No man is an island as John Donne said, and neither is any business. Your Gym or Fitness Club will naturally be affected by the competition that surrounds it, and this has never been more pertinent as Lockdown is being lifted after this most recent (and hopefully last) wave of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
As such, the Fitness Club and Gym market finds itself in a unique position. How does our industry act moving forward? After over a year of either Pay Freezes, Price Freezes, mass cancellation and the rise of Home-Gymming. It is time to take a look at some of the basics as we move forward out of Lockdown.
So to bring it full circle from the beginning of our introduction, do not ask who the Dumbbell tolls for, it tolls for thee.
Keep your area or each area in mind
This will be easier for a Gym or Fitness Club owner or manager who only deals with one building.
Knowing the area is vital. This isn’t as simple as knowing the competition. Understanding transport links, demographics and other external factors is vital.
Not only that, it is important, now more than ever, to not take this knowledge for granted. Just because you have operated in your area for five or ten years, doesn’t mean it looks the same post-Covid.
Some estimates say the population of London dropped by nearly 700,000 people over Lockdown. If you operate in London, that is a lot of potential members gone. If you operate outside of London, that is a lot of potential members gained.
Cities, in general, saw a reduction in population outside of a few outliers such as Bristol and Edinburgh. Towns and Suburbia saw an increase as the British population wanted to enjoy gardens more, and cramped city flats less.
This means the demographics in your area could’ve changed dramatically.
Working from Home
Not only that, people have started working from home more, and this is not a trend that shows any sign of abating.
Over the entire lockdown, many traditionally office-based sectors such as the financial sector, software development and investment all moved to a work from home structure with significant infrastructure investments.
Costly offices have been shut down entirely during the last 15 months and working from home has never been so widespread or viable.
As a Gym or Fitness Club Owner or Manager, you need to be looking at how this affects your place in the market.
Was your Gym full of financial sector office workers because of its position in the city centre? Was it next to a suburban development that has just doubled in population size due to the urban flight?
One of these businesses is going to have significantly more members, and another might now have significantly less. You need to understand where your former members are now, and where your potential new members might be.
This represents a shift in demographics in this country not seen since the Second World War and your Gym or Fitness Club would be remiss and essentially flying blind if you did not renew your market research into the new landscape of your local area.
Monitor your competitors and their pricing levels
You should never be neglecting the pricing levels, structures and tactics of your competitors, and whenever we are exiting a Lockdown is absolutely no exception.
Keep a close eye on several aspects of your local competitors’ pricing structure. Is there a noticeable reduction in price across all your competitors in an attempt to win customers back after a period of hardship and separation from their member base? Conversely, has the price risen due to perceived increased demand in your area?
Your pricing decisions should be based on real market analysis, so keep an eye on what they’re charging for various membership types. As we covered in the last section, this could be based on research they have done that has revealed something you do not yet know.
A high tide may raise all boats, but you can still be in the best position to exploit and utilise that high tide. Look for patterns in your competitors’ movement that may indicate where your business needs to look or what it needs to do moving forward.
Cancelled Memberships: What happens next
Even if your Gym or Fitness Club froze all your memberships instantly in March or April of 2020 when the Covid-19 Pandemic’s effect became clear. It is likely you have lost some members.
Given everything we have detailed so far with the effect it has had on the country, it is hardly surprising that you may have lost some members. And without open facilities to attract new members, this means most Gyms and Fitness Clubs will be in full recruiting mode.
This will leave most regions and localities looking very different to how they have done in the past.
For once, it seems likely that every Gym or Fitness Club in a given area will be thinking ‘How do I attract New Members within the next month’. Rather than some being at capacity and some being happy just to coast.
This means there will be a lot of competition and one area worth focusing on is the reclamation and consolidation of any members that cancelled during the last 15 months between March 2020 and June 2021.
Utilising your market team to make it clear your Gym or Fitness Club is back open is the first, apparent step.
After that, it will become a matter of offers, nostalgic reminders and events that will have to get them dropping those 5kg dumbbells that live under their sofa and back onto your state of the art equipment.
Frozen Memberships. What happens next
From time-to-time your members might have a genuine reason for not being able to attend the club but recently they’ve had a damn good reason not to attend. As such, many Fitness Clubs and Gyms took the decision at the beginning of the lockdown to freeze membership direct debits until the time it seemed possible to re-open safely, once lockdown had been fully lifted.
Rather than letting them cancel this allowed for the mass freezing of memberships in a way that hadn’t been done before on a nationwide scale.
However, with freezing comes significant risks. There is a significant chance that even though the membership has been frozen for so long, now the world is opening up the member could turn around at the end of this freeze period, instantly stopping their direct debit now that the prospect of returning has arisen.
It has been proven that many gym-goers are reliant on momentum and habit and those are obviously factors that have been curtailed and shattered in the last 15 months.
Thus it is very important to try and work on a campaign of integration back into the club. This could range from events and clubs, to new equipment, free t-shirts and even discounts.
If possible, get your staff to contact individual members during this period of unfreezing and lifting Lockdown to determine:
- When the freeze started, confirm the terms of the freeze and then check the members contact details.
- Ask them when they would like the freeze to end and try to encourage them back as soon as safe and possible..
- Try to end the freeze on the phone to reduce repeat admin and increase revenue. But make sure your staff respect the member’s wish if they do not wish to unfreeze yet!
The path out of lockdown isn’t going to be easy, but it does represent an opportunity.
A lot has changed and not all of it is necessarily for the worse. We find ourselves in a new environment and that environment comes with its own challenges, trials, opportunities and successes.
As we move into the summer, hopefully, this guide we have laid out will help you appreciate some of the challenges that lie ahead and how to make them work for you!
You needn’t do it alone
Lockdown wasn’t just an unprecedented time for Gyms and Fitness Clubs, it was also unprecedented for us as a Fitness Payment Management Solutions company.
We rose to these challenges in a big way and as such are now more ready than ever to help your club or gym move into this new future.
If you are interested in how we can help your club enter the post-Lockdown market and really power up your operation, please contact us today for a free demonstration!
We hope to hear from you soon!