UK’s leading fun climbing operator’s growth scales new heights

Rock Up, the leading indoor fun climbing experience, is doubling its footprint by opening two new sites at intu Watford and Rushden Lakes Shopping Centre in Northampton, along with a further site planned for later in the year.

Tapping into the nation’s pursuit of new and alternative leisure activities, Rock Up has experienced significant annual growth after securing contracts with the UK’s leading property developers and shopping centre owners including intu, The Crown Estate and British Land. Last year the company boasted sales growth of 87% year-on-year and expects to generate over £2.5m in annual sales this year.

The unique business proposition is fun climbing at its best for anyone aged 4 to 84 and consists of an array of fun, varied, colourful climbing challenges that can be navigated independently without any prior climbing experience.  The Association of British Climbing Walls says that over 1 million people tried climbing last year – this number is the tip of the iceberg as Rock up is redefining climbing as we know it, opening this activity up as something everyone can enjoy and participate in.

As with the three existing Rock Up centres at Fareham, Birmingham and Hull, the new sites each offer 26 exhilarating climbs with a huge variety of walls towering over 8 metres high. As well as the 2,000-square foot climbing arena, each site also includes a soft-play area, quality café, function rooms for parties and private hire.

Rock Up was inspired by the experiences of climbing enthusiast Aaran Eade during a visit to New Zealand. Aaran, now Operations Director, said:

“As with many thrill-based activities, New Zealand tends to lead the way in product development and whilst I was there I discovered a range of interesting and innovative climbing facilities that I could see would appeal to many people who would never even think about climbing.

“By embracing a fun and relaxed approach to climbing, what we offer is a totally unique leisure experience which is reflected in our visitor numbers, while our customer feedback is extremely high with 95% telling us they will return after their first visit. Unlike other leisure activities which can be seen as a passing fad or seasonal, our model has shown that we offer something for everyone all year-round – whether its school groups, birthday parties, scouts and cadets team building, toddlers using soft play or other community groups making the most of our private rooms and café facilities in a convenient location.”

Equally as important as introducing the thrill of climbing, Rock Up boasts an impeccable safety record compared to other arena based leisure activities, with teams of expertly trained staff who are constantly on hand to oversee activity on the climbing walls.  With an emphasis on fun and safety, combined with a raised profile from the inclusion of speed climbing at the Olympics in Tokyo 2020, Rock Up expects more new consumers to try their hand and explore the thrill of scaling the vertical challenges.

Heidi Duckworth, Executive Chairman of Rock Up, said:

“This is a pivotal year for the business, as we double the number of current sites and plan for further expansion at more locations, making us a truly national company. We find we are providing shopping centres and similar outlets with a highly attractive and unique proposition that utilises less space than other leisure activities, is quick to install and more importantly, enhances their overall customer offering.

“As an example, we’re currently looking at the atrium space at one site which will both make for an amazing high climbing experience within a modest 1,500 square foot footprint, and provide an eye-catching centre piece with real wow factor for the centre. We can convert an empty unit into a fully fitted venue ready to operate in less than 12 weeks, which not only transforms unsightly, unused space but also provides much needed support and footfall for surrounding restaurants and other businesses. Our insight shows that around 80% of our customers travel to us from within a 40 minute drive time and some up to an hour away, so we are creating a big pull for consumers.”

Spearheading the ambitious expansion plans is an experienced senior management team consisting of Operations Director Aaran, Executive Chairman, Heidi Duckworth, a Harvard MBA who spent many years working in private equity in the City, and Sales and Marketing Director Mark de Quervain, who worked for many years at Vue Entertainment, where he was part of the founding management team.

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