Ocean City needs to take the next several years to re-evaluate the future of its contracts with summer franchises – beach stands, beach photos (scopers) and vehicle vending (roving ice cream trucks).
From a revenue perspective, it’s become time for the city to decide whether any revenue is better than nothing. The revenue from each of the franchises has decreased significantly enough the city needs to consider their future. They are all trending down and will likely continue to do so, forcing the city to further adjust expectations.
That’s already happening to a degree with the city years ago lowering the minimum bid for the beach photo from $300,000 to $150,000 (it was awarded for $152,500 this week) and mulling this week loosening the rules on single companies purchasing larger amounts of beach stand blocks.
Of the three franchises, I think the future of the beach stand operation is the most secure. There will likely come a time when there will be no beach photo franchise. The writing is on the wall at this point with only one franchise being in place for the next contract. At this week’s bid opening, it was found there was only interest in one Ocean City franchise. Consequently, there will likely only be scopers in certain parts of town.
We have long felt the only means for the scopers to make it would be to offer fast delivery service where the photos are taken and then delivered hours later to the families on the beach. It’s just not reasonable any longer for people to agree to their pictures being taken and then track to the business locations later in the night.
With the vehicle vending franchise, it will be interesting to see how the bids return. We think it was a mistake to not place a minimum bid on the franchise. We wonder if anyone would even miss it if it’s dissolved.
Ocean City needs to have beach stands. There’s the tradition but they also provide a valuable service. We aren’t so sure the same can be said for the roving ice cream trucks and the scopers. Times have changed. The digital world and in advancements in cell phone technology has forever hurt the scopers’ business. The vehicle vending franchise offers little to customers other than nostalgia and convenience because similar types of goods can be found typically steps away at brick and mortar establishments on the Boardwalk.
Critical and realistic thinking is needed when it comes to these franchises as they come up for new contracts. There is little the city will be able to do to reverse the inevitable revenue declines, but there may be room for some strategic improvements to ease the trend over time.