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Nouse Interviews Phil Pinder, Co-owner of The Hole in Wand Wizard Golf

Phil Pinder, owns The Hole in the Wand along with fellow local entrepreneur Ben Fry. The two already own the Potions Cauldron shop in the Shambles and recently decided to diversify and expand the business with their new magic-inspired mini-golf attraction, earlier this year. The site is now open on Coppergate walk, opposite the Jorvik centre.

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Why did you decide to expand the business?

“Lockdown presented many challenges to the business so we thought expansion was a good way to survive the pandemic”, Pinder explains.

What was the decision-making process behind expansion despite the fall in customers?

Pinder is confident tourists and shoppers will return despite non-essential retail’s closure between 5 January and 12 April, going on to say “The fall in customers is only due to the fact that people can’t come into the shops. There is no drop in the demand for people wanting to shop on the high street.”

What were the numbers on the books like before lockdown?

Customers had flocked to the Potions Cauldron shop before the closure of non-essential retail. Pinder proudly explains “We had a 90 percent growth year on year.”

Are the customers mainly tourists or local people at the Hole in the Wand?

“We have a very good mixture of both. York is very much a tourist city –  nine million visitors a year from all over the UK.”

In Pinder’s opinion consumer spending patterns have changed.

“It depends on what you call a tourist,” he starts.  “It differs widely. Is someone from Malting a tourist if they only visit the centre of York twice a year? The way everyone shops now, we all shop like tourists. People who live in places like Acomb and Strensall probably only shop in the city centre two or three times a year. In theory they are actual tourists in their own city.”

Pinder also believes generational change has also altered the way people shop on the high street:

“No one does the Saturday afternoon shop with their grandparents anymore; those days are gone. You probably never even experienced those days being so young.

When I was growing up, you would visit your grandparents on a Saturday and all go into town and shop together. That was the tradition. That has obviously gone as times have changed; there is much more competition and choice and lots of things to do nowadays.”

Consumers can now shop around the clock – it is less of an event to go to the shops. As Pinder outlines “High Streets are also open, seven days a week.”

This greater flexibility may mean that activities such as mini golf become more popular as consumers spend more time in the centre of town. Increased foot-traffic may correlate with an increase in the allure of magical, fantasy-oriented attractions such as The Hole in the Wand.

So, do you think people local to the York area now shop like tourists?

“Yeah totally,” Pinder agrees. “The number of people that come into York week on week to do a weekly shop is declining.  Just because you live locally, doesn’t mean that you regularly use your high street.”

There are many Harry Potter themed shops on the Shambles. Do you think your competitors will also be expanding?

In response to this question about their potential competitors for fantasy lovers, Pinder is confident that the Hole in the Wand is distinct enough from the multiple Harry Potter-themed shops which line the Shambles nearby. “We do not actually sell any Harry Potter merchandise – we are Wizard-themed golf.  Definitely nothing to do with Harry Potter.”

Is the business spread throughout different cities or is it specific to York?

The wizard-themed mini golf attraction is restricted to York at the moment, though Pinder is optimistic for the idea. “We are currently completely based in York but are already looking at expanding this concept into other cities.”

However, Pinder also explains how the business operates beyond the course. “We supply the drinks we make to other shops all around the UK and Europe.”

What is the demographic of customers like?

“We have two main groups: families and young adults (18–30-year-olds). The latter is the peak market.”

Young adults who grew up with J. K. Rowling’s books in the hunt for nostalgia are certainly drawn to the attraction’s ‘Dragon’s Breath’, ‘Unicorn’s Folly’ and ‘The Enchanted Forest’ mini-golf courses.

So you don’t think the pandemic will have frightened people away from the high street?

We ended the interview on a positive note.

“Obviously, we’re missing international tourists, but I think we’re in for a bumper-summer,” Pinder explains. “Once restrictions lift, and we get back to more normality – or a new normality – I think that we are actually in for a bumper summer. People will want to get away, and there will be lots of day-trippers. York is a beautiful place to come and visit and I think that the hotels will be full to capacity. This could be one of our best ever summers.”

The real reason people come to York is the beauty of the city, as Pinder rightly points out: “The shambles look magical without any wizarding shops on there.”

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