The uncertainty of the summer is a difficult time for gym and club owners.
Between the influx of youth and families to the loss of members who prefer to take their exercise regimen outside of the club, it really is a guessing game. Then, for some areas, there is the return of those who travel south for the winter to take into consideration.
There are many directions a manager can take when trying to decide what is best for their club. Do you plan more to placate those who have remained loyal or do you scale back so you can focus on the fall to winter months when the place is hopping?
For St. Simon’s Health & Fitness Club, in St. Simon’s Island, Ga., Program Director Talia Levine saw a hole for a segment of her membership and decided to offer Kid’s Zone. Designed for 5-12 year olds, there are seven classes offered, including Zumbatronics, dodgeball and yoga. Some of the classes have parents participate with the children. The new pilot program already sees 20-25 kids in each class.
“Obviously getting kids doing an activity, off the couch, not playing video games, is important,” Levine said. “It’s doing well and we hope it grows from there.”
One direction another IHRSA club has taken this summer is to bring what members want.
Fore Court in Cumberland, R.I., has converted some of its indoor tennis courts into pickleball courts. For those outside of Florida and Arizona – seniors-rich populations where the sport is thriving – pickleball is played on half of a tennis court, with the net lowered to 34 inches. The ball is similar to a whiffleball and the racquet is made of wood, like a paddle.
Fore Court Assistant Manager Jared Vadenais explained that one of the ambassadors for pickleball, who winters in Florida, is a member. After a demonstration last year, interest skyrocketed. There are now 25 regular players – one who travels 2 ½ hours round trip from Connecticut – to one of the few places in New England that has space devoted to emerging sport.
The transformation from tennis to pickleball is easy, and best of all it fills a void the club sees in the summer.
“It has been good for us,” Vadenais explained. “During the winter months the tennis courts are booked for the 37-week season. But in the summer most people play outside.”
Angela Dineen, general manager for St. Simon’s Health & Fitness Club, said members at the club has started to take an interest in cornhole, a game that has become popular with the staff. While it is not very active and isn’t offered, she said it is a chance for members to interact with each other and offers competition not seen on the gym floor.
For many, summer is a great opportunity to get out in the community and show off their brand. Letting those who aren’t privy to what you offer is a great way to bring in new members. That can be accomplished by setting up a booth at a farmer’s market, a running, biking or another fundraiser, or a community get-together.
Bob Bateson, of Body Blocks Fitness Center in Buffalo, N.Y., said that with his club’s formula that stresses changing each individual’s lifestyle with a results-oriented program that is based on continuing health and education, he doesn’t see a huge drop-off during the summer months. But that doesn’t stop his team from setting up booths everywhere from the Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament (one of the largest in the U.S.) to the Buffalo Marathon to this week’s corporate challenge.
“Community outreach has been very strong for us,” said Bateson. “Many (clubs) don’t want to do it because it is time-consuming … it can last from 6 in the morning until 6 at night. But it is important because it puts our name out there.”
Scott Lewandowski, Regional director for Fitness Formula Clubs, in the Chicago area, said in this week’s Ask an Industry Leader that it is a great idea to get contact information from those who stop by your booth and then hand that over to your Sales team.
“The summer season is an opportunity for our sales and fitness teams to be prospecting outdoors for new members,” he said. “The best opportunities include neighborhood festivals, endurance events, and outdoor classes for both members and non-members.”
Lewandowski stressed the importance of presentations, give-aways and things for children to bring event-goers to your booth.
“Conduct demonstrations utilizing your fitness teams to attract people to your booth. Activities may include body fat testing, push up contests, self-defense demonstrations, or face painting for children,” Lewandowski said. “Have your Sales team present to discuss membership.”
Bateson this year hired KEHPT – Keeping Employees Healthy, Productive and Thankful – as a way to attract corporations. KEHPT sets up seminars at businesses, put on by Body Blocks, in order to explain the importance of being in shape, nutrition, etc. Hopefully they like what they see from Body Blocks and join.
So while the summer is unpredictable it doesn’t mean you should go on vacation from offering new classes or attempting to pump up membership. All it takes is a little ingenuity or creativeness.