Regional amusement park operator Six Flags
Yes, those results are only for June. The real challenge is to keep the smiles coming later in the summer, when employees are wearing down, repeat visitors are harder to overwhelm, and park managers are tempted to cut corners to come in under budget.
Cynics can argue that it was those factors that tripped up Six Flags last year, yet numbers speak louder than both glowing exit surveys or bashing bears. Attendance may have dipped last year by 13.4%, but per-capita spending shot through the roof with a 14.2% increase year over year. Early season-ticket sales for this year were running ahead of last year, indicating that guests were looking forward to giving the chain a shot in its second season under CEO Mark Shapiro.
During its initial business update last month, Six Flags was reporting further increases in guest spending early in the 2007 season. Attendance was flat, but that's a positive, since the company had six fewer operating days at that point over 2006.
Six Flags will post its second-quarter results later this month. No one is expecting any fireworks. Seasonal parks make most of their money during the summer-heavy third quarter. However, recent rumblings of rival Cedar Fair
Six Flags is still a couple of years away from profitability. Its burdensome debt has weighed down its EBITDA-positive results. Making a bullish case for improvement is easy at this point. If the company's family-friendly initiatives pan out -- and they've slowly been inching that way -- attracting families with wider smiles and fatter wallets will improve margins over its fixed overhead costs.
Six Flags is no Disney
If those baby steps happen to be accompanied by a pair of camera-snapping, snack-chomping, giddy-riding parents, it's really just a matter of time before Six Flags becomes the marquee brand it could have been all along.
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Cedar Fair and its chunky 6.6% yield have made the units attractive to readers of the Income Investor newsletter service. Disney is a Stock Advisor recommendation. Take a free 30-day trial of either newsletter for an investing ride.Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys taking his family on coaster treks over the summer. Yes, he's been on all of the Cedar Point coasters, except for Maverick. He owns units in Cedar Fair and shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy, and you're tall enough to ride it.