GET HCM
magazine
Sign up for the FREE digital edition of HCM magazine and also get the HCM ezine and breaking news email alerts.
Not right now, thanksclose this window
Les Mills
Les Mills
Les Mills
Follow Health Club Management on Twitter Like Health Club Management on Facebook Join the discussion with Health Club Management on LinkedIn Follow Health Club Management on Instagram
UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Research: The US member journey in the age of COVID-19

Stephen Tharrett, co-founder, ClubIntel

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 1
Boomers in the US were significantly more likely to return when compared with younger people / DisobeyArt/shutterstock
Boomers in the US were significantly more likely to return when compared with younger people / DisobeyArt/shutterstock
Fitness operators who seek to pull through this random and cruel era of COVID-19 will need to embrace change. Not cosmetic change, but deep-down foundational change

For the US health and fitness industry, 2020 was a year framed by the unrelenting, random and often exponential growth of COVID-19, and the spillover of disruption and destruction this has caused for fitness operators, employees, and members.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the fabric of the industry and since March 2020, national and local governments have mandated one or more rounds of temporary facility closures, with some as short as 60 days and others lasting six months or more.

For some US operators, these closures resulted in Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings and/or permanent business closure. By some estimates, 20 per cent or more of US health and fitness businesses met extinction in 2020 due to COVID-19.

However, it’s the consumer who is the ultimate arbiter of our industry’s survival and as a result, it behoves us as operators to dive down and understand how COVID-19 is influencing member behaviour and perceptions with respect to their fitness journey and their return to the gym in the US.

Understanding the member journey
In June 2020, ClubIntel launched a longitudinal study of the member journey. The initial study explored the behaviours, experiences, and sentiments of 2,000 members over the age of 18, balanced by gender, generation, and geographic region within the US.

The results of that study were released earlier this year in a report entitled What Members Say Matters. In early November, ClubIntel launched a second survey of these same members that explored how the attitudes, behaviours, sentiments, and perceptions of this member population had changed since the earlier survey.

The goal of these two surveys was to garner a greater understanding of the member journey and how it might frame the types of changes fitness operators need to consider if they want to prevail and succeed in this era of COVID-19.

This article will begin by highlighting some of the key findings from the study, then offer some thoughts on what they mean for the industry going forward.

At the time this article was written a vaccine was rolling out in the US and UK. The roll-out will take at least a year. During that time, other steps will continue to be taken by communities to stem the tide of COVID-19.

Fitness operators will still be touched by government restrictions and low consumer confidence around the safety of returning to a fitness facility. As a result, understanding the dynamics of the member journey can help operators reframe their business approach and hopefully enhance their survival rate. In the end, it’s not just about dancing in the rain, but being the best dancer in the rain.

Those who seek a more in-depth look into the information and insights are welcome to visit the ClubIntel website at www.club-intel.com and download a complimentary copy of the full report.

Key findings

• 70% of US gym members either agree or strongly agree their facility is properly addressing their safety concerns around COVID-19 in the way it is operating

• Approximately 60% of US members said their gym offered digital fitness content or fitness video on demand

• Women in the US are almost twice as likely as men to be using the video on demand content provided by their facility

• 44% of members reported using their gym’s video on demand service in addition to exercising at the gym

• 68% of US fitness facilities have reopened, 32% have not

• 18% of US members say their facility has permanently closed. This means 56% of reported closures were permanent

• Boomers in the US (56 to 74 years old) were significantly more likely to return to their fitness facility when compared with Gen Z or millennials. Boomers were also the least likely to have cancelled during closure, although they displayed the lowest level of confidence in the safety practices being implemented

• 34% of members have returned to their former facility, another facility, or engaged with a digital middleman. 26% returned to their former facility, representing 76% of returns

• Of those who returned, 44% returned the first week their facility was open

• 66% of members have yet to return to the gym. Approximately 48% of these are due to the facility not being open

• 20% of members have stopped exercising altogether

• 57% of non-returning members say the reason they haven’t returned is a lack of confidence in the pandemic being sufficiently under control

• 28% of non-returning members indicate they’re not confident fellow members will abide by proper safety policies

• 27% are not confident gym managers will adhere to safety procedures

• 82% of members said they’re not aware of a member and/or staff person testing positive for COVID-19, with 18% reporting they ARE aware of there having been a positive test

• US Women were twice as likely as men to have heard of a member or staff person testing positive for COVID-19

• US Women were significantly less confident in the steps their facility is taking to address their safety concerns

• In the US, women are marginally more likely to have cancelled their membership during closure, and marginally less likely to have returned to their facility (23% vs 29% for men)

• Gen Z and Millennials in the US were the least likely to report returning to their former facility after lockdown and when they returned, were the most likely to engage with the facility’s video on demand

• Key ways of providing a COVID-19 safe environment are seen by gym members in the US as: facility management being transparent in communicating to members if staff/members have recently tested positive; gym staff conducting daily temperature checks; management confronting and removing users that do not comply with safety policies; staff disinfecting equipment after each use by members; and staff wearing protective gloves

"Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but about learning to dance in the rain" (German proverb) / Photo: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock
More thoughts: A Darwinian challenge

W Edward Deming famously exclaimed: “Change is optional, because survival is not mandatory”.

The survival of the fitness industry, as well as many fitness operators, is, therefore, not mandatory.

Fitness operators who seek to pull through this random and cruel era will need to embrace change. Not cosmetic change, but deep-down, foundational change.

What are some things operators may need to consider to avoid extinction of their brand?
Returning to pre-COVID-19 membership levels will be a challenge

Until consumers in the US are confident the pandemic is under control, only the most ardent will return. Few things an operator can do will overcome this dynamic. As a result, some US fitness operators will need to adjust their value proposition to garner more revenue from fewer members.

Operators need to view women, as well as Gen Z and millennials through a different lens

Prior to COVID-19, women represented a larger portion of industry memberships than men, Millennials represented the largest segment of membership, and Gen Z – the largest generation in U.S. history – was emerging as the audience of the future.

These groups had the highest cancellation rates, the lowest return rates, the least confidence in what operators are doing safety-wise and are the most inclined to use video on demand, so getting these populations to return and remain will require a paradigm shift within the US fitness industry.

The days when operators could depend on non-users and low users for revenue are quickly fading

Business models that garner profit from having 50 per cent or more of dues-paying members never showing up are in for a rough ride. The pandemic has put a major hurt on the ‘pay and no play’ business model.

Transparency and trust are the currency of success going forward

Going forward, especially among women, Gen Z and millennials, transparency and trust will be an important currency for survival.

Practices such as auto-renewal, billing during closure, excessive small print, onerous cancellation policies, restrictive freeze policies, and treating members as hostages rather than royalty all played a role in the low rate of return among some members, especially women and the younger generations.

Digital video on demand is the new monetisation platform

A larger percentage of members in the US, especially women, Gen Z and Millennials are now embracing the regular use of video on demand, compared to small group training and personal training. The rate of VOD uptake among returning members is two to three times higher than those former revenue stalwarts – personal training and small group training. ●

Photo: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock
About the author
Stephen Tharrett

Stephen Tharrett was a co-founder, along with Mark Williamson, of ClubIntel a brand insights firm serving the health/fitness industry. Stephen was a former CEO of the Russian Fitness Group and former President of the IHRSA Board.

A note from the editor

Stephen Tharrett, a much-loved member of the global fitness community, died on December 22 from a heart attack.

A few days before his untimely passing, Steve penned this article for HCM, saying he had great faith in the sector, given its resilience in facing the challenges of the pandemic.

We publish it to honour his life and work and his invaluable contribution to the industry – with his trademark proverbs firmly in place. Steve was a huge supporter of HCM and as a team, we are grateful to have been blessed with his wise counsel, kindness and encouragement.
Liz Terry, editor, HCM

https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/524354_660681.jpg
The late Stephen Tharrett explores the US member journey in the age of COVID-19
HCM magazine
As the industry enters a phase of regrowth following the loss of members during lockdown, it’s crucial to understand customer acquisition cost versus the lifetime value of each customer, as Paul Bedford and Jamie Owens explain
HCM magazine
When we questioned our customers on what they liked about The Claremont Club, they all mentioned that we were helping people who were in dire need
HCM magazine
An ongoing partnership between Active Leeds and Hussle has created exciting results in the form of increased usage and memberships
HCM Magazine
Policy
As our sector starts to recover, there will be changes in the needs of communities, consumers and the provision of opportunities. To explore this subject we hosted a virtual round table to better understand views on key workforce questions
HCM Magazine
Opinion
Moving Communities is our chance to demonstrate our value and develop a universal service for all, argues Martyn Allison
HCM Magazine
Sponsored
Come join the party!
HCM Magazine
Talking Point
Consumer research has shown a population-wide surge in interest in reducing lockdown weight gain and getting fitter. Is the industry ready and willing to put its hand up to help people with weight loss? Kath Hudson reports
HCM Magazine
Editor's letter
The industry can be the catalyst for recovery from the pandemic, as well as addressing many of the underlying issues which enabled COVID-19 to wreak such havoc
HCM Magazine
Research
Physical activity gives structure and meaning to people’s lives, according to new research
HCM Magazine
Sponsored
Daniel Jones is the brains behind Orbit4, the world’s first digital ecosystem to manage and facilitate the entire commercial fitness product cycle. We caught up with him at Orbit4 HQ in Cheshire
HCM Magazine
Latest News
Reports in today's national media, including the Daily Telegraph and Sky News, suggests the UK ...
Latest News
Operating a further four weeks at reduced capacity will place serious pressure on English fitness ...
Latest News
People experiencing homelessness are being offered free access to leisure centres by Oxford City Council. ...
Latest News
IHRSA has appointed Elizabeth Clark as its new president and CEO. Clark joins the industry ...
Latest News
Boutique studio operator TRIB3 has launched its own-brand range of luxury toiletries. The operator, which ...
Latest News
Rainer Schaller's RSG Group is bringing its John Reed brand of health clubs to the ...
Latest News
The government needs to urgently set out its plans to support physical activity and fitness ...
Latest News
Glofox will begin offering health clubs, gyms and fitness studios instant access to financing, following ...
Opinion
promotion
While much of the fitness industry has reopened its doors across the UK over the past weeks, many members are yet to return.
Opinion: Re-engaging your post-lockdown absent members
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Cryotherapy specialists, L&R Kältetechnik, launch new artofcryo.com division
L&R Kältetechnik has launched a new division, named artofcryo.com, after 30 years’ experience with -110 °C electrical solutions.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Active IQ launches two industry-ready health and fitness diplomas
Active IQ has launched two new qualifications – the Level 2 Diploma in Health and Fitness and Level 3 Diploma in Health and Fitness – to help engage learners in an industry-ready training experience that can be tailored to suit local employer needs.
Featured operators news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active bolsters Everyone on Demand and enters second year with five new partnerships
Everyone Active has signed a number of new deals which will see the operator strengthen its digital product offering, Everyone on Demand.
Featured operators news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active generates £342m in social value
Award-winning leisure operator Everyone Active generated £342million in social value at its sites across the country in 2019/20.
Company profiles
Company profile: TRIB3 International Ltd
First established in Sheffield in January 2016 TRIB3 is a bootcamp boutique studio designed to ...
Company profiles
Company profile: FunXtion International BV
With our digital member solutions, branded app and branded virtual classes your clients can now ...
Supplier Showcases
Supplier showcase - Safe Space: Changing concept
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Management software
fibodo Limited: Management software
Uniforms
Service Sport: Uniforms
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
01-04 Jul 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
18-19 Sep 2021
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
28-29 Sep 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2021
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates

features

Research: The US member journey in the age of COVID-19

Stephen Tharrett, co-founder, ClubIntel

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 1
Boomers in the US were significantly more likely to return when compared with younger people / DisobeyArt/shutterstock
Boomers in the US were significantly more likely to return when compared with younger people / DisobeyArt/shutterstock
Fitness operators who seek to pull through this random and cruel era of COVID-19 will need to embrace change. Not cosmetic change, but deep-down foundational change

For the US health and fitness industry, 2020 was a year framed by the unrelenting, random and often exponential growth of COVID-19, and the spillover of disruption and destruction this has caused for fitness operators, employees, and members.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the fabric of the industry and since March 2020, national and local governments have mandated one or more rounds of temporary facility closures, with some as short as 60 days and others lasting six months or more.

For some US operators, these closures resulted in Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings and/or permanent business closure. By some estimates, 20 per cent or more of US health and fitness businesses met extinction in 2020 due to COVID-19.

However, it’s the consumer who is the ultimate arbiter of our industry’s survival and as a result, it behoves us as operators to dive down and understand how COVID-19 is influencing member behaviour and perceptions with respect to their fitness journey and their return to the gym in the US.

Understanding the member journey
In June 2020, ClubIntel launched a longitudinal study of the member journey. The initial study explored the behaviours, experiences, and sentiments of 2,000 members over the age of 18, balanced by gender, generation, and geographic region within the US.

The results of that study were released earlier this year in a report entitled What Members Say Matters. In early November, ClubIntel launched a second survey of these same members that explored how the attitudes, behaviours, sentiments, and perceptions of this member population had changed since the earlier survey.

The goal of these two surveys was to garner a greater understanding of the member journey and how it might frame the types of changes fitness operators need to consider if they want to prevail and succeed in this era of COVID-19.

This article will begin by highlighting some of the key findings from the study, then offer some thoughts on what they mean for the industry going forward.

At the time this article was written a vaccine was rolling out in the US and UK. The roll-out will take at least a year. During that time, other steps will continue to be taken by communities to stem the tide of COVID-19.

Fitness operators will still be touched by government restrictions and low consumer confidence around the safety of returning to a fitness facility. As a result, understanding the dynamics of the member journey can help operators reframe their business approach and hopefully enhance their survival rate. In the end, it’s not just about dancing in the rain, but being the best dancer in the rain.

Those who seek a more in-depth look into the information and insights are welcome to visit the ClubIntel website at www.club-intel.com and download a complimentary copy of the full report.

Key findings

• 70% of US gym members either agree or strongly agree their facility is properly addressing their safety concerns around COVID-19 in the way it is operating

• Approximately 60% of US members said their gym offered digital fitness content or fitness video on demand

• Women in the US are almost twice as likely as men to be using the video on demand content provided by their facility

• 44% of members reported using their gym’s video on demand service in addition to exercising at the gym

• 68% of US fitness facilities have reopened, 32% have not

• 18% of US members say their facility has permanently closed. This means 56% of reported closures were permanent

• Boomers in the US (56 to 74 years old) were significantly more likely to return to their fitness facility when compared with Gen Z or millennials. Boomers were also the least likely to have cancelled during closure, although they displayed the lowest level of confidence in the safety practices being implemented

• 34% of members have returned to their former facility, another facility, or engaged with a digital middleman. 26% returned to their former facility, representing 76% of returns

• Of those who returned, 44% returned the first week their facility was open

• 66% of members have yet to return to the gym. Approximately 48% of these are due to the facility not being open

• 20% of members have stopped exercising altogether

• 57% of non-returning members say the reason they haven’t returned is a lack of confidence in the pandemic being sufficiently under control

• 28% of non-returning members indicate they’re not confident fellow members will abide by proper safety policies

• 27% are not confident gym managers will adhere to safety procedures

• 82% of members said they’re not aware of a member and/or staff person testing positive for COVID-19, with 18% reporting they ARE aware of there having been a positive test

• US Women were twice as likely as men to have heard of a member or staff person testing positive for COVID-19

• US Women were significantly less confident in the steps their facility is taking to address their safety concerns

• In the US, women are marginally more likely to have cancelled their membership during closure, and marginally less likely to have returned to their facility (23% vs 29% for men)

• Gen Z and Millennials in the US were the least likely to report returning to their former facility after lockdown and when they returned, were the most likely to engage with the facility’s video on demand

• Key ways of providing a COVID-19 safe environment are seen by gym members in the US as: facility management being transparent in communicating to members if staff/members have recently tested positive; gym staff conducting daily temperature checks; management confronting and removing users that do not comply with safety policies; staff disinfecting equipment after each use by members; and staff wearing protective gloves

"Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, but about learning to dance in the rain" (German proverb) / Photo: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock
More thoughts: A Darwinian challenge

W Edward Deming famously exclaimed: “Change is optional, because survival is not mandatory”.

The survival of the fitness industry, as well as many fitness operators, is, therefore, not mandatory.

Fitness operators who seek to pull through this random and cruel era will need to embrace change. Not cosmetic change, but deep-down, foundational change.

What are some things operators may need to consider to avoid extinction of their brand?
Returning to pre-COVID-19 membership levels will be a challenge

Until consumers in the US are confident the pandemic is under control, only the most ardent will return. Few things an operator can do will overcome this dynamic. As a result, some US fitness operators will need to adjust their value proposition to garner more revenue from fewer members.

Operators need to view women, as well as Gen Z and millennials through a different lens

Prior to COVID-19, women represented a larger portion of industry memberships than men, Millennials represented the largest segment of membership, and Gen Z – the largest generation in U.S. history – was emerging as the audience of the future.

These groups had the highest cancellation rates, the lowest return rates, the least confidence in what operators are doing safety-wise and are the most inclined to use video on demand, so getting these populations to return and remain will require a paradigm shift within the US fitness industry.

The days when operators could depend on non-users and low users for revenue are quickly fading

Business models that garner profit from having 50 per cent or more of dues-paying members never showing up are in for a rough ride. The pandemic has put a major hurt on the ‘pay and no play’ business model.

Transparency and trust are the currency of success going forward

Going forward, especially among women, Gen Z and millennials, transparency and trust will be an important currency for survival.

Practices such as auto-renewal, billing during closure, excessive small print, onerous cancellation policies, restrictive freeze policies, and treating members as hostages rather than royalty all played a role in the low rate of return among some members, especially women and the younger generations.

Digital video on demand is the new monetisation platform

A larger percentage of members in the US, especially women, Gen Z and Millennials are now embracing the regular use of video on demand, compared to small group training and personal training. The rate of VOD uptake among returning members is two to three times higher than those former revenue stalwarts – personal training and small group training. ●

Photo: Jacob Lund / Shutterstock
About the author
Stephen Tharrett

Stephen Tharrett was a co-founder, along with Mark Williamson, of ClubIntel a brand insights firm serving the health/fitness industry. Stephen was a former CEO of the Russian Fitness Group and former President of the IHRSA Board.

A note from the editor

Stephen Tharrett, a much-loved member of the global fitness community, died on December 22 from a heart attack.

A few days before his untimely passing, Steve penned this article for HCM, saying he had great faith in the sector, given its resilience in facing the challenges of the pandemic.

We publish it to honour his life and work and his invaluable contribution to the industry – with his trademark proverbs firmly in place. Steve was a huge supporter of HCM and as a team, we are grateful to have been blessed with his wise counsel, kindness and encouragement.
Liz Terry, editor, HCM

https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/524354_660681.jpg
The late Stephen Tharrett explores the US member journey in the age of COVID-19
Latest News
Reports in today's national media, including the Daily Telegraph and Sky News, suggests the UK ...
Latest News
Operating a further four weeks at reduced capacity will place serious pressure on English fitness ...
Latest News
People experiencing homelessness are being offered free access to leisure centres by Oxford City Council. ...
Latest News
IHRSA has appointed Elizabeth Clark as its new president and CEO. Clark joins the industry ...
Latest News
Boutique studio operator TRIB3 has launched its own-brand range of luxury toiletries. The operator, which ...
Latest News
Rainer Schaller's RSG Group is bringing its John Reed brand of health clubs to the ...
Latest News
The government needs to urgently set out its plans to support physical activity and fitness ...
Latest News
Glofox will begin offering health clubs, gyms and fitness studios instant access to financing, following ...
Latest News
Hong Kong-based Bricks Group has revealed plans to launch its health club chain, U Time, ...
Latest News
A £30m luxury leisure development scheme which has been more than a decade in the ...
Latest News
Apple has previewed its much-awaited watchOS 8, the operating system for its Apple Watch. The ...
Opinion
promotion
While much of the fitness industry has reopened its doors across the UK over the past weeks, many members are yet to return.
Opinion: Re-engaging your post-lockdown absent members
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Cryotherapy specialists, L&R Kältetechnik, launch new artofcryo.com division
L&R Kältetechnik has launched a new division, named artofcryo.com, after 30 years’ experience with -110 °C electrical solutions.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Active IQ launches two industry-ready health and fitness diplomas
Active IQ has launched two new qualifications – the Level 2 Diploma in Health and Fitness and Level 3 Diploma in Health and Fitness – to help engage learners in an industry-ready training experience that can be tailored to suit local employer needs.
Featured operators news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active bolsters Everyone on Demand and enters second year with five new partnerships
Everyone Active has signed a number of new deals which will see the operator strengthen its digital product offering, Everyone on Demand.
Featured operators news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active generates £342m in social value
Award-winning leisure operator Everyone Active generated £342million in social value at its sites across the country in 2019/20.
Company profiles
Company profile: TRIB3 International Ltd
First established in Sheffield in January 2016 TRIB3 is a bootcamp boutique studio designed to ...
Company profiles
Company profile: FunXtion International BV
With our digital member solutions, branded app and branded virtual classes your clients can now ...
Supplier Showcases
Supplier showcase - Safe Space: Changing concept
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
Lockers/interior design
Crown Sports Lockers: Lockers/interior design
Skincare
Sothys: Skincare
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Salt therapy products
Himalayan Source: Salt therapy products
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Management software
fibodo Limited: Management software
Uniforms
Service Sport: Uniforms
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Property & Tenders
Pendine Sands, Carmarthenshire
Carmarthenshire County Council
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
01-04 Jul 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
18-19 Sep 2021
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
28-29 Sep 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
04-07 Nov 2021
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
Search news, features & products:
Find a supplier:
Les Mills
Les Mills