The growing fitness industry
It’s a fact, the U.S. fitness industry is booming. Growing by around three to four percent annually for the last decade, its popularity shows little sign of slowing anytime soon. While this has been welcomed by fitness facilities across the country, it has also heightened competition. In order to stand out from a glut of workout spaces serving America’s fitness fans, gyms have to offer something unique. That has certainly been key to the success of Club Fitness.
About Club Fitness
Founded over 35 years ago in St. Louis, Missouri, Club Fitness actually started as a single tanning salon. In the years that followed, founder John Crocker transitioned the company into the fitness arena, gradually expanding along the way. Then, in 2015, as Crocker was looking to retire, Club Fitness became an employee-owned business through an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).
Joining at around the same time that the company transitioned to employee ownership, Eric Schreimann, the current CEO, has seen Club Fitness go from strength to strength on the back of its employee-owners. “We’re the only employee-owned health club, ” Schreimann says. “We now have 19 locations and in each one, when you see someone wearing the Club Fitness uniform, they’re not just employees – they’re employee-owners. They have a vested interest in the overall success of the company. They have a real sense of pride and ownership. And as we build new clubs, it creates further opportunities for us to bring on additional employee-owners.”
By consistently investing in additional locations, Club Fitness now has around 150 employee-owners throughout the St. Louis metro market area, many of which have faced a particularly challenging 18 months. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Club Fitness to close every one of its locations, sending its revenue plummeting to zero. Nevertheless, the community spirit remained unbroken.
“We were fortunate to be in a financial position where we could weather the storm,” Schreimann recalls. “We did have to make some tough decisions and put some staff on furlough, but we were still able to pay for 100 percent of their health insurance. Our goal was to work with our local government and our local department of health to put a strategy together to reopen gyms safely. As well as working with the St. Louis County Department of Health to get our health clubs reopened, we partnered with the Red Cross to host several blood drives at our shuttered facilities.”
During the COVID crisis, that sense of solidarity was bolstered by virtual workout sessions on the Club Fitness website for the company’s 125,000 or so members, as well as regular communication with employees via its Facebook page. “We stayed engaged with both our employees and members as best we could virtually, until it was safe to open our gyms again,” Schreimann explains.
Standing out in a crowd
The personal touch is just one of the ways that Club Fitness differentiates itself from other fitness chains. They also offer 40,000 square feet of state-of-the-art facilities, utilizing the latest technology and top-line equipment. The gyms deliver a first-rate fitness experience but, even so, it’s the individuals that matter more than the equipment. “I would say the biggest differentiator for us among all of our competitors is the people inside our four walls,” Schreimann admits. “When you walk into one of our locations, you are going to feel welcome, you’re going to feel important, and you’re going to feel like you’re part of a community. And that’s because of the great people that we have.”
Customer service is a crucial factor in Club Fitness’ growth. All new members are welcomed into the Club Fitness family and introduced to other regular members and staff so that any questions they may have can be answered promptly. In the same vein, Club Fitness offers a range of classes to suit every individual’s needs.
“We have a women only studio,” Schreimann says. “So, individuals that perhaps don’t feel comfortable being out on the floor can go into a studio setting that is only for female members. We also have several options for our older members. We participate in the silver sneaker program and lots of our classes are specifically targeted at seniors.”
At the other end of the age scale, Club Fitness also runs a Kids Club, partnering with Brain Balance, a nationwide, non-medical program that strengthens and builds brain activity. Shreimann acknowledges, “All of our Kids Clubs have been designed by Brain Balance to help with different elements of cognitive thinking. For example, you could go to the imagination station where kids can dress up and pretend to be a firefighter or a teacher. We have our movement station where kids can do exercise, and the game station, where they can play air hockey and improve their hand-eye coordination.”
As the partnership with Brain Balance shows, Club Fitness has not been able to offer such a top-quality service to its members without some outside support. Club Fitness’ relationship with the county department of health has allowed it to serve as an ambassador in the communities it serves. In one of the company’s North County locations with a low vaccination rate, for example, Club Fitness opened its doors both to its members and the wider community as a vaccination site.
“Strong partnerships are critical to our success. ABC Fitness Solutions has been an integral partner to Club Fitness,” Schreimann notes. “They continue to add and improve products and services that are, by far, the leaders in the industry. Tony Carroll, Success Manager; Cristine Kao, CMO; Mike Escobedo, CCO; Bill Davis, CEO; and the rest of the ABC team are extensions of the Club Fitness family and are genuinely committed to helping us succeed.”
“We are committed to delivering the most innovative technology and personalized services to our clubs,” says Bill Davis, CEO of ABC Fitness Solutions. “As we look towards 2022, specifically through the lens of our vision and capabilities of our new and expanded product suite, supporting differentiated member experiences while optimizing revenue and maximizing operational efficiency are most important. We are proud to be a partner for Club Fitness and our nearly 16,000 clubs worldwide.”
With the continued support of its partners, Club Fitness has plans in place to continually upgrade its services and is currently in the process of expanding the existing footprint at its Arnold, Missouri site. “The current club is 20,000 square feet and we are in the process of building a new club that’s going to be 41,000 square feet,” Schreimann continues. “We want to be a leader in the industry and that means never standing still. We stay apprised of what’s coming next in the industry, both in terms of equipment and technology.”
Club Fitness also understands that championing a healthy lifestyle is about more than simply going to the gym. That’s why it is working with Metabolic Meals, a St. Louis company that offers pre-made healthy, grab-and-go meals “In three of our locations, we’ve piloted a program where we have Metabolic Meals coolers in our clubs,” Schreimann explains. “So our members can visit a Club Fitness and get a workout in, before going to the Metabolic Meals menu and purchasing a meal for the day or the week – all pre-made, pre-packaged, healthy options.”
As well as offering healthy meals, Club Fitness also provides services around post-workout recovery. Its gyms offer hydro massage lounges, red light therapy, and several other methods to boost recovery. “I think there’s an opportunity to potentially expand into a medical spa partnership as well,” Schreimann adds. “And we’re also working with local physical therapy locations and cultivating partnerships to work with them and their clients.”
The exploration of different partnership opportunities is indicative of a company that believes in supporting local businesses. Rather than selling branded merchandise, Club Fitness is more interested in highlighting the work being carried out by other firms in the area, including non-profit organizations.
Looking three to five years down the road, Club Fitness plans to continue expanding, increasing its number of gyms and employee-owners, both inside the St. Louis area, and beyond it. Even as it grows, however, Club Fitness promises never to lose sight of its community focus. “Our motto is Lift Local,” says Schreimann. “We’re about so much more than lifting weights. We’re about lifting our communities, lifting our employees, and lifting our members to a happier, healthier life.”