Little Spider Creations ihttps://littlespidercreations.com/ based in South Carolina. Since their founding in 1991, they’ve designed and fabricated for everyone, from haunted houses to theme parks, industrial spaces, and retail. Because they sit at the...
Little Spider Creations is a custom fabrication studio based in South Carolina. Since their founding in 1991, they’ve designed and fabricated for everyone, from haunted houses to theme parks, industrial spaces, and retail. Because they sit at the intersection of so many industries, they have a unique perspective on trends. Today, we’ll speak with David Brawner about trends and what you can expect if you’re considering custom fabrication for your attraction. Support for this episode comes from Gantom Lighting and Controls. See what you’re missing with a free demo. Subscribe to everything from the Haunted Attraction Network here.
David Brawner: Hey, my name is David Brawner, I'm with Little Spider Creations. We're here at Transworld 2023, and this is the booth we brought.
Philip Hernandez: You guys work on a wide variety of projects, and you're working not just on cash and carry, but you're working on large capital projects for everybody from small to large theme parks. Talk to me about what you're seeing trend-wise.
David Brawner: Well, one thing that comes to mind is extreme Airbnb houses. So, when you talk about the upcoming recession and all that, they know that there's going to be a slump coming. So, obviously, Halloween is our bread and butter, it's our bloodline, and it's what we will always do, but we get into a lot of more mainstream stuff as well. Like I said, Airbnbs, and these clients will come to us, and do the upfront cost for us to build out the entire house, but once it's done, it's done. So, we do see a lot of clients preparing for the future, doing stuff that's going to be able to use year-round for multiple years, but they're doing it now while they know the demand is relatively low, and so is the clientele. So, they're getting ahead of the ball.
Philip Hernandez: That's smart. So, they're investing now in building out so that when everything bounces back in 2024-2025, they're competitive. So, is that what you suggest? What do you then for clients? I mean you have, again, independent people, but you have zoos and aquariums, and everything in between. What do you suggest to those folks?
David Brawner: Well, I've seen it first-hand. Going back to the Airbnb thing, you have some people who are starting to withdraw and pull back the projects, but then you have some that are like, "no, no now's the time to strike," and so they're continuing on. People that are continuing on now, it may hurt in the short term, but in the long term, they're going to be better off. People who are pulling back, total opposite, they may be helping themselves in the short term, but in the long run, they're going to be already so far behind trying to play catch up.
Philip Hernandez: You're going to lose market share, basically, because by the time that it lightens up and people go back out, your competitors then are going to have a better offering.
David Brawner: They're already set, ready to roll.
Philip Hernandez: Yeah, and have you seen those people, are they using internal money, like savings? Or are they getting financing? Do you have any idea?
David Brawner: That's a really good question, and that really depends on the client. We have got both. We got investors that come in and take care of it, and some that they already have several Airbnbs that are funding the project and just continue funding more and more.
Philip Hernandez: Do you think costs are going to change at all for projects? From my perspective, from Gantom, what I tell people is we have a wait list right now that is 8 months long, and that is because our factory, we own it, but it's in China, and we're still dealing with the backlash of their zero COVID policy lifting all that, everyone's sick, and now it's Chinese New Year. So, it's that's delayed, it's going to take a little bit of time for that to ramp back up. So, we have a backlog and I'm telling people, if you order right now there's going to be no discount because we don't need it, we have a backlog. But there might be a discount, maybe, in the future, maybe, but we're not sure. So, that's kind of where I'm sitting, but do you guys have any sense?
David Brawner: With the international, I agree with you, costs may go. I think internally, in the US, I'm hoping that all the price increases have already happened, and it already started to slump down a little bit. Fingers crossed.
Philip Hernandez: Because inflation is cooling a tiny bit, right? It's like .02% cooling.
David Brawner: I think the economy, they saw what was coming, they got ahead of it, hopefully, they've already accomplished what they need to, and now things will start cooling off.
Philip Hernandez: OK. So, you're thinking that prices won't continue to be crazy and they'll kind of cool down a little bit?
David Brawner: Here's hoping. Yeah, of course, none of us have a crystal ball, so we can tell 100 percent.
Philip Hernandez: I would say, echoing from our side, component costs, I see the same thing. I see something similar. Component costs kept rising every quarter...
David Brawner: Look at lumber! I mean it just rocketed straight up and now it's been coming back down, and hopefully, it'll continue.
Philip Hernandez: So, basically, you think that you'll be able to maintain steady prices for a little bit of time?
David Brawner: Yeah, good or bad, that's what we're planning on. Like you, you're 8 months out. Sometimes we're not that far out, but we still need to think ahead a little bit. The price structure we have going right now is thinking that the prices are going to maintain.
Philip Hernandez: What about overall trends that you're seeing? Where is the future for you guys, do you think? Where is it going?
David Brawner: Obviously, when COVID came around we had several big projects lined up and just hacked at the knees. Over the past, I'd say, year, especially the amusement park is starting to get back into the same role that they had before, starting to produce more bigger things, not necessarily just, "we're in catastrophe mode, what can we save on?" So, when it comes to haunts and bigger things like the scare zones, backdrops, and all that, they are starting to finally start get back to where they used to be.
Philip Hernandez: Do you see those clients, on the whole, investing more in year-round or not?
David Brawner: Yes. So, something else we've done, and we like to push this on clients much as possible, is you're paying for one thing, but have it be transformable; you can go from season to season to season with minimal work. So, we do this a lot with set designs where we'll start off with a general basic setup, but then switching out either colors, backdrops, props, or whatever, you can go from summer to Halloween to Christmas/winter. So, a lot of that stuff, it's not year-round, but you get more bang for your buck.
Philip Hernandez: Definitely, OK. And you're seeing that more in the smaller attractions or haunted houses specifically or both?
David Brawner: Well, actually, now that you mentioned it, I was going to say not the haunted house, but I am. There is one park, in particular, that's close to where we live. They were just a haunted house, they were killing it on the haunted house end but they wanted to expand. So, last year they did a winter thing. This year they did a summer thing. So, now, again, they're going the whole way through making money the entire way. If you've got the money, the location, and the space to do it, man, more bang for your buck. Why not get it while you can?
Philip Hernandez: And that's something you guys can also help them with the design on?
David Brawner: Of course, yeah.
Philip Hernandez: It's a design thing. That's part of it too is, you think enough ahead because it has to be worked into the design that you're going to have something that can transition between seasons.
David Brawner: There's been plenty of clients who've come to us and talked to us about whatever is going on, but they're afraid to pull the trigger, they don't want to spend X amount, 5-6 figures, whatever it is. It's like, "that's cool. Hire us to be the designer. After the design phase is done, take those designs, and do whatever you want with them. You want to continue with us, let's do it. You want to go somewhere else? Those designs are yours."
Philip Hernandez: That's an interesting point. So, they could even build it in-house, in theory.
David Brawner: If they wanted to.
Philip Hernandez: Right, in theory, if they want to. A lot of haunters build a lot of their own stuff, they're very different from theme parks in that regard, right? They build out their own stuff.
David Brawner: Of course.
Philip Hernandez: But having that perspective that you guys bring to make it a more year-round revenue-generating thing...
David Brawner: I mean, very few people take the designs and run. Usually, it's just that initial cost factor. So, this way they have it, they know what's going to happen, how much it's going to cost. When they are finally ready to pull the trigger, that's when they hire us on and then we continue forward.
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