Standing in Line. What Retailers Can Learn from Theme Parks.

For retailers it could mean turning that long line into an engaging profit center.


One of the more tedious and frustrating of life’s experiences is that wait to check out at a retail store. Whenever I find myself in such a situation, I think to myself, “why are they making me wait in line to give them my money?”

Several years go, Global Toy Experts and Creativity, Inc. co-produced the World Congress of Play. Its purpose was to bring all the play industries together in one place so that we could learn from esch other. One of our speakers was Six Flags Senior Vice President of Alliances, David McKillips. David fascinated us with his recounting of methods used by theme parks to entertain customers while they waited in line for one of the rides.

If ever there was a need for advice from people like Mr. McKillips, it is now. Coronavirus restrictions are forcing retailers to limit the number of consumers who can enter a store at a time. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in long lines to enter. Retailers could well benefit from learning how the theme park industry goes about keeping its visitors preoccupied during those long waits that occur when it seems like half of Florida wants to ride the same ride that you do.

What brought Mr. McKillips’s speech to mind was this article by CSA writer Marianne Wilson entitled, “Partnership brings theme park thinking to socially distancing retail queues.” The article speaks about a new enterprise, “QueueEXP, that transforms a potentially negative experience — long lines outside of stores — into one that is engaging and educational.”

What the theme parks recognize, which many retailers have not, is that waiting in line is part of a consumer experience…and a not particularly enjoyable one. The theme parks have learned that It is essential for those who control the queues to make them entertaining and hopefully, enjoyable. For retailers it could mean turning that long line into an engaging profit center.

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