurobet sets but only 30 in Britain might suggest that they expect some resistance over the issue here.
Why Do It?
The other obvious question to ask is why Entain are even considering doing it in the first place. The answer lies in the likes of BT and Amazon’s decision to offer sport coverage to their customers. In most instances, they know that people will watch the sport and then turn to the other services offered, meaning that after a football match someone might take out a deal for broadband or buy stuff from their shop. In the case of Entain, they’re hoping that young people will sit and have a coffee before being tempted to bet on a sporting event.
If they can win over even a small percentage of the people that use the new ‘digitised’ landscape, they will more than recoup the £100 million that the company is spending to make the changes. It is similar to free bet or enhanced odds promotions offered by betting companies, albeit on a much larger scale. What they want more than anything is new customers, so finding a way to bring them into their retail stores will, they hope, provide them. This is especially necessary after the stake limit introduced to Fixed Odds Betting Terminals in 2019.