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Wednesday
Dec052012

New year brings new members

The gym floor often gets crowded in January.If you check out any local newspaper in the first week of the new year you would be hard-pressed not to find at least one, if not both, of these stories: people going to the gym for a New Year’s resolution and the influx of new gym memberships, due to the aforementioned lifestyle change. 

The tone of either of these stories, and the fact that they are still being reported, hasn’t changed too much in recent years, but the reasons, when the deluge happens and what gym owners do to keep them certainly has. 

Some of the reasons for the changes include tough economic times, a heavier emphasis on kicking a sedentary lifestyle means less people using the turn from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1 as a reason to get to the gym, and the influx of new members is now spread over all of January and into February and later. 

“I feel like (in my six years here) the influx always happens,” said Christina DeGuardi, senior vice president of Marketing, Branding and Communications for Crunch. “In the past it used to be the first weeks in January, but I feel it now sustains longer, into February and March. 

“I think people, in general, sees fitness less of a New Year’s resolution. Now people are distracted by the holidays and the many people going to the gym is getting back into their routine.” 

Paul Mazzella, who has owned Eastpointe Health & Fitness in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., for 13 years, agrees. 

“To a certain extent, people take a little longer to get going on their New Year’s resolutions these days,” he said. “I’ve seen people come in February and March and say they have been meaning to get here in January for their New Year’s resolution.”  

Numbers show that a large majority – Mazzella said it is close to 80% at his facility – will not sustain the gung-ho attitude they had when they first joined during the post-holiday resolution period. He remembered one couple that came in on Jan. 1 and got a year membership and 10 training sessions. They lasted all of one week. 

So just as important as getting the new crowd through the door is keeping them coming back and on their routine. Then, signing longer memberships and purchasing extras like personal trainer, small group fitness and other amenities follows. 

Classes can see members squeezed out of space when clubs get busier in January.Becky Hartman, co-owner with Jill Sperry of Curl Fitness in Newport Beach, Calif., has set up a February challenge that she hopes will keep the ball rolling. She figures she will market the challenge throughout January as the resolutioners make their way to the club, with the hopes that the challenge will keep the new members, as well as current members, engaged for another month or so. Then, she hopes, they will be hooked. 

“We know for sure that we will get a decent amount of prospects through the door (in January),” said Hartman. “Our goal is to convert them to memberships. We will run a challenge to incentivize in hopes capturing them. 

“We’ve had good response when we have implemented challenges. We hope this one will keep people working out.” 

Hartman explained that she and Sperry are unsure how it will all shake out since they have only been in business for about 18 months. Last January they had just hit six months so they had little to compare to. 

They also recently hired a full-time Membership sales representative. That, with a heavy marketing push in order to “let people know we are here when they are deciding where to go,” and Curl is expecting heavy numbers and a good percentage becoming members. 

“We were really trying in the first year to do anything we could to get business. We’d waive enrollment fees, offer (lots of deals),” Hartman said. “We are doing a lot of training of the staff now so we can roll out our new packages (to prospective members).” 

Mazzella is running New Year, New You, a challenge/program where there will be cash prizes. It is intended for new members coming in at the end of the year into the first few weeks of January, although it is open to any member. He said he knows challenges are usually successful, industry-wide, and hopes it will attract new members. 

“We feel people are more apt to take plunge for six or eight weeks. And we still have the opportunity to win them over,” he said. “We tie it in with a contest with cash prizes, essentially to encourage people, and it is an added incentive to get them over hump.” 

DeGuardi said that Crunch sees a significant number of new members and member visits in January and the beginning of February. For that reason, she said, there aren’t a lot of specials or heavy advertising and marketing. What they do, however, is make sure there is plenty of staff to help the newbies. They check on them, suggest personal training and make sure the experience is friendly and helpful. The classes are also increased in order to ensure no one is bumped. 

At Crunch corporate locations a new, free fitness class reservation system will be implemented for members. It will be up and running before the New Year. At franchises it will be available, but for a fee.  

“We make sure our customer service is up to par,” said DeGuardi. “We would rather do that instead of having a sale. This way when people come they have a good experience.”

 

 

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