Selling Photo Prints at Escape Rooms

Article by Julia Kidd

So, you’ve set up your escape room, you have your great reviews, you’ve even managed to work out how to get repeat visitors – but how can you find that extra source of revenue without the additional outlay? This is not a George Lucas production, your games master is not Harrison Ford (or maybe he is, that stubble is familiar), how can you tempt customers to buy your merchandise?

Buzzshot speaks to Phil Harris, co-founder of Pier Pressure in Brighton, to find out how he got people interested in escape room photo merchandise.

Buzzshot: Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got into the escape room business.

Phil: I set up Pier Pressure with my wife, Philly, we opened in March last year, so we’ve been running 15 months. We played a couple of escape rooms ourselves, really enjoyed them, and realised that between us we had the skills and creativity to design and build our own. We now have four permanent games, with a fifth scheduled before the end of the year and a couple of pop-ups in production as well.

I worked in events and event production for 10 to 12 years. As a production and project manager I had pretty good experience of taking an empty space, thinking what we want, liaising with suppliers to get the best products and making it look as good as possible for the best price.

It would have been a real struggle to do this without Buzzshot.

Buzzshot: How did you hit upon the concept of selling photo prints as a potential new source of revenue?

Phil: It’s something we thought about from the start - it’s what you get at a lot of tourist attractions. I was quite surprised that there aren’t many escape rooms out there that are offering that as a service. We’re in quite a touristy city, so I didn’t necessarily just see the escape rooms as something that people do for birthday trips or team building. We get a lot of visitors to the city, hen do’s, stag do’s, the sort of people where you’d think they’d be quite interested in taking home a memory of the day.

Buzzshot: Perhaps the reason not many other places have offered it is because, in this digital age, they feel there’s no need to have a physical copy?

Phil: That’s probably true, and to be honest, sales in the first few months of offering it pretty much mirrored that, we actually didn’t sell very many and for a while we were thinking it probably wasn’t worth the hassle.

Buzzshot: What do you think changed that?

Phil: The thing that made the massive difference was when our booking platform (Resova) changed, there were a number of new features that were added to it and the most useful one was the option to pre-sell extras along with the booking.

Buzzshot: So, you worked out that selling before the visit made a difference, have you any thoughts about why that might be?

Phil: I’m pretty confident it’s a psychological thing: if you’re already making a booking for let’s say £100, to add on £4 is pretty negligible, whereas if you’re here on the day and someone is asking you to get your wallet out and pay an extra £5 or £6 you’d be much less likely to do a new transaction. I think it’s just about ease really.

Buzzshot: How do you package the photos?

Phil: We bulk purchased cardboard folders, the same style as you would get from any theme park, with our branding on the front cover and then there’s the picture and an insert on the inside.

Buzzshot: Was that from a local company?

Phil: No, we really struggled to find people who printed these, we actually brought them in from an Irish company (Photovalue) in the end, we couldn’t find anywhere in the UK that designed and printed those kinds of folders. The key rings were much easier to source, they are pretty easy to buy off the shelf, quite a few suppliers have those.

Buzzshot: How has having software like Buzzshot made things easier for you?

Phil: It would have been a real struggle to do this without Buzzshot. Before we had conversations with Tom and worked out what Buzzshot was capable of, I think we had expected to be operating from 2 or 3 different apps or pieces of software to make this happen – the whole process could be very fiddly. But we sat down with Tom and he said it was something that would be really straightforward for Buzzshot to do, he added it into our software, which is amazing, so now we just upload the picture into Buzzshot as we’d normally do and we get a lovely option to print a photograph or print a keyring-sized one, and it’s just a matter of a couple of clicks.

Buzzshot: Which people are more likely to buy the prints?

Phil: Before we were able to pre-sell them online on our booking platform, we did start to recognise a couple of demographics that would be more likely to buy pictures and that was hen do’s and mums: if you have a parent or 2 parents with teenagers say, they probably don’t do that many family outings anymore, the teenagers just want to be playing video games, so they get a nice little family picture to have on the mantelpiece.

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Julia Kidd

Author photo for Julia Kidd

Julia Kidd is a writer and ‘player of games’ living in Brighton, UK.