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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

US stats: What members say

New research from the US shows Millennials and Gen Z may be slow to return to gyms, while women are more hesitant than men. Club Intel’s Steve Tharrett reports

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 6
21% indicate
they’re fairly / very
likely to switch
to another facility
when they reopen / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
21% indicate they’re fairly / very likely to switch to another facility when they reopen / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
A return to 100% membership will require recruiting members away from other facilities

A destructive storm descended on the US fitness industry in March 2020, spawned by the COVID-19 virus. Within a month, 90 per cent of fitness facilities were closed in 46 States.

By 1 June – earlier in some parts of the US – operators were entering or preparing for phase one reopenings and after experiencing a period of hibernation, clubs and studios were emerging from their COVID-19 slumbers.

This reemergence is cause for celebration, but also trepidation. Operators are scrambling to identify the best practices for reopening, to meet reopening guidelines set out by their respective States and to reduce the anxieties and concerns of consumers.

This dawning of a new era reminds us of a speech Abraham Lincoln gave the US Congress in 1862 when the nation faced what many saw as an insurmountable challenge: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, we must think and act anew.”

This era, framed by COVID-19, is truly a new era – one piled high with challenges and one that requires new thinking, new planning, and new acting.

Three dimensional thinking
The challenge of reopening exists in three dimensions, but we’ve seen the industry – in most cases – brainstorming solutions in two dimensions. Yes, reopening requires adherence to government guidelines – the first dimension. Secondly it requires new thinking that addresses members’ anxieties around returning – the second dimension. What we believed was missing is the vital third dimension – understanding what the members really feel.

We were keen to establish the deal breakers they needed to see being addressed before they would return to the gym and to find out which of their past behaviours and experiences would subconsciously influence their decision to return.

In mid-May ClubIntel launched a study of 2,000 US health and fitness facility members in 20 major cities across all seven US census regions to identify pre-pandemic behaviours and then look at the impact of COVID-19 during and after the closures. The study, called What members say matters – what members say is needed if health and fitness facilities want them back, was sponsored by Life Fitness and Les Mills.

Our first goal was to explore members’ likelihood of returning to their facility, selecting another facility, or not returning and pursuing another path. Secondly, we wanted to see if previous behaviors and experiences, or current sentiments would be predictors of their returning or not returning.

Ultimately, we felt this member-driven insight would assist operators make more educated and informed decisions regarding their reopening strategy. We believe ‘The secret of changes is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new,’ Socrates.

The way forward
Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism, said “New beginnings are disguised as painful endings.” As fitness operators emerge from closure it represents for many a painful ending and a new beginning.

While we can speculate on what’s needed if we are to arise from this painful experience and prevail, nothing can guide us better than the voices of members – absent them and any decision you make will be akin to applying a two-dimensional solution to a three-dimensional problem.

• To download a copy of the report, go to HCMmag.com/ClubIntell

Short stories from the data
The research brought forward a wealth of data and insights that operators can utilise to frame their reopening strategy. Here are some of the key findings:

1. Commitment matters

Member usage prior to covid-19 closure is a powerful predictor of return – 52 per cent of members who work out at least 12 times a month said they were ‘very likely’ to return compared to 37 per cent who attended eight to 12 times a month and 22 per cent who visit one or fewer times a month.

Interestingly, the level of usage doesn’t seem to have a material impact on the decision not to return, but it does have an impact on the desire to return: we found that members who use their club or gym fewer than eight times a month are half as likely to express strong sentiments about returning.

2. Rebuilding will be needed

Around 65 per cent of US members say they are very likely or fairly likely to return. We consider this a powerful testament to how challenging it will be for clubs and studios to see a return to 100 per cent of their pre-COVID membership numbers.

Following this, 19 per cent are undecided and 16 per cent say they’re unlikely or very unlikely to return.

So it’s reasonable to predict most operators can expect 65 per cent to 84 per cent of their members to return. A return to 100 per cent will likely require recruiting members away from other facilities, not an impossible task, since 21 per cent indicated they were fairly likely or very likely to switch allegiances to another facility when they reopen

3. It will be a staged process

The process of members returning will be a staged process. 34 per cent indicated they’d return in the first week, 34 per cent between one and four weeks and 25 per cent between one and three months. This means clubs and studios must expect a slow and steady climb.

4. Sex differences will matter

Women are more hesitant than men, with fewer women indicating they’re very likely to return (33 per cent women vs 42 per cent men). More women indicate they’re unlikely to return or haven’t reached that decision yet (50 per cent vs 43 per cent) and when it comes to how quickly they’ll return, 39 per cent of men say the first week compared to 29 per cent of women. If you’re in the US and your business is geared toward women, expect it to be a longer and more challenging process to rebuild your membership base.

5. Be alert to age differences

Baby Boomers are the generation most likely to return and return faster –74 per cent of Boomers and older say they’re very/fairly likely to return, compared to 59 per cent of Gen Z and 61 per cent of Millennials. While it’s encouraging that the older generations are enthusiastic about returning, these findings sounds an alarm bell when it comes to the hesitancy of Millennials and Gen Z, since they represent the largest generational segment of the industry.

6. Control the things you can

The decision to return is dependent on a variety of factors operators can’t control. We looked at 19 influences with respect to member’s decision to return.

Two were related to whether local governments are able to provide consumers with evidence that sufficient tests COVID-19 tests are available and being able to show consumers that the number of reported cases has declined over the previous two weeks.

Other influencers members reported as being extremely important are:

• Management keeping members out of the club who show symptoms
• Disinfecting equipment after each use
• Having immediate access to hand sanitising stations
• Enforcing limits on facility and group exercise capacity

Key takeaways
1. If your business previously required 5k members to be profitable, can you reinvent your value proposition to be successful with only 4k?

Reinvent: Think, plan and execute differently: this data points to a new era for the industry, characterised by lower membership numbers, progressive ramp-up periods, and more scrutinised business practices.
Factors such as age, gender and past behaviour are extremely important variables – if your business previously required 5k members to be profitable, can you reinvent your value proposition to be successful with only 4k To accomplish this, build a plan that allows you to be profitable under these new circumstances.

2. As Mark Twain said, ‘The best predictor of future behavior is past behaviour’

Dive into customer insight: Get to grips with your database to prevail and thrive. Understanding the past behaviour and experiences of members will improve your successful rate when it comes to getting them back. The research clearly shows that knowing usage levels, length of membership, gender and age is critical to understanding how your reopening strategies will be received.

3. Tell them straight and be accountable – even if it requires you to take a stand

Take a strong position: Authenticity and transparency are more important than ever – members are saying they want operators to tell them straight what’s happening with respect to the virus and their club and to hold staff and members accountable to reinforcing policies, even if it requires taking a stand. Members expect managers to stand strong behind their decisions, if they don’t, it will lessen their likelihood of returning, or of staying when they do return.

4. The provision of virtual fitness content is an important influence on members’ decision to return

Get virtual: Operators seeking relevance to Gen Z, Millennials and women need to commit to providing virtual fitness content. This emerged as generally being critical during lockdown, but our study shows virtual was used primarily by Gen Z, Millennials, and women. These groups also rated the provision of virtual fitness content as an important influence on their decision to return. The data also shows that nearly as many members are ‘very likely’ to continue using virtual fitness content as those who are ‘very likely to return’ to their former club.

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Millennials and Gen Z represent the largest generational segment of the industry / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
Millennials and Gen Z represent the largest generational segment of the industry / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
Focus on customer insight to really understand what is motivating your members / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
Focus on customer insight to really understand what is motivating your members / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2020/185547_526204.jpg
A return to 100% membership will require recruiting members away from other facilities, according to new research from the US
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features

US stats: What members say

New research from the US shows Millennials and Gen Z may be slow to return to gyms, while women are more hesitant than men. Club Intel’s Steve Tharrett reports

Published in Health Club Management 2020 issue 6
21% indicate
they’re fairly / very
likely to switch
to another facility
when they reopen / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
21% indicate they’re fairly / very likely to switch to another facility when they reopen / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
A return to 100% membership will require recruiting members away from other facilities

A destructive storm descended on the US fitness industry in March 2020, spawned by the COVID-19 virus. Within a month, 90 per cent of fitness facilities were closed in 46 States.

By 1 June – earlier in some parts of the US – operators were entering or preparing for phase one reopenings and after experiencing a period of hibernation, clubs and studios were emerging from their COVID-19 slumbers.

This reemergence is cause for celebration, but also trepidation. Operators are scrambling to identify the best practices for reopening, to meet reopening guidelines set out by their respective States and to reduce the anxieties and concerns of consumers.

This dawning of a new era reminds us of a speech Abraham Lincoln gave the US Congress in 1862 when the nation faced what many saw as an insurmountable challenge: “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, we must think and act anew.”

This era, framed by COVID-19, is truly a new era – one piled high with challenges and one that requires new thinking, new planning, and new acting.

Three dimensional thinking
The challenge of reopening exists in three dimensions, but we’ve seen the industry – in most cases – brainstorming solutions in two dimensions. Yes, reopening requires adherence to government guidelines – the first dimension. Secondly it requires new thinking that addresses members’ anxieties around returning – the second dimension. What we believed was missing is the vital third dimension – understanding what the members really feel.

We were keen to establish the deal breakers they needed to see being addressed before they would return to the gym and to find out which of their past behaviours and experiences would subconsciously influence their decision to return.

In mid-May ClubIntel launched a study of 2,000 US health and fitness facility members in 20 major cities across all seven US census regions to identify pre-pandemic behaviours and then look at the impact of COVID-19 during and after the closures. The study, called What members say matters – what members say is needed if health and fitness facilities want them back, was sponsored by Life Fitness and Les Mills.

Our first goal was to explore members’ likelihood of returning to their facility, selecting another facility, or not returning and pursuing another path. Secondly, we wanted to see if previous behaviors and experiences, or current sentiments would be predictors of their returning or not returning.

Ultimately, we felt this member-driven insight would assist operators make more educated and informed decisions regarding their reopening strategy. We believe ‘The secret of changes is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new,’ Socrates.

The way forward
Lao Tzu, the father of Taoism, said “New beginnings are disguised as painful endings.” As fitness operators emerge from closure it represents for many a painful ending and a new beginning.

While we can speculate on what’s needed if we are to arise from this painful experience and prevail, nothing can guide us better than the voices of members – absent them and any decision you make will be akin to applying a two-dimensional solution to a three-dimensional problem.

• To download a copy of the report, go to HCMmag.com/ClubIntell

Short stories from the data
The research brought forward a wealth of data and insights that operators can utilise to frame their reopening strategy. Here are some of the key findings:

1. Commitment matters

Member usage prior to covid-19 closure is a powerful predictor of return – 52 per cent of members who work out at least 12 times a month said they were ‘very likely’ to return compared to 37 per cent who attended eight to 12 times a month and 22 per cent who visit one or fewer times a month.

Interestingly, the level of usage doesn’t seem to have a material impact on the decision not to return, but it does have an impact on the desire to return: we found that members who use their club or gym fewer than eight times a month are half as likely to express strong sentiments about returning.

2. Rebuilding will be needed

Around 65 per cent of US members say they are very likely or fairly likely to return. We consider this a powerful testament to how challenging it will be for clubs and studios to see a return to 100 per cent of their pre-COVID membership numbers.

Following this, 19 per cent are undecided and 16 per cent say they’re unlikely or very unlikely to return.

So it’s reasonable to predict most operators can expect 65 per cent to 84 per cent of their members to return. A return to 100 per cent will likely require recruiting members away from other facilities, not an impossible task, since 21 per cent indicated they were fairly likely or very likely to switch allegiances to another facility when they reopen

3. It will be a staged process

The process of members returning will be a staged process. 34 per cent indicated they’d return in the first week, 34 per cent between one and four weeks and 25 per cent between one and three months. This means clubs and studios must expect a slow and steady climb.

4. Sex differences will matter

Women are more hesitant than men, with fewer women indicating they’re very likely to return (33 per cent women vs 42 per cent men). More women indicate they’re unlikely to return or haven’t reached that decision yet (50 per cent vs 43 per cent) and when it comes to how quickly they’ll return, 39 per cent of men say the first week compared to 29 per cent of women. If you’re in the US and your business is geared toward women, expect it to be a longer and more challenging process to rebuild your membership base.

5. Be alert to age differences

Baby Boomers are the generation most likely to return and return faster –74 per cent of Boomers and older say they’re very/fairly likely to return, compared to 59 per cent of Gen Z and 61 per cent of Millennials. While it’s encouraging that the older generations are enthusiastic about returning, these findings sounds an alarm bell when it comes to the hesitancy of Millennials and Gen Z, since they represent the largest generational segment of the industry.

6. Control the things you can

The decision to return is dependent on a variety of factors operators can’t control. We looked at 19 influences with respect to member’s decision to return.

Two were related to whether local governments are able to provide consumers with evidence that sufficient tests COVID-19 tests are available and being able to show consumers that the number of reported cases has declined over the previous two weeks.

Other influencers members reported as being extremely important are:

• Management keeping members out of the club who show symptoms
• Disinfecting equipment after each use
• Having immediate access to hand sanitising stations
• Enforcing limits on facility and group exercise capacity

Key takeaways
1. If your business previously required 5k members to be profitable, can you reinvent your value proposition to be successful with only 4k?

Reinvent: Think, plan and execute differently: this data points to a new era for the industry, characterised by lower membership numbers, progressive ramp-up periods, and more scrutinised business practices.
Factors such as age, gender and past behaviour are extremely important variables – if your business previously required 5k members to be profitable, can you reinvent your value proposition to be successful with only 4k To accomplish this, build a plan that allows you to be profitable under these new circumstances.

2. As Mark Twain said, ‘The best predictor of future behavior is past behaviour’

Dive into customer insight: Get to grips with your database to prevail and thrive. Understanding the past behaviour and experiences of members will improve your successful rate when it comes to getting them back. The research clearly shows that knowing usage levels, length of membership, gender and age is critical to understanding how your reopening strategies will be received.

3. Tell them straight and be accountable – even if it requires you to take a stand

Take a strong position: Authenticity and transparency are more important than ever – members are saying they want operators to tell them straight what’s happening with respect to the virus and their club and to hold staff and members accountable to reinforcing policies, even if it requires taking a stand. Members expect managers to stand strong behind their decisions, if they don’t, it will lessen their likelihood of returning, or of staying when they do return.

4. The provision of virtual fitness content is an important influence on members’ decision to return

Get virtual: Operators seeking relevance to Gen Z, Millennials and women need to commit to providing virtual fitness content. This emerged as generally being critical during lockdown, but our study shows virtual was used primarily by Gen Z, Millennials, and women. These groups also rated the provision of virtual fitness content as an important influence on their decision to return. The data also shows that nearly as many members are ‘very likely’ to continue using virtual fitness content as those who are ‘very likely to return’ to their former club.

Sign up here to get HCM's weekly ezine and every issue of HCM magazine free on digital.
Millennials and Gen Z represent the largest generational segment of the industry / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
Millennials and Gen Z represent the largest generational segment of the industry / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
Focus on customer insight to really understand what is motivating your members / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
Focus on customer insight to really understand what is motivating your members / Jacob Lund/shutterstock
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2020/185547_526204.jpg
A return to 100% membership will require recruiting members away from other facilities, according to new research from the US
Club Intel, Steve Tharrett,COVID-19, gyms reopening
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US fitness industry revenue dropped 58 per cent during 2020 – from the US$35bn all-time ...
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The UK government is exploring whether incentivising people financially to take part in physical activity ...
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The Budget announcement has left the UK's physical activity sector with "unanswered questions" and vowing ...
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Chancellor Rishi Sunak has unveiled an additional £700m funding boost for sports and culture, as ...
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Featured supplier: Core Health & Fitness announces partnership with Énergie Fitness Iberia
Core Health & Fitness is proud to have signed an exclusive supplier agreement for the roll- out of all projected clubs with Énergie Fitness Iberia over the next seven years.
Company profiles
Company profile: Freemotion Fitness
Freemotion Fitness is the global pioneer in fitness equipment and technology, introducing the world to ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Venueserve Fitness
Venueserve Fitness is an easy-to-use, low-cost web- and mobile online exercise platform, already being used ...
Supplier Showcases
Supplier showcase - Venueserve Fitness
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: Trade associations
Lockers/interior design
Safe Space Lockers Ltd: Lockers/interior design
Independent service & maintenance
Servicesport UK Limited: Independent service & maintenance
Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Kemitron GmbH: Hydrotherapy / spa fragrances
Member feedback software
AskNicely: Member feedback software
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Zimmer MedizinSysteme GmbH / icelab: Whole body cryotherapy
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Management software
fibodo Limited: Management software
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Pendex Fisio S.L.: Exercise equipment
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SpaBooker: Spa software
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
03-06 Jun 2021
Expo Centre & Riviera di Rimini, Italy
Diary dates
12 Jun 2021
Worldwide, Various,
Diary dates
13-14 Jun 2021
Online,
Diary dates
16-17 Jun 2021
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
18-19 Sep 2021
Locations worldwide,
Diary dates
21-24 Sep 2021
Messe Stuttgart, Germany
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
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