I’ve always been amazed when struggling businesses sell off their top-performing assets and keep the lesser-performing ones. The logic seems simple enough. They can generate more cash today by selling off their best pieces. But the reality is that that what remains is often not worth investing in. So invariably those pieces fail, or get bought by someone else for pennies on the dollar. Today’s short-term gain became tomorrow’s long-term loss. And the reason for that was simple enough as well. It’s easier in business to find a few extra dollars now than it is to find great places to put it to use down the road.
So when I heard that COSI was planning to reopen one of its most popular exhibits "Adventure" after a 5 year hiatus (following a levy defeat), I was reminded that the temptation to save a few dollars today can often be greater than fighting for sustainable customer demand tomorrow. In a tough budgetary environment in 2004, COSI made the difficult choice of cutting Adventure to save money at the expense of attendance.
But was this a wise choice? Walk-up traffic and season ticket holders are a lot alike in that they are always more willing to pay to see the best that you have to offer than the second-best. So I wasn’t surprised to read recently that annual attendance took until last year to reach 2004 levels. Of course this wasn't the only reason for the decline. Hours of operation, staff, and other programs were cut as well. All tough decisions in their own right. But the hardest thing to re-create isn't a budget, or a schedule, or a headcount. It's success with your customers.
So with this new announcement, COSI has taken a big step towards re-invigorating itself. They also indicated that they will charge a nominal additional fee for anyone other than Premier Members to see Adventure. I think this is a smart move, one that consumers will support at the turnstiles, and one that puts Adventure in a viable economic position for the long-haul.
COSI has had its share of one-time successes (like the Titanic Exhibits). And with Adventure back in the mix I think it has better positioned itself for sustained success in future. Welcome back Adventure. We missed you.