KidZania is the next big thing for North American shopping centres

June 19, 2017

KidZania is a fascinating concept that is garnering headlines around the globe and now it’s coming to North America, with plans to open in New York, Dallas and Chicago. It’s a theme park of sorts, but instead of rides and characters, it’s a downsized version of the real world, where kids try out professions in a fun interactive environment.
As The New Yorker puts it: “From a child’s perspective, KidZania is an enclosed, enticing world—resembling the outside one but oriented to children’s capacities and interests.”
The first KidZania family entertainment centre opened in Santa Fe Shopping Mall in Mexico City in 1999 and today there are 24 locations in major cities around the world, targetting children ages 4 through 14. Another nine are under development and the company continues to seek franchisees as it moves into new markets. 
At Think Retail, we have been watching this company for a while and eager to hear about their plans to expand further afield. This spring, the company finally announced its North American debut. The inaugural U.S. locations, developed by Chicago-based real estate firm GGP Inc. are expected to open in 2018 and 2019. According to the company, they will join the rapid expansion of locations in Paris, Doha, Johannesburg, Guadalajara, Abu Dhabi, Surabaya and Toronto!
It’s a groundbreaking idea that takes role-playing and dress up to new heights. Each location is a child-sized replica of a city, complete with buildings, shops, vehicles and other features. Kids can choose from more than 60 roles—jobs vary according to country and custom—and each takes about 25 minutes to complete: They can try their hand at everything from pizza making to surgery and in doing so work to earn KidZos, a special currency, which they can spend on in-house activities or at the gift shop. There’s a lesson on finance in there, too. 
Corporate sponsors, from Coco-Cola (work in an onsite bottling plant) to Crest (who wants to be a dentist?), McDonalds (would you like fries with that?) and British Airways (for budding pilots), feature prominently—there are more than 800 sponsors in the sites around the world—and, while this is a privately owned company, their investments help fund the business model. 
The award winning global theme park is a game-changer in terms of children’s entertainment. 
It’s also a massive opportunity for shopping centres, which are increasingly offering entertainment and experiences as a means to attract consumers and fill space with dynamic and engaging tenants. 
This new world of edutainment is more than child’s play. Parents can track their children on devices, while taking advantage of the opportunity to run errands, shop and dine. 
The  North American market is ripe for this fresh ideas and no doubt kids, parents, landlords and developers would welcome what’s being dubbed as the one of the fastest growing kid’s hands-on entertainment brands in the world.
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