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Health Club Management

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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Coronavirus: In this together

As clubs were ordered to close, one logical response was to freeze memberships, despite the financial difficulties it would cause. However, many operators found their community was willing to support them, as Kath Hudson reports

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 4
Some operators have kept members engaged, while others put them on hold or froze memberships
Some operators have kept members engaged, while others put them on hold or froze memberships

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on that all health and fitness operators – along with much of normal life - should shut up shop, with immediate effect, caused many operators to implement an immediate membership freeze.

It made sense: if people couldn’t go to the clubs they shouldn’t have to pay and a membership freeze was better than mass cancellations. Especially as lots of people are facing uncertain times financially and will be assessing their outgoings.

“We took the decision to freeze for all, as it was the fair and the right thing to do,” says Holly Ainger, director of marketing and digital at Nuffield Health. “Giving online classes is what we should be doing, to say thank you for not cancelling.”

However, Nuffield Health is in the unusual position of being able to redeploy its staff to its healthcare division, which was renting hospitals to the NHS. Most other operators – who run with tighter margins and without another lucrative business to act as a safety net – needed to call on their community.

Those who did were amazed and humbled by the response of their tribes, who were keen to ensure the club is still there when the crisis is over and that the staff and freelancers will be supported through the crisis.

Many operators, for example SLL, initially froze memberships, but a week later went back to members and asked them to consider an optional delayed membership freeze. This gave members the option of paying during the closure and having the equivalent time for free once the clubs were re-opened, as well as one month extra as a thank you.

Torfaen Leisure Trust, in Wales, was forward thinking enough to have pandemic cover in place, which mitigated a financial crisis and protected the staff. However, according to CEO, Angharad Collins, so many members got in touch saying they would like to continue paying their memberships to support the staff, that the trust set up a Just Giving page, which will support local sports clubs and groups.

We talk to some operators about their experience of mobilising their tribe to keep some income rolling in through the lockdown. If you haven’t already done it, it’s not too late.

Hans Muench
Fitness industry consultant, author, speaker
Although many clubs have chosen to freeze memberships in order to show good faith, we should not assume everyone will automatically want to cancel their membership.

If a club has done a good job serving its clients, a high proportion are likely to be sympathetic to the situation in the short-term and, if they’re still receiving their own wages, will likely want to support the club and the staff, especially if the club is offering other forms of engagement.

In these difficult times, I’ve been amazed at how quickly operators have adopted digital technology, which can replace the in-club experiences and provide incentives for members who offer to continue paying. For example, free access to online tools or trainers’ online supervision, or group PT. Online portals such as Zoom, VAHA and Mirror are being used to enhance other activities, including meditation, mental training or nutrition counselling. While some operators are offering this content for free, some boutiques are charging for access to their rock star instructors and live PT.
Differentiate communication with members – start with those who refer the most prospects
Furthermore, if a club provides additional services to its membership or community, such as shopping for the elderly, or loaning equipment, there are additional justifications to keeping the payments running.

During this time, communicate multiple times and via multiple channels, making sure it’s proactive and positive. Differentiating communication with members is also recommended: start with your regular users, those who refer the most prospects and are the most active on social media (analytics can help you with this) and particularly the elderly in your membership base, who may be very grateful for the offer of help.
Stuart Martin
Managing director, Active Nation
we adopted a blanket freeze on subscriptions, but also sent out a letter to all of our supporters emphasising how the donations they provide are the lifeline of our charity, allowing us to pay our 800 strong team and providing public benefit to communities nationwide.

We asked those who could afford it to continue paying their subscription and gave another option of donating 50 per cent.

We told our members that we know it’s a big ask to donate to the charity while the venues are closed, but explained this vital support would allow us to continue providing digital home workouts with their favourite instructors, run the Active Nation app which provides more than 100 free workouts, as well as supporting our teams to still be there for them when they return.
Our supporters want to see us come out of the other side and continue our great work
The response was both surprising and heartening. To date we’ve received a 30 per cent return rate, with around 30 per cent continuing to make a donation and they continue to come in.

It has been enough to allow me to give my team full pay while waiting for the government schemes to kick in and I think shows that we have real engagement with our supporters. We’re still paying our freelancers to stream live classes. They’re not getting as much work as they usually would, but at least we can still give them something.

Our supporters want to see us come out of the other side and continue our great work. In turn, we gave back to the community by donating £20,000 of food and beverage stock to the NHS and food banks.
Gemma Bonnett-Kolakowska
Managing director, Bonska Consultancy
From a marketing point of view, digital strategy is absolutely key. Organisations and companies should look at how they communicate with members who are not able to come into the club.

Empowering them through utilising wearable tech to monitor their progress will ensure that a proportion do not simply cancel their membership. The product that’s offered should be more than just the gym and the creation of a virtual community will become very important to customers.
The creation of virtual communities has become very important to customers
There are many ways you can develop virtual content using trainers and this should be investigated. This will, in turn, help to raise the profile of the brand outside your catchment area; important for recruitment and retention of good employees, as well as meaning you will be seen as a thought leader.

You need to develop the digital community and set a clear strategy of action if you haven’t already done so.

Long term this will also support revenue flow and help to differentiate those facilities that truly believe in community and accessibility. It will also open the door to those who may not be able to get to a facility on a regular basis.
Duncan Jefford
Director, Everyone Active
When the closure was announced we got to work putting together a suite of online workout solutions, so we could keep engaging with our community and support their physical and mental wellbeing during this crisis.

We were very proud of the online solution we put together with Les Mills on Demand and Gympass, which is worth £45 a month.
The groundswell of support on social media has been encouraging and heartening
We then went back to our membership with three options: to have their membership credited for the amount of time that we are closed; to sign up to the online membership for £9.99 a month; or to continue paying their full membership, and Everyone Active will donate half to Prince William’s charity, National Emergencies Trust, which will help those impacted by the coronavirus.

We had a good response, with more than 7,000 members coming back to us within the first few days and we anticipate this will grow in May as the lockdown continues. The groundswell of support on social media has been encouraging and heartening, showing how much our members value our service.
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https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2020/702051_760572.jpg
As clubs had to close, one response was to freeze memberships, but many operators found the community was willing to support them...
Stuart Martin, Active Nation, Duncan Jefford, Everyone Active, Hans Muench, Gemma Bonnett Kolalowska,coronavirus, Active Nation, Everyone Active, health club, membership
People
It felt as though we were building a new business
People
HCM people

Keith Burnet

CEO global markets, Les Mills
I wanted to do something to inspire others and encourage them to believe that no matter what age you are, anything is possible
People
HCM people

Dr Darshan Shah

Next Health: co-founder
Our vision is that health is not the absence of disease but the abundance of vitality
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features

Coronavirus: In this together

As clubs were ordered to close, one logical response was to freeze memberships, despite the financial difficulties it would cause. However, many operators found their community was willing to support them, as Kath Hudson reports

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 4
Some operators have kept members engaged, while others put them on hold or froze memberships
Some operators have kept members engaged, while others put them on hold or froze memberships

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement on that all health and fitness operators – along with much of normal life - should shut up shop, with immediate effect, caused many operators to implement an immediate membership freeze.

It made sense: if people couldn’t go to the clubs they shouldn’t have to pay and a membership freeze was better than mass cancellations. Especially as lots of people are facing uncertain times financially and will be assessing their outgoings.

“We took the decision to freeze for all, as it was the fair and the right thing to do,” says Holly Ainger, director of marketing and digital at Nuffield Health. “Giving online classes is what we should be doing, to say thank you for not cancelling.”

However, Nuffield Health is in the unusual position of being able to redeploy its staff to its healthcare division, which was renting hospitals to the NHS. Most other operators – who run with tighter margins and without another lucrative business to act as a safety net – needed to call on their community.

Those who did were amazed and humbled by the response of their tribes, who were keen to ensure the club is still there when the crisis is over and that the staff and freelancers will be supported through the crisis.

Many operators, for example SLL, initially froze memberships, but a week later went back to members and asked them to consider an optional delayed membership freeze. This gave members the option of paying during the closure and having the equivalent time for free once the clubs were re-opened, as well as one month extra as a thank you.

Torfaen Leisure Trust, in Wales, was forward thinking enough to have pandemic cover in place, which mitigated a financial crisis and protected the staff. However, according to CEO, Angharad Collins, so many members got in touch saying they would like to continue paying their memberships to support the staff, that the trust set up a Just Giving page, which will support local sports clubs and groups.

We talk to some operators about their experience of mobilising their tribe to keep some income rolling in through the lockdown. If you haven’t already done it, it’s not too late.

Hans Muench
Fitness industry consultant, author, speaker
Although many clubs have chosen to freeze memberships in order to show good faith, we should not assume everyone will automatically want to cancel their membership.

If a club has done a good job serving its clients, a high proportion are likely to be sympathetic to the situation in the short-term and, if they’re still receiving their own wages, will likely want to support the club and the staff, especially if the club is offering other forms of engagement.

In these difficult times, I’ve been amazed at how quickly operators have adopted digital technology, which can replace the in-club experiences and provide incentives for members who offer to continue paying. For example, free access to online tools or trainers’ online supervision, or group PT. Online portals such as Zoom, VAHA and Mirror are being used to enhance other activities, including meditation, mental training or nutrition counselling. While some operators are offering this content for free, some boutiques are charging for access to their rock star instructors and live PT.
Differentiate communication with members – start with those who refer the most prospects
Furthermore, if a club provides additional services to its membership or community, such as shopping for the elderly, or loaning equipment, there are additional justifications to keeping the payments running.

During this time, communicate multiple times and via multiple channels, making sure it’s proactive and positive. Differentiating communication with members is also recommended: start with your regular users, those who refer the most prospects and are the most active on social media (analytics can help you with this) and particularly the elderly in your membership base, who may be very grateful for the offer of help.
Stuart Martin
Managing director, Active Nation
we adopted a blanket freeze on subscriptions, but also sent out a letter to all of our supporters emphasising how the donations they provide are the lifeline of our charity, allowing us to pay our 800 strong team and providing public benefit to communities nationwide.

We asked those who could afford it to continue paying their subscription and gave another option of donating 50 per cent.

We told our members that we know it’s a big ask to donate to the charity while the venues are closed, but explained this vital support would allow us to continue providing digital home workouts with their favourite instructors, run the Active Nation app which provides more than 100 free workouts, as well as supporting our teams to still be there for them when they return.
Our supporters want to see us come out of the other side and continue our great work
The response was both surprising and heartening. To date we’ve received a 30 per cent return rate, with around 30 per cent continuing to make a donation and they continue to come in.

It has been enough to allow me to give my team full pay while waiting for the government schemes to kick in and I think shows that we have real engagement with our supporters. We’re still paying our freelancers to stream live classes. They’re not getting as much work as they usually would, but at least we can still give them something.

Our supporters want to see us come out of the other side and continue our great work. In turn, we gave back to the community by donating £20,000 of food and beverage stock to the NHS and food banks.
Gemma Bonnett-Kolakowska
Managing director, Bonska Consultancy
From a marketing point of view, digital strategy is absolutely key. Organisations and companies should look at how they communicate with members who are not able to come into the club.

Empowering them through utilising wearable tech to monitor their progress will ensure that a proportion do not simply cancel their membership. The product that’s offered should be more than just the gym and the creation of a virtual community will become very important to customers.
The creation of virtual communities has become very important to customers
There are many ways you can develop virtual content using trainers and this should be investigated. This will, in turn, help to raise the profile of the brand outside your catchment area; important for recruitment and retention of good employees, as well as meaning you will be seen as a thought leader.

You need to develop the digital community and set a clear strategy of action if you haven’t already done so.

Long term this will also support revenue flow and help to differentiate those facilities that truly believe in community and accessibility. It will also open the door to those who may not be able to get to a facility on a regular basis.
Duncan Jefford
Director, Everyone Active
When the closure was announced we got to work putting together a suite of online workout solutions, so we could keep engaging with our community and support their physical and mental wellbeing during this crisis.

We were very proud of the online solution we put together with Les Mills on Demand and Gympass, which is worth £45 a month.
The groundswell of support on social media has been encouraging and heartening
We then went back to our membership with three options: to have their membership credited for the amount of time that we are closed; to sign up to the online membership for £9.99 a month; or to continue paying their full membership, and Everyone Active will donate half to Prince William’s charity, National Emergencies Trust, which will help those impacted by the coronavirus.

We had a good response, with more than 7,000 members coming back to us within the first few days and we anticipate this will grow in May as the lockdown continues. The groundswell of support on social media has been encouraging and heartening, showing how much our members value our service.
Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2020/702051_760572.jpg
As clubs had to close, one response was to freeze memberships, but many operators found the community was willing to support them...
Stuart Martin, Active Nation, Duncan Jefford, Everyone Active, Hans Muench, Gemma Bonnett Kolalowska,coronavirus, Active Nation, Everyone Active, health club, membership
Latest News
Mid Ulster District Council (MUDC) in Northern Ireland has won a landmark VAT case, which ...
Latest News
The government has pledged to invest £100m in supporting public leisure centres this winter, as ...
Latest News
Gyms in Liverpool,UK, have been given the go-ahead to reopen, following a dramatic week of ...
Latest News
Be Military Fit (BMF) has completed a restructuring project, designed to transform the outdoor fitness ...
Latest News
Rod Hill, former president of TRIB3 and director general of Anytime Fitness Iberia, has signed ...
Latest News
Persistent and rising levels of lifestyle disease across the world have exacerbated the effects of ...
Latest News
Customer experience software provider, AskNicely, has announced it will host a new virtual event called ...
Latest News
In breaking news, HCM understands the UK government has removed gyms and fitness facilities from ...
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Opinion
promotion
In a post-Covid world, member experience is more important than ever before. Your customers’ expectations have been heightened as the coronavirus continues to dominate our everyday lives.
Opinion: Why member experience is more important now than ever before
Opinion
promotion
Our world has changed since March and together, we are learning and adapting to how this sector can continue to thrive in this COVID conscious world.
Opinion: Why fitness clubs and facilities need to evolve in a COVID-conscious world
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Frame launches new, streamlined digital offering, powered by Fisikal
When facing lockdown restrictions, Frame successfully adapted its in-club experience to an online offering for members.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier: Volution explains how to drive the lifetime value of members through virtual engagement
In April 2020, two-thirds of the world’s gyms went into temporary closure due to COVID-19.
Video Gallery
A new Zone is here
MyZone Group Ltd
A new zone is here for your club, for your members and for you. Read more
More videos:
Company profiles
Company profile: Les Mills UK
Committed to creating a fitter planet, Les Mills UK works with clubs and instructors to ...
Company profiles
Company profile: EMD UK
EMD UK is the national governing body for group exercise. Funded by Sport England, EMD ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Member feedback software
AskNicely: Member feedback software
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Flooring
Total Vibration Solutions / TVS Sports Surfaces: Flooring
Locking solutions
Monster Padlocks: Locking solutions
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Fitness equipment
TRX Training: Fitness equipment
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Property & Tenders
11 - 25 Union St, London SE1 1SD
Bankside Open Spaces Trust
Property & Tenders
Waltham Abbey, Essex
Lee Valley Regional Park Authority
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
03-06 Nov 2020
Online,
Diary dates
12 Nov 2020
Virtual, United States
Diary dates
17 Nov 2020
Loughborough University, Loughborough, United Kingdom
Diary dates
27-28 Nov 2020
Athena, Leicester, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-03 Dec 2020
Virtual,
Diary dates
08-09 Dec 2020
Raffles City Convention Centre, Singapore, Singapore
Diary dates
02-04 Feb 2021
Ericsson Exhibition Hall, Ricoh Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
23-26 Feb 2021
IFEMA, Madrid, Spain
Diary dates
03-04 Mar 2021
NEC, Birmingham, United Kingdom
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
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