“These are brands that they love and trust. And when they find them in a Six Flags, it increases their confidence level even further that they’re going to have a terrific day at the park.” Magic Mountain is one of theme park chain Six Flags’ premiere thrill parks. But on top of teenage thrill seekers, the company is hungry to attract families to its Valencia park. The fact that major brands want to partner with Six Flags is not surprising, given that park visitors are a captive audience of consumers. Along with bringing in new concessions, the park is getting a face-lift, cleaning up in hopes of attracting parents with kids and giving them reasons to come back. While teens have long made up the customer base, drawn by the thrill rides, the park wants adults who are likely to spend more on food and concessions. Work on the park includes a complete refurbishing of a 95-year-old Grand Carousel and a resurfacing and striping of the parking lot. Buildings at the Six Flags Plaza are also being painted, and two coasters that fell out of favor with riders and the park’s owners are being dismantled. The nation’s theme park market is growing, with total consumer spending expected to go from $11.2 billion in 2005 to $13.4 billion in 2010, according to a report released last year by PricewaterhouseCoopers. For Six Flags, the cross-branding strategy is new. Before Mark Shapiro became the company’s CEO in December 2005, individual parks handled their own corporate alliance agreements, and the only company-wide deal was with Coca-Cola, Goldberg said. Shapiro created a corporate alliances division to land deals with major brands, and now in addition to Coca Cola Co., Kodak, Cold Stone Creamery, Nintendo and Heinz, Six Flags partners include Home Depot and Papa John’s Pizza. Magic Mountain in Valencia starts daily operation March 17. Visitors will be given a Kodak photo card, which they can hand to photographers tagging along with the park’s Warner Bros. characters. Visitors will access the photos over the Internet when they get home. Cold Stone Creamery will open a shop in the park in early spring, said Sue Carpenter, spokeswoman for Magic Mountain and Hurricane Harbor. Attendance at Magic Mountain was 2.8 million in 2005, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers report. Attendance dropped about 25 percent in the last half of 2006, which Shapiro blamed on uncertainty surrounding a possible sale of the park. Now, the park is no longer for sale, and the company is hoping the cross-branding strategy will increase the park’s profitability. “I think it will probably pay off,” said Jack Kyser, chief economist with the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “Because probably people haven’t been to Magic Mountain for a while, so there is always the interest factor. And the economy is good, so they have money to spend.” Kyser called Six Flags’ cross-branding strategy “very savvy marketing,” and said it will help the company. “They can cement a reputation for being a family-friendly place,” he said. In past years, Magic Mountain has held a number of events that attract families. Those have included its Gospel Celebration and Hallelujah Jubilee concerts. It has areas for children, but the park is known more for its 15 heart-pounding rides. The park does plan to expand its offerings for children. Six Flags has capitalized on the kid-friendly appeal of British TV show Thomas & Friends, the Australian band The Wiggles and skateboarder Tony Hawk to build play areas and rides centered around them at its parks. Magic Mountain does not have any of those attractions this year, but it is working on getting some or all of them in the park in the near future, Carpenter said. Six Flags, the world’s largest regional theme park company, was facing $2.1 billion of debt last year. But in January, it announced a sale of seven parks for $312 million, bringing its total number of North American parks to 21. In the meantime, CEO Shapiro and his executive team are continuing to look for brand names to partner with. “This year is really the first year that Mark’s team will be able to have an impact on a full operating season,” Goldberg said. “So this is really the year that you are going to see the family-friendly strategy go into effect.” firstname.lastname@example.org (661) 257-5253 Magic mix Six Flags is entering into a cross-branding strategy with more than just Coca-Cola. New alliances include: Cold Stone Creamery Kodak Heinz Nintendo Wii Home Depot Papa John’s Pizza160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! VALENCIA – Families visiting Six Flags California’s Magic Mountain this spring will find plenty of brand-name ice cream and photographers ready to snap their pictures with Bugs Bunny on Kodak cameras as the theme park works to spruce up and reinvent itself. It’s all part of corporate owner Six Flags Inc.’s family-friendly strategy, in place this year for the first full season. Brand names are playing a big part in the new strategy. Cold Stone Creamery will dish out the ice cream, Kodak will do the photos, Heinz will be the official ketchup and the Nintendo Wii will hold the title of official video game console, which means park visitors can play Nintendo’s Wii for free. “When people come to our parks with their families, they want to find products and services that they’re familiar with,” said Wendy Goldberg, spokeswoman for Six Flags.
“This store has probably lost all its good salespeople,” O’Neal said. “This morning we were all really pissed, but now I laugh about it. What can you do?” The company chairman said it’s just a business decision. “We’re taking a number of aggressive actions to improve our cost and expense structure,” Philip Schoonover, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Circuit City Stores Inc., said in a written statement. O’Neal said he was told he can re-apply for his job after 10 weeks – if he’s willing to work for minimum wage. Currently, California minimum wage is $7.50 an hour. However, company spokesman Jim Babb said new hires will earn more than minimum wage, though he would not specify an hourly rate. Hiring will start immediately, and job candidates will not be required to have sales experience, he said. Salary cuts, the termination of a lease for a distribution center in Ohio, and an outsourcing agreement with IBM will save the chain $110 million, the Richmond, Va.-based retailer said. Last month the company announced it will close seven of its 643 locations and relocate one store. It reported falling profits in the fourth quarter and has been losing market share to Best Buy since 1996. The company is the nation’s second-largest consumer-electronics retailer, trailing Best Buy by $16 billion in sales in 2006. News of the layoffs apparently pleased Wall Street, pushing up Circuit City’s stock 2 percent after the announcement. It closed up $0.35 at $19.23. Timing of the layoffs, two weeks before performance reviews that often come with pay raises, spooked a Circuit City employee who was not laid off and earns $10.50 an hour. He refused to give his name because of a policy that employees not speak to the media. “You’re going to walk in the (manager’s) door, and for the first time you’re going to say I don’t want a raise,” he said. “If you take the raise, will you lose your job?” The employee said he was not worried about the salary cap because his long-term career goals are in medicine. Specialized electronic companies are being pressured by increased competition from rivals Best Buy and Wal-Mart as the price of flat-screen televisions falls, several analysts said. Circuit City’s woes are also due to its stores, said analyst Andy Hargreaves of Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, Ore. In the 1990s, the chain didn’t invest in its stores or open enough new locations while Best Buy did, he said. “What they ended up with were a bunch of old crappy stores, and now they’re still feeling the pain of that,” Hargreaves said. The cuts will boost Circuit City’s short-term outlook but could kill the stores in the long term if new hires don’t offer the same level of customer service, said Jack Kyser, vice president and chief economist at Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp. “At the end of the day, it’s still the interaction between somebody on the selling floor and the customer,” Kyser said. “If there’s not a reason to come back because of bad service, that’s the kiss of death.” But as consumers become more savvy, learning the difference between plasma televisions and liquid crystal display or LCD sets, experienced salesmen may not be as needed. Cutting experienced salespeople sends a message to Circuit City`s remaining employees and competitors, said Dan Blake, director of the San Fernando Valley Economic Research Center at California State University, Northridge. “It’s certainly going to hurt employee morale,” which is a big factor in productivity, he said. But the cuts also signal rival Best Buy that Circuit City will continue to fight for market share. “These folks are not closing down and going out without a fight,” Blake said. Circuit City is scheduled to announce first-quarter earnings April 4. email@example.com (818) 713-3735 At $15 an hour, Richard O’Neal was one of the better-paid salesmen at the Circuit City in Woodland Hills. His career there ended about 8:15 a.m. Wednesday in a mandatory meeting for workers being laid off. Their transgression: They cost too much money. O’Neal and about a dozen of his co-workers are among 3,400 nationwide dismissed by the company, which will replace them with lower-paid employees. The dismissed employees received a memo saying, in part, that the company “made a business decision, with respect to certain positions, to separate from employment hourly associates whose pay rate is 51 cents or more above (an) established pay range.”