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Consumer Survey Delivers Important Insights For Today’s Gym Operators To Be Successful

Each year IHRSA, the global association representing the gym and health club industry, publishes a wide range of valuable research and their 2018 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report is no exception. This annual publication provides member data, consumer trends, and insights for gym and health club operators based on a 31,000 person online survey of U.S. consumers.

The report confirms a growing market for fitness services and that health clubs and gyms are playing an increasing role in helping consumers get active, lead healthier lives, and pursue fitness and sport goals. According to IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products Jay Ablondi:

“U.S. health club membership reached an all-time high in 2017, attracting 60.9 million members, an increase of 6.3% from 2016. Another 9.1 million non-members exercised at clubs. In all, nearly 1 in 4 Americans use a health club to pursue fitness and wellness goals.”

The report also shares survey results about consumer sentiments, trends, and provides specific recommendations for gym and health club operators when it comes to being successful (purchase a full copy of the report here).

Here are three key findings, takeaways, and tips highlighted from the 2018 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report that gym and health club operators can use to improve their fitness businesses now and in the future:

1. More Consumers Are Flocking To Boutique Fitness Studios. While the industry is growing overall, some segments are experiencing significantly more growth than others. In the case of commercial facilities their dominance of the membership market has been eroded by boutique studios. Boutique studios now account cumulatively for 40% of the industry’s membership. Over the past five years, membership in boutique studios has grown by 121%. In comparison, commercial fitness-only and commercial multipurpose facilities have grown by 18%. Why ? Because consumers are seeking more group and personalized fitness experiences, particularly millennial members but active aging members are also a part of this trend. Clubs should be paying attention to creating great fitness experiences with engaging classes, programming, and other services to counter the boutique surge.

2. More Consumers Have Multiple Gym Memberships. Over the three-year span from 2015 to 2017, there has been a 20% increase in the percentage of members who indicated they use multiple facilities, rather than just one. In 2017, the industry average for multi-facility usage reached 23%, with commercial fitness-only facility members at 25%, commercial multipurpose facility members at 41%, and some boutique studios at 90%. Consumers are clearly spending more money for fitness services. Successful operators are introducing health and fitness-related services, such as chiropractic, physical therapy, athletic training, wellness and nutritional coaching While some clubs are already embracing this approach, far too many are not. Even leading club companies could improve on generating more revenue from health and fitness-related services, rather than relying on membership dues as the primary source of income taking a larger share of the wallet. Consumers are spending more, you have to give them more reasons to spend with your fitness business.

3. Industry Must Shift From A Sales Orientation To A Service Orientation. A “sales is everything” mantra has been the single-most influential cultural attribute in shaping the health club, gym, and fitness industry. It has been responsible for the industry’s growth over the years, and, without that cultural mantra, the fitness facility industry would not be where it is today. But today’s business challenges, such as industry segmentation, boutique studios, generational preferences, social fitness, hyper-competition, cross-facility usage and others are considerably different than the challenges the industry faced during its prior growth spurt. Today’s challenges require a new way of thinking. The fitness industry created today’s challenges, and the old way of thinking (overselling to compensate for operational deficiencies, dropping the price, copying the competition’s moves, and others) is no longer the right mental framework to meet today’s challenges. Remember, behavior cannot change unless thinking changes first. So what ways of thinking need to change, or at least be adapted? The IHRSA report suggests operators rethink some important things like

• Overcompensating for sales and failing to compensate for driving hospitality, member delight and retention.

• Always trying to sell when what the customer wants is inspiration, guidance and support. As part of the sales mentality that defines this industry, fitness facility businesses have adopted practices that start upselling before even finding out what the member needs. Enabling and supporting people fosters trust. Once trust has been established, people will buy.

• Put on the “average” person’s cap, not the enthusiast’s. Most fitness professionals are passionate about the benefits that fitness provides. They’re the ones who are all-in with HIIT, cycling, or functional training. They’re the folks who get high on exercise. This passion fuels their approach to introducing and delivering fitness. Unfortunately, 80%, possibly 90%, of Americans don’t experience fitness the same way. It’s important to empathize with members’ views which may alter the way people are introduced to the benefits of fitness.

• Thinking that selling is the way out of any business challenge. In a hyper-competitive and segmented industry like the fitness industry, people have lots of choices. In this type of environment, it’s easier to hold on to existing members than it is to find replacements.

Hopefully these tips and insights from the IHRSA 2018 Consumer Report will help you operate your fitness business in a more thoughtful and strategic way as 2020 approaches. If the team at ABC Fitness can assist you with your health club, gym, or fitness business contact us today.


About ABC

We are the nation’s leading software and payment processing provider for health clubs, gyms, and fitness facilities of all kinds. Our comprehensive offerings include payment processing solutions and advanced health club management tools, such as DataTrak, that allow gym owners and managers to track and manage memberships and member and employee schedules, drive member engagement, and automate payment processing functions. The company’s software has won numerous design and feature awards, such as Club Industry’s Best of the Best and IHRSA’s Vendor of the Year. Subscribe to our newsletter or Contact us today to learn more.