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Club Consumer Intelligence

The CEO of an association representing another, unrelated industry recently asked me, “How has the economy affected club membership?” When I told him that total membership in the U.S. has been statistically flat for several years, he thought that was wonderful news. His own industry has suffered significant losses.

 If it weren’t for IHRSA, however, I wouldn’t have known that membership has been trending flat at 16.1% of the population (45.3 million people) over the age of six. And, truth be told, if it weren’t for IHRSA, there’s an awful lot more that I wouldn’t know.

Ours is an association that’s dedicated to helping its members in any way it possibly can. It does so with its publications, CBI prominent among them; its conventions, conferences, and trade shows; its public-policy activities and initiatives; and, importantly, its original research and reports.

Each year, IHRSA produces richly detailed documents that define and guide the industry, including Profiles of Success, the Employee Compensation and Benefits Report, and, its latest, the IHRSA 2010 Health Club Consumer Report. The latter should be a reference book on the desk of every club operator, personal trainer, consultant, and anyone else involved in the industry. It contains a wealth of information that can help your business.

If you haven’t read it—you should!” (See “Get Ready for 2011!” November CBI, pg. 53.)

Perhaps a few examples would be helpful:

• Participation: The Report lists penetration levels by state. For instance, club consumer participation is lowest in Oklahoma at 8.6%, and highest in Massachusetts at 23.7%. What’s the rate in your state?

• Attrition: Nearly 10.5 million people joined a health club in the U.S. in 2009, while 10.7 million dropped their memberships, producing a  “churn” or attrition rate of 24%. How’s your club doing?

• Expectations: While consumers now expect to pay a bit less for their membership, they tend to use it more. The average monthly dues price they were willing to pay fell from $42.55 in 2008 to $41.47 in ’09, but the average annual attendance reached an all-time high of 102.4 visits. What’s that mean to your business?

• Core members:  “Core” users remain members of their club for approximately 21.5 months longer than casual users. Assuming average monthly dues of $41.47, converting one member to a “core” user would therefore generate nearly $900 in extra revenues. Is that a goal you should pursue?

• Personal training: A total of 6.5 million Americans purchased personal-training services in 2009. The typical client was equally likely to be male or female; between the ages of 25 and 54; has completed at least one year of college; and has an annual income of at least $75,000. Should you be pushing personal training?

• Equipment: Club members enjoy a wide variety of equipment-based workouts. Their top-three choices, in terms of popularity, are strength-training machines, treadmills, and free weights. Are you providing the equipment and related programs that your members want?

The IHRSA 2010 Health Club Consumer Report is available to IHRSA members at a cost of $99.95, and to nonmembers for $149.95. Order it now by logging on to www.ihrsa.org/store.

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