A Conversation with NICA’s New Executive Director, Barbara Hensinger
Tourist Attractions & Parks: What are the most pressing issues facing today’s independent concessionaires?
Barbara Hensinger: Throughout the country, small businesspeople are facing over burdensome state and federal regulations. This is true for our concessionaires, but the impact is often multiplied as many of our members operate in a variety of states. Currently, one of our major concerns is the State of New York’s implementation of regulations that will result in our members’ loss of the recognition as seasonal employers and an exemption to the overtime requirements. The loss of this exemption will significantly increase the cost of doing business in New York.
TAP: How is the independent concessionaire industry evolving and changing? To what factors can you attribute these changes?
Hensinger: The fair and festival industry is being impacted by the current economic downturn, consumers are very hard pressed to spend money at entertainment venues, and when they do they are looking for the best value. This has caused many concessionaires to focus more on their marketing and promotion items. They are feeling the financial pinch and are looking for ways to run more cost effective. Many are finding the benefits of discounted pricing and the educational network NICA has to offer even more important during these times.
TAP: What steps are independent concessionaires taking to capture the leisure entertainment dollars of a public increasingly watchful of spending?
Hensinger: NICA members are working closely with their fair and festival partners to make the event a success for everyone involved. Many fairs have established communication committees for vendors and event management. This enables true partnerships to be formed and idea implementation that benefit everyone. Many events have worked with concessionaires to offer advance sales discounts and coupons and specials during the event. Some concessionaires are exploring value meals and kids’ and family meals in an effort to offer economical choices for fair and festival patrons.
TAP: How many independent concessionaires are operating in the United States? In what part of the country are these companies doing the most business and why?
Hensinger: NICA has about 1,200 members, and we hope more independent concessionaires will realize the benefits the organization has to offer and join the NICA team. Our members operate throughout the United States and Canada.