6 Ways to Futureproof Your Fitness Business

Futureproofing Your Fitness Business: 6 Ideas For Long-Term Success

In the dynamic and ever-evolving fitness industry, staying ahead of the curve is essential for the long-term success of your business. As trends, technologies, and consumer preferences shift, it’s crucial to futureproof your fitness business to ensure its resilience and relevance. In this blog, we’ll explore key strategies to help you navigate the ever-changing landscape and position your fitness business for sustained growth.

 

Embrace Technology:

The integration of technology is a cornerstone for futureproofing your fitness business. From fitness apps and wearables to virtual training platforms, technology can enhance the customer experience and broaden your reach. Invest in user-friendly apps that allow clients to schedule classes, track progress, and access workouts remotely. Consider incorporating wearable technology to monitor and analyse individual performance, providing personalised insights and recommendations.

 

Virtual Fitness Programs:

The rise of virtual fitness gained significant momentum, especially in light of global events that prompted the adoption of remote solutions. Offering virtual classes and training sessions allows your fitness business to transcend geographical boundaries, reaching clients beyond your immediate location. Invest in high-quality video production, create engaging content, and leverage social media to promote your virtual offerings.

 

Diversify Your Services:

To futureproof your fitness business, diversify your offerings to cater to a broader audience. Explore niche markets, such as specialised training programs for seniors, corporate wellness initiatives, or fitness solutions for specific health conditions. By diversifying your services, you not only expand your client base but also create additional revenue streams that can help your business weather economic uncertainties.

 

Build a Strong Online Presence:

In the digital age, a strong online presence is non-negotiable. Create a professional website, optimise it for search engines, and maintain active and engaging social media profiles. Use these platforms to share valuable content, showcase client success stories, and connect with your audience. A robust online presence not only attracts new clients but also builds trust and credibility in your brand.

 

Prioritise Customer Retention:

While attracting new clients is essential, retaining existing ones is equally crucial. Establish strong relationships with your clients by providing exceptional customer service, personalised training programs, and regular communication. Consider loyalty programs, exclusive offers, and member perks to incentivise long-term commitments.

 

Stay Adaptable:

Flexibility is key in an ever-changing landscape. Stay informed about industry trends, consumer preferences, and emerging technologies. Be willing to adapt your business model and services to meet the evolving needs of your clients. Regularly solicit feedback and use it to make informed decisions that enhance the overall customer experience.

 

Our Final Thoughts

Futureproofing your fitness business requires a proactive approach to adapt to the evolving landscape. Embrace technology, diversify your services, build a strong online presence, and prioritise customer retention. By staying adaptable and forward-thinking, your fitness business can thrive in an industry that continues to evolve. As you implement these strategies, remember that the key to long-term success lies in the ability to anticipate change and proactively position your business for sustained growth.

 

What Is The Best Access Control For Gyms?

What Is The Best Access Control For Gyms?

 

Access Control in 2023 and Beyond

While the once seemingly unstoppable march of the 24/7 business model within the fitness industry has slowed down considerably, the debate regarding access controls for independent gyms and fitness clubs has never been more dynamic.

With the Covid-19 pandemic and the still ongoing energy cost crisis, the common orthodox that access control automation had made 24-hour Gyms and Fitness Clubs a no-brainer has been challenged. As such, the debate of the last half decade has shifted again, to the most effective and reliable access control solution for each individual gym.

No longer is it enough to just say that a full body turnstile for 24/7 access control is necessary. We operate in a more nuanced market now. So we thought that now was the time to put our 25 years of experience here at Ashbourne to the test. We will be drawing on our knowledge prior to and during the 24/7 revolution to see what life in the ‘aftermath’ looks like for independent gyms and fitness clubs.

We have dealt with independent gyms and fitness clubs of all sizes, shapes and specifications over the years. Each one of our partners and clients have allowed us to learn and adapt in an industry where versatility is truly rewarded.

As the technology involved in access control continues to advance, we thought it was about time to harness our experience and authority and condense it into an article to help new and veteran independent gym owners adapt to this post-Covid, post-energy crisis landscape. 

So without further ado we will be taking a look at the different access systems, comparing their pros and cons with specific focus on the current industry situation. 

 

What should an Independent Gym or Fitness Club Owner be looking for in an access control system?

But before we get to comparing and contrasting different access systems, we should look into what we WANT from our control access systems, as well as some specific terminology that will be used over the course of the article.

 

When we say access control, we are talking about a combination of two factors:

 

  1. What is physically stopping a person from accessing your Gym floor until they have verified themselves as a member.
  2. The verification process itself. 

 

Now while the term process might only evoke new, popular solutions such as fingerprint scanners and passcodes. This process can also be as rudimentary as someone on a desk buzzing/unlocking a barrier for the gym member.

While it might seem obvious, it is important to state that this process can vary wildly from gym to gym. And with 25 years working with independent gyms and fitness clubs we have seen a lot of ‘solutions’.

And so what are we looking for from each of these factors?


Our first factor, is the physical barrier. We want it to be a secure, hard-wearing solution. Hard to break, easy to repair and easy to traverse once the verification process (Step 2) has been completed by the gym member.

A gym entry system has to be a bespoke combination of efficient, secure, easy to use and, if possible, aesthetically satisfying to the customer. 

 

To our second factor, we are looking for a system that is easy to understand, hard to circumvent and reduces the ability for members to share their access information. It should also take minimal time, respecting the time of the member and the staff. 

Close up of turnstiles lighting green

As such, it becomes apparent that a good access control system isn’t just ‘buying the most expensive turnstiles’. It is a decision that has to take into account a Gym’s members, staff, facility and physical constraints.

The access control system that a gym decides to put in place should enhance the experience of the members. If it is a system that members struggle with or find frustrating or difficult to use, this will stick in their mind and be part of what they recall when thinking about the gym. Ideally it should be an extension of the brand, effortless, convenient, efficient. 

 

Because at the core of it an access system isn’t just a FIRST impression that a member gets of an independent gym or fitness club, it is a repeated impression.

If something is tedious and we only have to do it once, we can quickly forget about it. If something is tedious and we have to do it five times a week. We will remember it for a long, long time.

As such, it is vital that gyms and fitness clubs do not make the actual access procedure a case of ‘death by a thousand cuts’.

Even if the process is going to be rudimentary, it must still be judged on how unobtrusive and time-efficient it is. If the devil is in the detail, this is a detail that gyms will want to nail in order to bolster retention. 

 

So as we’ve worked out that Access control systems for gyms are a puzzle of two halves. We will look at each of these halves in turn. First we will start off with the common and popular access procedures and mechanisms that are used the world over. 


After that we will focus on the different types of physical barriers, not just for their role in keeping non-members out, but also measuring the ease of which it allows members into the gym. In addition we will look into different incidents and considerations we have come across in our time, such as their behaviour during power cuts and the level of inconvenience it will cause if they break or are damaged. 

 

As we go through these sections, we will keep in mind why we in the fitness industry employ access control systems for gyms and fitness clubs. That it is not merely a matter of who goes in and out. It is also designed to monitor your members, gain data and use it to enhance their experience within a gym or fitness club.

This can be vital and independent gyms that don’t utilise systems that can capture sufficient data risk losing out on valuable feedback. 

 

When utilised in tandem with the right club management software, access control can be used to transform the way an independent gym or fitness club gains information about their BAU (business as usual) operations. 

 

With all that out of the way, it is time to look into the best access control systems for independent gyms and fitness clubs, starting with the verification process. 

 

Section 1: Membership Verification Systems

First, we will be looking at the verification process. This is the system that gym members will be using to gain access to the gym. It goes without saying that the digital and resultant automation revolution have transformed how gyms are accessed in the last two decades. As such, while we did reference the idea of a staff member manually checking and buzzing people through a gym’s security measures, we are not going to include it on the list. 


That is because this system, simply put, is not ideal. Not only is it expensive in terms of staffing costs and manpower, it is also the worst method when it comes to data capture. We appreciate that independent gyms and fitness clubs that are starting out or have incredibly specific opening times might find this solution appealing, but we believe that it is a short-term solution for a long-term problem. 

 

There is an argument to be made about cost, but even then we believe that in the long term, the automated, higher-tech solutions that we are about to recommend will ultimately result not only in a saving but also in a greater scope for development moving forward.

 

Magnetic Swipe Cards, RFID Cards and Keyfobs

Membership card being swiped on turnstile

Starting in the physical (albeit still digital) realm, our overview will begin with a collection of access control methods employed by gyms and fitness clubs.

 

The reason these three methods, Magnetic Swipe Cards, RFID Cards and Keyfobs, have been grouped together is because they share something in common.


Each one relies on a physical object that will interface digitally with the gym or fitness club’s security system. From there, this physical object’s digital signature will confirm that the member is entitled to enter the facility and open the access control system for them. 

 

  • RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification cards, have become a staple of not only gyms but office access control. A small, credit card sized card that is pressed against a scanner for a few seconds. We will go over the main drawback with these cards at the end of this section, but compared to their magnetic counterparts they are largely considered reliable and hard-wearing due to their functionality being internal.  
  • Magnetic Swipe Cards are very similar in concept but rather than being pressed against a pad they are ran through a card reader. This is essentially a different method of interfacing. While popular, we have seen their popularity diminish somewhat due to a tendency to ‘de-sync’. Given these cards are often stored in magnetised wallets or phone cases, this has led to two different issues.

    One is that the magnetic stripe becomes scratched away due to repeated use.

    The latter is that the magnetic stripe becomes compromised by the magnetic wallets and phones that they are now commonly stored in. 

 

  • And finally we have the ‘key fob’. Used by everyone from office blocks to apartment blocks, these little balls of hardened ABS plastic essentially opt to store the aforementioned digital signature in something a little more unorthodox than a card. Normally worn on a keyring, they are exceptionally hard-wearing. Given that the scope for customisation is greater than a card, they have become quite popular amongst independent gyms as a method of free advertising. Of the three ‘physical-digital’ hybrid methods, they have the greatest aesthetic potential. 

 

The main appeal of these methods is their simplicity. Their function is easily understood, even if an independent gym or fitness club isn’t appealing to the most tech-savvy crowd. Short of the aforementioned de-magnetisation, the scope for them to fail in their functionality is very limited. They are easily portable and often kept in items such as wallets and keyrings that are hard to forget.

In terms of our digital feedback check, they pass with flying colours. Each will be specific to the gym member in question, and with a suitably sophisticated club management system and software, it will give all the necessary feedback and data straight to a BI dashboard. 

 

Furthermore, a branded membership card or stylised key fob can easily be made to reinforce brand identity. If the entry solution to an independent gym or fitness club is simultaneously aesthetically appealing and effortlessly easy, the membership will rightly build a positive connection with the brand. A positive reinforcement loop will start to occur where they associate the keyfob or card with the efficiency that the gym offers on the door. 

 

With all that being said, there is one key (excuse the pun) issue with these fobs and membership cards.

 

As physical items, they are susceptible to being lost and/or stolen. Both situations are unfortunate, requiring the card to be cancelled, lest the security of the gym or fitness club be compromised. 


It is also a method that is very prone to ‘access-sharing’, where people attempt to give out their keyfob or access card to their friends. While staff can be briefed on this, it is ultimately very hard to enforce as it requires the checking of cards. This can feel like a violation of trust to members who are just quietly going about their day.


Once cancelled, the keyfob or card must be reissued. This means keeping a physical supply that has to be given out. In turn, the decision then becomes ‘should members be charged for losing their card, and if so, how much?’. While these are not insurmountable questions, they can cause a degree of hassle for both gym members and gym staff. We would recommend that if an independent gym is considering adopting a key fob or RFID/Magnetic card system, that the management reflect on how these situations will be dealt with, as well as ascertain the cost of maintaining a supply of the cards/fobs. 

 

Barcode and QR Code Scanners

Barcode scanner on a turnstile

The barcode and its pseudo-successor, the QR code, are ubiquitous in modern society, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdowns. Though these are nominally two very different technologies from two different time periods, we have lumped them together for simplicity given that their distribution and functionality are largely interchangeable.

With the number of QR codes generated now running into the hundreds of billions, it is safe to say a few industries have found a way to utilise them! These codes are usually either generated on or sent to a phone application. In specific, more low-tech instances they can also be sent via e-mail. 

 

Both barcodes and QR codes are used the world over, and the fitness industry is no exception. Many independent gyms have latched onto these scanners as a cheap, purely digital alternative to cards and keyfobs. 

 

By removing the reliance on human input, these codes are able to effortlessly transfer a passcode to the access control system, satisfying the criteria for entrance while requiring a digital footprint for our aforementioned data efforts. 

 

Without the need to physically buy, monitor and replace an item such as a card or a keyfob, this system is cost-light and ultra-efficient. It can even be counted towards reducing a carbon footprint, with the diminished use of physical materials!


Ultimately the QR codes and barcodes, while simplistic, are ultimately effective. With the appropriate digital infrastructure behind it, these codes achieve an efficient, easy-to-maintain digital access solution for any independent gym or fitness club.

 

With that being said, they are not infallible. There is always the risk of members forgetting their means of access, their phones running out of battery, breaking or otherwise being corrupted. In addition, they are not the most intuitive for the technologically illiterate and may require some explanation that could put off older or more luddite-leaning gym members.

Furthermore, this method is very prone to ‘access sharing’, something that plagues many independent gyms and fitness clubs. 

 

Biometric Scanners

So while the biometric scanner fulfills the same essential function as our other two categories of access control for independent gyms, it does so in a much more futuristic way. By relying on something a gym member (hopefully!) always has on them, their finger. 

 

While the initial effort to collect biometric data and the machinery necessary to use it makes this the most cost-intensive method, the technology has become a lot more accessible and widespread. This can be most evidently seen in life through the rising prevalence on mobile phones. Once seen as a luxury feature, now even budget models come with fingerprint scanners. 

 

While the setup can be more laborious, the payoffs are undeniable. Independent gyms and fitness clubs that invest in biometric scans will adopt an access control system that is easy to use, impossible to forget and unnecessary to replace. 

 

If that isn’t enough of a benefit, this solution also provides the most effortless and satisfying experience providing that the biometric scanners are correctly maintained. Few other solutions feel as futuristic or secure. If an independent gym or fitness club is trying to reinforce the values of its brand via its access control system, we could not recommend a better solution. 

 

Furthermore, it is a system that is basically unable to facilitate the access sharing that has plagued the previous two options that we have investigated. 

 

Section 2: Physical Club Entry Mechanisms and Systems

Now that we have gone through all of the verification methods that we would recommend to one extent or another that can be utilised by an independent gym or fitness club, it is time to look at the other side of the coin. 


Namely, what is the physical mechanism stopping non-members from getting in and whether your members are trying to by-pass with a gym’s access control verification system of choice. 

 

We will be looking into quite a few options here, ranging from the expensive and all-conquering, to the simple and functional.

 

Keeping in mind what we explored at the beginning of this article, that in this post-covid, post-energy crisis bigger is not always better when it comes to the independent gym on a budget.

 

But without further ado, let us explore the second half of the puzzle that is access control. 

 

Speed Lanes

Starting with one of the more recent access control mechanisms that have been springing up across the fitness industry, we have the Speed Lane system. Designed more for efficiency than security, the speedlane is a light-weight option emphasising aesthetic and ease of use over cast-iron might. Speed is the name of the game…And the lane. 

 

Pros

Designed specifically to feel like a premium experience, speed lanes take inspiration from existing airport security mechanisms. In an age of near-instance everything, the speed lane is supposed to make the gym member feel like the process was near effortless. A small, quickly withdrawn plastic or metal gate will present a small obstacle before the card is presented, only to be whisked away without the member needing to break stride, ideally. 

 

Unlike some of the other solutions that will feature on this list, they are not an eyesore, and can be used to fully showcase an open and aesthetic workout space. This is the access control solution that feels most suited for the generation that has latched onto terms like ‘Zoomer’. Speed, convenience and efficiency is of the essence. 

 

Cons

Unsurprisingly, all that talk of aesthetic and efficiency comes at a cost. A comparative lack of security.

Or rather, a need for additional security measures perhaps. Speed lanes are relatively easy to circumvent and we would not recommend them as the only security solution an independent gym or fitness club uses, especially if they are a 24/7 enterprise.

The ideal place of use for speedlanes is a traffic-heavy gym or fitness club in a relatively secure area that operates purely within daylight/business hours. As such, we would only recommend the speedlane as a specific solution for a specific type of gym, not a catch-all solution. 

 

Swing Gates

access control for wheelchair user

Our next access control system that independent gyms can utilise, the Swing Gates, represents a more secure alternative to the Speed lanes. Though, as some might have guessed, at the cost of some speed. 

 

These gates are spacious, which is of course, a double-edged sword. They provide relatively quick and easy access whilst allowing a motorised system to ease the passage of members into the facility without need for them to interact with the gate itself.

 

Pros 

The Swing Gates have several benefits. They are material light, cheap to maintain and easy to repair. Their spacious design allows people with mobility issues or disabilities to navigate through them much easier. This is the cheapest solution that also benefits wheelchair users. 

 

If an independent gym or fitness club is looking to prioritise accessibility, the swing gate should definitely be an avenue that is considered. When compared to the turnstile, it offers a much more reliable situation. While some may require assistance, the number will be significantly reduced. We have even seen some gyms utilising a singular swing gate as an option for those that have accessibility issues. 

 

Cons 

With that being said, all this accessibility does lead us to the other side of that double-edged sword. It is very hard to recommend swing gates as a solution for a 24/7 gym or a gym that will not, in some capacity, have their access control system manned and monitored.

 

Tripod Turnstile 

tripod turnstiles

The archetypal three-prolonged turnstile needs little introduction. Perhaps one of the most ubiquitous access control systems in the world. Over a century old and utilised the world over, our question becomes:

 

Is it a viable solution as an access control system for independent gyms and fitness clubs in the post-lockdown, post-energy crisis 2023 and beyond?

 

Pros

As the saying goes, it is a classic for a reason. The tripod turnstile is hard-wearing, hard to break and easy to fix. It is a system that is instantly intuitive and uses space efficiently.

 

Indeed, when compared to more heavy duty solutions, the tripod turnstile can easily come out on top in terms of cost, space and usability. 

 

It is little wonder then that the tripod turnstile has become the staple that it is. When combined with low running costs, it is a system that is remarkably well suited to the post-energy crisis UK and Europe. What goes around comes around we suppose!

Furthermore, the installation of these systems is relatively straightforward and can be adapted to even the most compact gym or fitness club setups. As such, it is no wonder that it is the go-to choice for independent gyms and fitness clubs working on a budget and just starting up. 

 

Cons

But as ever with the most budget-friendly, start-up friendly solution. The turnstile tripod is not without its drawback. Just as we praised the virtues of the swing gates for their accessibility. The turnstile stands in direct opposition for those with mobility challenges. It is often not the easiest for members to navigate, and gyms that utilise this solution may have to find some work around to help those unable to use it comfortably. 


Furthermore, it is not necessarily well suited for 24/7 operations. Perhaps the most famous phrase associated with the humble turnstile is ‘jumping the turnstile’ after all. As such, we would say that once again this system primarily benefits daytime/business hour operating independent gyms and fitness clubs looking for a cheap and effective access control system. 

 

Full Height Turnstiles

full height metal turnstiles

Speaking of ‘jumping the turnstile’, here is one that even an olympic high-jumper might struggle to overcome.

 

Whether they go from floor to ceiling or merely stand at an imposing 2-meter-plus height. The full-height turnstile has become the emblem of access control for the 24-hour gym or fitness club. As such, we’ve seen both these systems rise in tandem, each helping the other succeed.

Has this beneficial relationship come to an end with the partial retreat of the 24-hour gym that has been witnessed over the last two years? Or is this only a temporary trend, quickly being undone? Time will tell, and we shall leverage our expertise to explore just what is in store for the full-height turnstile. 

 

Pros 

Able to offer unparalleled security whilst allowing for comparative ease of access. The full-height turnstile is an obvious candidate for the ‘heavy duty’ solution to gym access control. It is a striking statement of intent, a dedication to security, and a true investment.

The durable, all-encompassing nature of it means that it is one of the only access control solutions that offers full peace of mind while unmanned in a 24/7 gym or fitness club. 

 

It all but ensures that the only way that a person is getting into the facility is with the appropriate verification method.

 

This is important to reassure both the management of a gym and the members. If someone is working out at 3am, they want to know that only the people who have paid to be within a facility can get in. 

 

Finally, and perhaps what has given it a critical edge, is the relative ease of passage once verification has been provided. The full-height turnstile mechanism, for all of its bulk, is often easier to navigate than a more traditional turnstile. 

 

Cons

So while the full-height turnstile is a fantastic solution for certain independent gyms and fitness clubs, specifically 24/7 facilities, that does not mean it is a catch-all solution or a silver bullet solution.

 

The fitness industry is complex and the answer to the best access control system is not as simple as merely purchasing the biggest option on the market. 

 

And indeed, one of the key downsides to the full-height turnstile is cost. It is an expensive solution and one that will require more maintenance than cheaper options were they to break.

 

Furthermore, accessibility is another casualty. Unlike the much cheaper swing gates, not everyone will be able to comfortably navigate the full-height turnstile.


And lastly, space is a large consideration. Both in width and length, the full-height turnstile will take up significant room and will take time and space to install. 

As such, while many independent gyms and fitness clubs should seriously consider the full-height turnstile as their access control solution, it is not a given. This is not one of those listicles where you can scroll to the bottom to get the best solution.

But with that being said, to many independent gyms and fitness clubs looking for security as they implement 24/7 or unmanned solutions, the full-height turnstile will be invaluable!

 

Our Access Control Roundup

And so the conclusion? If you’ve been reading then it should be apparent. Independent gyms and fitness clubs are so varied and specific (in fact it is one of their greatest strengths) that the answer was always going to be multi-faceted.


With that being said, we hope as the article has progressed that it has helped to eliminate certain solutions for certain requirements and parameters. For example, the 24/7 hour aspirant should now be fairly assured of the type of access control system that will most benefit a 24/7 gym or fitness club. 

 

Furthermore, we hope that this look has reinforced how each system can help enhance the brand and image that an independent gym or fitness club is trying to project. Whether it is with an effortless speed lane or a hi-tech biometric scanner, each piece of equipment and verification method that we’ve gone through communicates something different.

 

The significant number of variables means that the best access control solution for one gym might not be the best for its nearest competitor. Whether it is based on the demographics that frequent the gym or fitness club, the space available, the opening hours or the number of staff members.

 

What this article hopes to achieve is a framework to interrogate each of those solutions in a constructive way, as presented by a company that has helped install thousands of them over the last 25 years.

 

If you are a new or veteran independent gym or fitness club owner with a desire to refresh, upgrade, or install the best access control system entry system for your facility, please do not hesitate to reach out and contact us.


Here at Ashbourne, we’ve been working with these systems for over twenty-five years, and with that twenty-five years come a level of confidence and dynamism that is hard to match. Our goal is to work with all of our independent gym and fitness club partners to deliver the solution that is correct for them, whether it is a verification system, access control system, or both! 

 

Whether your gym is in a busy city centre or purely targeted at the older denizens of a small town. Whether it never shuts or operates in a very specific window. We are confident that our experience and expertise will give us an advantage in finding the best solution for your gym at the best price. Furthermore, our industry-respected club management software can help use this equipment, turning member access into meaningful data that can influence the very fabric of an independent gyms operations. 

 

Don’t hesitate to arrange a demo with our team today on the following link! 

Gym Membership Price Increases: Is the race to the bottom over?

piggy bank sinking in sea

Gym Membership Prices race to the bottom ashbourne blog

 

“Is It Time To Increase My Gym Membership Prices?”

We realise you’re busy, so there’s 2 parts to this blog.

If you want to read the full context behind why raising prices is a good idea, then just keep reading.

But if you want to skip ahead to our 12 tips to increasing your gym membership prices, then click here to skip ahead!

 

 

For the last decade, the fitness industry has been a battle between the independent gyms and the large chain giants with their budget pricing doctrines in what seemed like an ever-deepening race to the bottom.

It is a story we have seen time and time again in the fitness industry. The arrival of this type of a huge chain Gym in a city or town indicated a significant shift and for the greater part of ten years these huge companies have dictated the pace of the industry.

But this was never a system that could last forever. Only a monopoly is able to put up their prices with anything resembling confidence.

And a business strategy based around ever-lowering prices will only ever work when times are good.

Part 1: The State Of The Market (or why times aren’t so good for the big guys)

Between the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, increasing energy costs and property rent spikes, it is safe to say that at the very least, the good times are on hold.

This represents a chance for a correction within the fitness industry for gym and club owners.

The cost of living is undeniably rising and rising at an alarming rate. Not only that, but rising energy prices are presenting a very real squeeze to the margins of Gyms and fitness clubs alike, regardless of size.

And yet due to the increasingly competitive nature of the sector, the question is still only tentatively asked… Should we be raising prices?

 

The answer is, of course, yes!

 

The price war that has come to define the industry can only abate in these trying times. While it is a model that allowed for rapid growth, it was one driven by very specific economic and technological factors. 

This shift prompted positive and negative change within the industry. The increased focus on automation is just one example of a development that was hypercharged by the rise of the budget chains for both better and worse in different areas.

But now that period of growth has subsided and both the chains and independent Gym owners are left with a quandary. There are relatively few gains to make through automation now. The Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns caused unprecedented disruption. 

 

 

Stock Market Increase

Pictured: The large gym chain business strategy

 

 

The model that previously seemed unassailable has reached the end of its artificial boom and now we have to ask the hard questions about where the industry goes from here and the culture shift that will have to occur when it comes to pricing. 

As hinted at the beginning of the article, it is actually telling that the industry is even approaching this debate so tentatively, when before so few gyms would even be considering a price rise, at the risk of turning members away.

Ultimately this approach is out of touch with economic reality. As inflation continues to bite, energy costs rise and rents increase, it is only natural that some of this should be passed onto the customer. As stated previously, the idea of ever-reducing prices is a mantra that can only exist in times of sustained prosperity. In a contracting or disrupted economy, it is neither prudent nor good business. 

Consumer Perceptions Have Changed!

While every price increase must be communicated effectively so your Gym patrons understand the reason for the decision, your members do not exist in a vacuum. Everyone is aware of the current situation to a lesser or greater extent. Consumers are seeing prices rise in different parts of their life, they are reading about it in the news and dealing with it in their own careers.

Context is king and in many ways the current context has the consumer prepared for a price increase in a way they haven’t been since 2008.

We must reinforce that it is still necessary to control and communicate the narrative for any price increase measures, but the position of increasing prices will be easier to justify.

And Sorry, But We Have To Mention Covid Again…

It is safe to say that Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our economic reality and we’d be remiss to not talk about it in the context of price increases in 2022. Quite simply, we don’t believe there has been an event in recent memory that has changed consumer habits so profoundly.

As such, the picture that is starting to emerge in our research is one of a post-Pandemic landscape that is focused on the creation of value, collaboration and community that will really make the difference.

The lockdowns showed us the value of socialisation that we had understandably taken for granted previously. (A complete lockdown of society having seemed previously unthinkable).

Now that the world has opened up and would appear to be staying open, we are seeing consumers that care more for interacting with friends and engaging with their community. We believe that these Independent Gyms, more likely to be locally focused and independent, will flourish during the post-Lockdown era. And the evidence is on our side.

As such, this makes for a greater justification for raising prices. The value of the product these Gyms provide will be more valuable. The operational costs are increasing. Consumers are looking for brands that they can rely on for more than just a service now. Frequenting an establishment now also carries the implication of protecting health.

 

Who is a consumer more likely to trust in that task? A soulless automated chain or a trusted, local Gym at the heart of the community?

 

It is these factors that we believe will effect the dynamic of price increases in the fitness industry in 2022 and beyond. As we hinted at earlier in the introduction, we believe this is one of the key factors that has taken the tempo of control in determining prices away from the rock-bottom chains.

 

 

Nutrition Plan

 

There’s A Greater Focus On Health In The Gym Now

And finally on this checklist, there is just a greater focus on health in 2022 than there has ever been. The Covid-19 Pandemic kicked the desire for fitness into overdrive. No longer was it just a goal to strive for, it became linked to survival.

While it might all start to feel surreal now we are out of lockdown, for 18 months everyone from the government and NHS to the supermarkets were telling the public to stay fit and healthy.

This really supercharged an existing trend for health and fitness that we have not seen abate.

Not only that, but we have no reason to assume that this new furore will disappear anytime soon. The historic survey data has only ever shown an increase in the importance of health and fitness within the public consciousness over the last twenty years. No data has shown thus far that the lockdown focus on fitness is receding.

In terms of raising prices, this means that gym and fitness club owners now hold a commodity with increased social and societal stock than ever before.

The Philosophy Behind Raising Your Gym Prices

So why have we spoken at length about the reasons that justify raising your prices?

Because the reasons that a gym or fitness club is able to identify for a price rise will be a cornerstone of how they communicate this to their members.

The crux of the matter is, if a Gym does not believe that the service it is providing isn’t worth it, it’ll be very hard for the leadership to justify a price increase.

So now we have discussed the state of the market, the increasing hardships facing all businesses, the Covid-19 pandemic and the role of the price wars in recent years.

With all that taken into account, it should now be easy to see whether or not the justification for a price increase exists within any given gym or fitness establishment.

 

 

Raising Living Cost Prices

 

Part 2: How Should A Price Increase Be Implemented At Your Gym?

So now we are going to focus on how to implement that price increase.

The methodology behind both the increase itself and how it should be communicated out.

Price Rise Tip 1: The Hard Maths Behind Your Health Club’s Price Rise

In this section we will be looking at the different methods that can be used to increase prices. Between different tiers of members, off-peak and on-peak, OAP and Students, premium members and concessions, there exists a multitude of different price points. 

Even without all of that, there are still hundreds of permutations possible when it comes to a price increase.

We are going to look at some of the most obvious and intuitive and work out their viability in the current market. We will make reference to what was covered in part one to justify or dismiss certain decisions. 

It is important to remember that just because a price increase method seems logical or has been used in other industries, does not mean it is necessarily a fit for the fitness industry. Increasing prices by 33%, 50% or 100% is a surefire route to disaster unless you have been seriously undercharging for a long time. 

Let us examine some potential methods of raising prices that mix in a little communication/spin.

Price Rise Tip 2: Pay Up-Front For A ‘Fixed Rate’

One way we have seen be quite effective is something derived from ‘price-locking’ seen in the energy industry, but with a fitness spin.

Communicate to your members the reasons we have discussed for the price rise regarding rising energy, rents and increased market instability. State the necessity of a price increase but state that this will not be implemented for one month.

If, within that month, a member is willing to commit to another 12 months, they will effectively be able to keep the old price for the whole year. Once the year has elapsed, they will be charged the new price. This will demonstrate that you are being proactive and rewarding loyalty and commitment to your Gym. Furthermore, if the offer is picked-up, it will result in a significant amount of revenue early on within this price increase initiative.

Price Rise Tip 3: Communicate With Your Members & Give Them Plenty of Time

On the subject of communicating a month ahead of time. We want to reinforce that in order to appear professional and in control of this price increase, we would recommend that a month is the minimum amount of forewarning a gym should give their membership of a price increase.

Ideally, this should be a two month timespan. An increased timespan works well with the above strategy as well, as the longer a member has to mull over their financial situation, the more appealing locking in a year of ‘cheaper’ membership will seem. 

 

 

Email Marketing and Customer Communication

 

Price Rise Tip 4: Provide Members With A Fixed Rate Follow-up

As a final word on the subject of the fixed rate up-front price increase, a Gym shouldn’t be afraid of utilising their list of former members.

It is an ideal time to contact lapsed or cancelled memberships. As we stated earlier, a lot has changed and members who cancelled before or during the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown may feel differently now. Additionally, it will make them feel part of the loop and connected to the news cycle of the Gym.

It will also be a communication that isn’t overtly about trying to sell.

It will be about the price increase, with the option to secure 12 months membership for cheaper than it would otherwise be available.

Whilst a small difference, psychologically it can make all the difference. 

Additionally, do not be afraid to communicate the 12-month offer several times. If a gym has communicated the raise and the offer two months ahead of time, we would say it is reasonable to remind members at least two additional times before the deal expires.

Price Rise Tip 5: Build Inflation Into Your Price Increases Today

We would recommend that essentially any price increase initiated by gyms and fitness clubs at the moment should cite inflation as a primary reason.

With that in mind, why not go one step further. Reinforce the causal link of this price increase to inflation by benchmarking it against inflation. If you raise prices by 33% or 50% of the total current inflation, say, 6% for example, you are effectively communicating that while you are increasing prices, relative to the market, you are still absorbing some of the costs.

This way the gym gains additional revenue, and your customers understand that you have protected them from part of the inflationary costs.

By crafting your increase around inflation, you are putting your money where your mouth is. This should leave little doubt in the mind of your customers that your motivations are in reaction to the increased cost of living. To any reasonable consumer, this will be taken as a positive on an unavoidable economic reality.

Price Rise Tip 6: And Think About Your Next Price Increase

If a Gym elects to go for this route, it might be worth considering raising the price of all services in line with this figure. Any additional workout supplements, drinks or associated accessories that you sell and have control over the price point of. 

By taking this approach, it is akin to ripping the band-aid off all at once and it is an action that is legitimated by your reasoning.

Conversely, if a fitness club does not wish to or need to increase the price of these additional services, it would be prudent to highlight this. It can be stated that due to the increase in membership prices, all associated prices will stay the same despite the new economic reality. This is once again a way to put a positive spin on a price raise outcome.

 

 

Planning Ahead In Your Gym Business

 

Price Rise Tip 7: Know Your (Local) Market

While this was touched on in the introductory section, it bears repeating here.

Context is king and no context is more important than the local market landscape that a Gym or fitness club is competing in.

Just prior to a price raise is the exact time for a gym to refresh its local market research.

A gym should strive to understand not only what the current membership price is for all Gyms and across all price points, but also how that contrasts with their historical pricing.

This will be a clear way to tell whether all Gyms that are considered to be competitors are also raising their prices and by what margin. It is important to understand the level of drop-off that can be expected and where they might go.

It will also help legitimise the price increase actions undertaken by a Gym.

Price Rise Tip 8: Make Sure Your Staff Are On The Same Page

No-one likes talking about price rises. The silent resignation that we have when the electric or council tax…So…

 

Train your staff on how to handle the price conversation!

 

No-one feels natural or comfortable while fielding questions regarding a price increase, especially during circumstances like the ones we find ourselves in. Spend time with your staff briefing them on the main reasons.

As these will have all been laid out in your e-mail and social media communication, it should not take too much work to collate these into material for your staff to learn from. If your staff are not briefed regarding this, bad interactions with customers who have taken the price rise poorly could work their way onto social media.

Price Rise Tip 9: Spread The Costs OR Add Value

When it comes to additional options and bolt-on amendments to Gym membership, there is room to manoeuvre in the realm of price increases. The inclusion of additional bolt-on options to a Gym membership can also be used to work around to give the impression of added value or a fair trade-off.

In one scenario, if you include a set number of sessions with a personal trainer as part of your membership with the increase, this helps give the impression of compensation for the service being provided. In turn, this will make members not only more likely to stay than if nothing is offered, but also more likely to engage with the gym or fitness club.

Conversely, by removing certain benefits to new members, you will be able to minimise the price  increase for newer members due to value saved. However, this should be implemented carefully, and rarely, if ever, on existing members. 

 

 

Personal trainers at your gym extra service

 

Price Rise Tip 10: Keep Your Price Increases Steady

Do not announce that the price increase is only temporary. No-one can predict what the future may bring and any goodwill gained from stating this will not equal the risk of being unable to fulfil this pledge.

While there are scant few reasons to reduce your price, unless your price increase has significantly priced you out of the market, it should never be pledged ahead of time. Instead, it should be communicated as a pleasant bonus. 

In practicality though, if a Gym did their market research correctly, it would take an immense reason to reduce prices after they have recently been raised.

Price Rise Tip 11: Prepare For Members To Abandon Ship

It is inevitable that some members will leave during a price increase. But if communicated effectively this number should not matter. The price increase should be structured in such a way that the increase is able to mitigate any potential dropoff.

 

As the old adage goes, you can’t please everyone, and some members will take any reason to quit.

 

Others will have been scaling back their expenditure irrespective. It is important to deal with these customers fairly and politely.

 

If a gym doesn’t already have a ‘lapsed/previous’ members mailing list, this is the ideal time to create one.

 

A gym should monitor the numbers that leave through their CRM system as that will be a key indicator as to whether they have done their market research and communication correctly.

Price Rise Tip 12: Remember That It All Adds Up

Earlier we covered the idea of increasing prices just for new members, or increasing the price and offering the old membership rate to all members.

These are tried and tested methods that we have seen in the fitness industry. However, we’d like to end our article on this practical piece detailing one of the many methods that can be used to implement a price increase.

 

Instead of using percentages, or only charging new members, one method involves a price increase of £1 per month for each member.

The thinking here is that this sum won’t seem a lot to each customer and isn’t represented as a percentage on purpose.

If you take a club with exactly 750 members, this little £1 increase transforms into £9000 a year prior to tax.

 

Naturally this can vary depending on the number of members and the average price paid at a club. As another example, we shall say a club has an average Gym membership of £40. Certain tiers come in on either side of that total, of course. Now we say that this club increases each membership, irrespective of tier, by £2.

A club where someone is already paying £40, providing it meets the criteria laid above, should not see significant dropoff from this.

But in turn, they will receive a windfall of over £1.5k a month, or nearly 20k prior to tax in a given year. 

As such, you can understand why this method can quickly cope with any small amounts of dropoff that may occur if implemented, communicated and handled correctly. 

Using direct debits, it becomes easy to arrange a price increase across your entire customer base as we’ve just described.

Interested in this method? Then you might be interested in Ashbourne Membership Management. Here at Ashbourne, we have twenty five years of experience in the industry, getting our partners the money they deserve, each month, every month.

Interested in finding out more? Then arrange a demo and gym consultation with us today.

 

In Conclusion…You Can Do This!

 

While we understand the aversion that many Gym and Fitness Club owners have to raising their prices, it is a decision that, given the state of the economy, they should be considering.

No business can maintain the same price points for their entire operational lifespan, that sort of inflexible doctrine will only result in damaging the long term viability of the gym.

 

Maintaining prices only damages your business and your profits.  

 

By failing to react to the increase in the value of the commodity that is fitness, a Gym is passing up profit at a time where it can scarcely be afforded. 

If a Gym truly believes itself to be an institution that adds value to the community and its membership, there is no reason they shouldn’t have the confidence to ask for a little more. 

As we stated at the beginning, the era of the budget club dictating the pace is over. It is a system that cannot survive contact with market contractions. Now the market must seek value generation, and to ensure that the proper price is being paid for that value generation. 

Uncovering The Best Location For Your New Gym (or your next franchise)

Empty Warehouse Gym Location

Finding New Gym Location Help

 

“Where Should I Set Up My Next Gym?”

 

If you are a long time reader of our articles, you will know how much we value market research before undertaking a significant business decision…

…And we are also going to go out on a limb and call starting a new gym or fitness club ‘a significant business decision’.

And so, if you are ready to set up a new independent gym or fitness club, then it is time to hit the research. In this article, we will be focusing on, to borrow the title of a popular show, location location location. Unlike many aspects of setting up a new gym or fitness club, location is one that a gym owner cannot easily change once it has been established. (Though, of course, it is not impossible).

As such, we’ve put together the following checklist of criteria that you should keep in mind when looking for a location for your new gym. And just for good measure, we’ve loaded it up with tips from our 25 years within the fitness industry and our very own plans to expand our ‘The Fit Club’ franchise of gyms.

 

TIP 1

Consider a location based on your customer’s demographic

 

The kind of customers you’re going after will massively determine your location, or can even be a chicken and egg scenario, shaping what your gym becomes.

If you already have an idea of what you want your gym or fitness club to be, then your location is effectively chosen for you.

An MMA fitness club is probably not going to do well in a village of 100 people in the middle of Yorkshire with an elderly trending demographic.

Every area has a character, and one that can be understood with just a little research. Some, of course, are characterised by a fairly even balance, giving you access to lots of demographics in a single area. Others will be heavily skewed, for example, here are a few locations that come to mind in our experience, complete with their strengths and weaknesses to a new gym or fitness club owner.

 

Student Areas

While the usually dense population, significant free time and active nature of a student population are huge positives, these areas are also highly transitory, with many students only going to university for three year terms and putting down no significant routes.

The explosion in dedicated student housing has compounded this trend. They can feel like a great place to target active gym goers, but you’re also going to massively cut your retention as your members may be active, but eventually they will have to leave for reasons out of their control, no matter how many benefits you offer.

 

Dormitory Towns

Otherwise known as suburbia, the pros to these areas include relative prosperity and normally a much more firmly rooted population than in cities.

A common downside we have seen is that a lot of workers will favour Gyms within the city that the dormitory town allows an easy commute to. This dynamic of being split between two areas has, however, been diminished by the work from home revolution in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, so you might find more workers are spending more time, and money, on the services in their local area.

 

Town and City Centres

Normally highly competitive and expensive to set up within these areas, but always providing a vast influx of people relative to the surroundings. Certain types of Gym will not be viable here, while other, more niche clubs will flourish in a way that they wouldn’t in more out of the way places.

We’ve seen a lot of gym owners who instinctively try to set up shop in these populated areas. After all, more people, more customers.

But that thinking can come back to bite many-an-aspiring gym owner down the line, when high maintenance costs put you on a business treadmill to always keep your club filled to max capacity.

Sometimes looking for a quieter area and providing a unique club experience can be far more profitable in the long run, as your club can easily become a discount one size fits all gym when upkeep costs become a major driving factor.

 

Every area, even if it falls into an archetype, will have its quirks and foibles. Don’t make business decisions based on stereotypes and assumptions.

 

Demographics

 

Thankfully, the internet has made researching an area easier than ever. From forums and social media to simply using google maps, it has never been easier to grasp an area. With that being said, most prospective gym owners in our experience are looking to set up in an area well known to them. While this has considerable and obvious advantages, do not be afraid to throw the net out slightly wider than usual.

Sometimes taking the road less travelled really does make all the difference. 

So once you’ve determined who you want to attract, now you need to work out where they live, and more importantly, where they are willing to drive to.

Unless it is in a town centre, city centre or business park, the assumption should be that people are not willing to drive more than 20 minutes.

Again, this will vary depending on roads, infrastructure, public transport and other interesting locations at the destination of a prospective gym. As such, ease of accessibility should be the top priority for the demographic you have in mind.

 

TIP 2

Look at the type of buildings available

 

The Covid-19 pandemic shook up nearly every market, and the business rental market is no different. Many businesses either shifted location or shut down entirely. This means that the pool of rentals post-2021 is significantly different.

The safest bet, predictably, will be a site that used to host a gym or fitness club. These come with several built in advantages, such as a pre-existing reputation within the local area and facilities that proved suitable for a gym in the past.

However you needn’t be limited by this. We have seen plenty of unorthodox venues transform from other areas of the economy into successful gyms and fitness clubs. Whether it is a former supermarket, restaurant or part of a school, with enough effort put into the conversion, we have seen prosperous gyms setup in all sorts of former venues. 

Don’t limit your imagination based on what’s available, but as always, be realistic in your budgeting about how much it’ll cost to convert that abandoned shoe store into a Kickboxing Gym.

 

Renovated Gym

 

TIP 3

BE SEEN! Don’t hide your Gym or Fitness Club away

 

This might sound silly at first. Surely it is what on the inside that counts?

Alas, there is a reason we tell people to not judge books by their cover, and that is because they do, CONSTANTLY!

 

A story we’ve heard repeated a hundred times from as many gym owners is the following:

‘They got inside our gym and they said they had no idea it was this good’.

Sometimes it is even worse and the visitor said:

‘They had no idea this was here’. 

 

More often than not, these gyms are hidden away on cheap industrial estates, down country roads, or only have a slither of a facade facing the street. 

While we fully understand the temptation to secure a bargain on an industrial complex or in a village barely anyone even knows exists, for most gym owners it is a false economy. Out of sight is, unfortunately, out of mind. The amount that will need to be spent on promotion and advertising to get people aware that your gym or fitness club exists, let alone get them into it, will be sky high. 

And even once the prospective customers to your new gym are aware, what is going to draw them far off of their beaten track? The unfortunate truth is that unless the area has an extreme level of car-reliance or fantastic public transport infrastructure, it will be hard to draw people away from the main streets. This is why certain chains, that shall go unnamed here, are always positioned in highly visible areas with large glass windows letting you see everything inside.

It is a tactic that works, and while you may find the premise will be more expensive than an out-of-the-way industrial estate, the benefits it brings can be measurable and powerful. A chalkboard out the front of your gym can get more eyes than a few hundred pounds of Facebook ads may ever do.

 

TIP 4

Take stock of what else is close to your Gym or Fitness Club

 

This is really a continuation of the last point, with a more specific focus.

Once you have an idea of the area, take a deep look at what is there.

Imagine you are a prospective customer, what would draw you to the gym?

Maybe there is a cinema along the street? Maybe it is next to a city’s business sector. Start to understand how people would weave your new gym or fitness club into their lifestyle.

 

High Street Shoppers

 

TIP 5

Collaboration & Competition

 

Now you have an idea of the area and what else might draw your potential customers to it, work out if any of these are ripe for collaborations.

A new gym requires a lot of promotion (which we have loads of helpful e-books on), and local partners are the ideal way to spread the good word about your new gym or fitness club. Think about what businesses would make for natural partners, both in the short term and the long term.

In turn, think about the competition that could arise in the future:

Don’t just look to see if an area is already overpopulated with gyms and fitness clubs, but also whether there are empty units or locations that could one day be turned into competition.

 

TIP 6

What is your Gym or Fitness Clubs Unique Selling Point (USP)?

 

As we hinted at in the point on demographics, if you are setting up a gym or fitness club, you want it to do something better than any other gym in the area. Whether that is a certain type of equipment or training, a type of class (the aforementioned MMA in Yorkshire), or the infrastructure, location or facilities that the Gym has, it should be planned in advance.

Once again, market research comes into play. Look at the prospective competition in the area you’ve selected.

Are there no gyms with a significant amount of parking?

Are there no gyms that offer competition level body-building equipment?

Does nowhere have an Octagon? 

It may sound like one upmanship and that is because it is. These are the sort of questions that the prospective customers your gym will be vying for will be asking themselves. Make sure your gym has enough of a USP that the answer frequently goes in your favour. 

 

Now, maybe it’s time to get back on Google maps…

 

To close off this article, we think it is important to reiterate what we said at the beginning.

Setting up a gym or fitness club is no small feat, but more importantly it is a task that rewards thorough market research beforehand.

We hope this article can serve as a checklist of criteria to look for when scouting for a location for your new gym or fitness club.

 

And if you are looking to start a gym or fitness club…

…And need help with running your business…

Then it might be time to drop us a line!

Ashbourne Membership Management has been working with partners in the fitness industry for over 25 years and we’ve been with gyms and fitness clubs at every stage of the journey, including setup.

So if you are interested in having your membership management locked in place before your doors even open, come and book a gym consultation today. We can show you round our system and give you tips for how to grow your club and collect your payments.

All our sales team own gyms or work within the industry, so a quick chat is well worth your time!