Bowling is on a Canadian roll

At the height of the pandemic, nothing could be more frightening than repeatedly touching a germ-infested item hundreds of other strangers had handled. Now, we can’t get enough of it! 

In case you couldn’t tell, we’re talking about bowling.  

Driving the news: U.K.-based bowling operator Hollywood Bowl Group (HBG) is pursuing an aggressive expansion in Canada — with plans to open up to 10 new alleys within the next five years — as it posts yearly revenue gains better than a game-winning strike. 

Catch-up: In 2022, HBG purchased bowling operator Teaquinn Holdings, the owner of Ontario’s Splitsville and Striker businesses, for $17 million to enter the Canadian market. HBG has since gobbled up more Canadian 10-pin bowling alleys, including every single one in Calgary

Zoom out: HBG isn’t the only company that wants to get the ball rolling on more Canadian bowling. Upscale Toronto bowling alley The Ballroom Bowl has a second location under construction and plans to open a third later this year amid talks of expanding nationally. 

  • The Ballroom Bowl differs from your typical glow-in-the-dark bowl-o-rama — offering an opulent atmosphere, a high-end bar, and a food menu devised by a top chef. 

Why it matters: As retail demand slumps in Canada, pent-up thirst for fun and social activities remains high. Bowling has been a big winner thanks in part to its high accessibility (unlike, say, roller skating) and easy playability (old and young alike can knock down pins).

  • Spending on recreational and sporting services jumped ~11% year over year in the third quarter of 2023, while spending on clothes and shoes increased less than 2% in that same span. 

Yes, but: Analysts fear the industry will soon throw a gutterball as demand for experiences falls and young families, a major clientele base, shift spending to rent and mortgages.—QH