One month after Executive Director Mac Burdette reported that Patriots Point is over half a million dollars behind its revenue projections, the museum is taking a closer look at how to prevent missing projections in the future.
Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum broke its annual attendance record in the 2018 fiscal year, which runs from July 1 through June 30. Burdette said an analysis has concluded that 2018 was an anomaly.
“When we’re sitting here comparing this year to last year, it really looks skewed,” Burdette said at Friday’s Patriots Point Development Authority board meeting. “More importantly, I made the error of using last year’s numbers to base our projections for revenue this year, and that shouldn’t have been done because it (the 2018 fiscal year) is an anomalous year.”
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A better way to create projections, Burdette said, is to use an average of monthly attendance from previous years. An average of fiscal years between 2014 and 2017 shows that the 2019 fiscal year is not far from typical attendance numbers.
“The average, we feel, is a much clearer indication of where we are right now,” he said.
Burdette said he’ll know more over the next month but pointed out that attendance in January was about 4,600 more than in January 2018, during the anomaly year. Burdette said he and his staff “don’t claim to be economists,” but it’s clear that things are unsettled.
According to numbers released by the Census Bureau last week, retail sales in December fell by 1.2% from the previous month,the biggest drop since 2009; the Federal Reserve Bank of New York also said last week that an increasing number of people are delinquent on car loans, a sign that not everyone is benefiting from the strong labor market.
“We could be part of some of that,” Burdette said. “The same kind of money that people use to come to Charleston and Mount Pleasant and vacation and come here are the same kind of dollars they’re going to use to buy stuff at Christmas time and things like that.”
Burdette said the Patriots Point marketing and sales department is working on ways to be more analytical about how the museum does things, and expenditures for the year are still lower than they were at this time last year.
“If we have to make some adjustments at the end of the year to be balanced, it won’t be quite as huge … as it might be with us watching it right now,” Burdette said.
Ray Chandler, chairman of the Patriots Point Development Authority board, said hurricanes and flooding have also had an impact on attendance at attractions in the Carolinas. Burdette said if the annual pattern of storms continues, using averages becomes even more important.
“The previous year, you could’ve had three storms in one year, and it could change your whole comparison formula, so it’s better to average,” Burdette said.
Chandler said a decrease in attendance also might be a symptom of Patriots Point’s success.
“Over the last three years, we have really wrung out the towel on people within 300 to 400 miles of here,” he said. “With that great success, there are fewer of those people who want to re-visit.”
Chandler said the marketing department’s new analytical approach may help the museum find ways to market to other areas of the Southeast.