The below Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: How big are your clubs in square feet and meters as it relates to your mention of 50 to 70 people being allowed in a club at one time?
A: For 50 people, it's about 2,500 square meters. And for 70 people, it's about 3,300 square meters.
Q: What do you recommend for a brand new fitness studio that was supposed to open this month with no members?
A: It depends where you are in the number of cases.
I think what you can do is focus very much on hygiene and all the measures you can take, so that when you do open, you will have the highest standards with regards to hygiene and member safety. If you do that, you're starting off in a very good position.
The number one thing people are going to want to know when they come in is what the safety measures are. What are you doing to make sure the club is clean? We've actually added three slides to our sales presentation for new members….We put them in now because that's it—it's not price, it's hygiene first. Get on top of all the hygiene measures.
Q: Do you have aquatics therapy pools or spas in your club? Have you reopened any bodies of water?
A: No. We do have an endless pool in Singapore, but that club is closed. And we do have a swimming pool in one of our clubs in Hong Kong. We plan on keeping it closed for a few months after we open.
Q: What has been your experience with securing PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies for your clubs? And do you have a strategy with vendors to ensure you have appropriate inventory?
A: We started looking around in December, so we were OK. We actually had some stock. We went through SAS [Safety Corp.], so we had a lot of this in stock. We already had a list of reliable vendors that we sourced from that were on top of it, and we had built up good relationships with them.
But it is tough now. You've got to be careful if you're sourcing because ... there's a lot of scams out there now. So be very careful. It's always good to get referrals from people on good suppliers. I would use referrals.
Q: What does your temperature check process look like? Are members cooperative?
A: When we first discussed this internally ... I thought it would raise more questions and we may be making people a bit more paranoid. We waited a few days, and we ended up rolling it out at the end of January.
It was very well-received by members. It was one of the key things that made them feel comfortable.
We have thermal guns. They're handheld and you put them up close to the forehead (they don't touch the forehead) and they give you the temperature. If someone comes in and they’re 37.5 [celsius] or above, we ask them to sit down and we give them another temperature check within five minutes. If they're above again, we ask them not to come into the club. We've had one or two a week maybe [out of] a couple of hundred thousand check-ins. So it's very low, but it is a good precaution that members really appreciate.
But remember, this is in Hong Kong, where nearly everyone's wearing a mask. People like to see these precautions. It depends very much on what the norm is where you are, but I can say it's worth doing in my experience.
Q: Do you have an idea of how many of your members are taking online classes, as well as new members signing up online?
A: No, we don't track that because at the moment we've been doing classes on Instagram and Facebook. I know our fans have increased 30-40% in the last two or three weeks. We have My Pure Yoga, which is our website where we have video classes and the number of people registered [for those] has doubled in the last week.
A lot of people are stuck at home and they want to stay healthy. So online digital fitness is massive. If you have a platform, I think it's well worth investing.
Q: Are team members and [club] members using the same mask for many days or a new mask each day? Did you purchase the mask or require these team members to bring their own?
A: The masks we have there are only for daily use. So at the end of each day, they have to be thrown away. We provide masks for frontline staff.
Q: Have you stopped towel service?
A: No. Actually, in Shanghai when we first opened, we didn't have towels. I believe we do have towels now. That was one of the restrictions that was released.
Our towel attendants wear gloves and take a lot of precautions. Remember, these mandatory temperature checks and the declaration forms that are filled out by members, our staff fill them out as well. If any staff is on leave, and they come back, they've got to go to home quarantine for 14 days. All staff, when they come into duty, they have to have the temperature check in the back office.
I go to the back counter every morning and I get my temperature checked myself. We apply the same standards to our teams as well as our members.
Q: How did you set up members making appointments for them to come in?
A: We have our own app. You can do a whole host of things. It’s a membership card built in and they can book classes. Our IT department basically built something in so that if they wanted to check in, they would have to click on the location, and then they would have to click on the time slot, and then they would have to reserve a slot if there was one available.
We had to build our own. And that's why quite a few of these things take time. You may want to get a head start and start working on some of these things now.
Q: Are you charging for any digital offerings?
A: No, not at the moment. It's all about engagement. It's about building brand loyalty. People are very stressed out now. It's a difficult time. We want to be there for them as best we can, offering the best service. So we've decided not to charge.
Q: Between different instruction, how do you enforce physical distance specifically for someone like a tennis operator or for blocking off every other spin bike? What were your methods there?
A: So for spin bikes, we would cover them with a towel. Quite simple. Social distancing was 1.5 meters in Shanghai. We did some training with our staff about what they should do. We would walk around the club and … we would measure it out. We would ask [ staff ] to stand a certain distance apart with a training so they would get a feel for it.
And then we would do some role-playing around the clubs for a different scenario. So, they would understand how to manage all the scenarios in a club with social distancing. But a bit of training was definitely needed.
Q: We’re a $10/month gym with a high volume of members, so charging less is a hard option to maintain financials. What would you suggest for clubs like this?
A: Yeah, at that lower price, that’s a tough one. You've got to look at the size of your club. I think you've got to work backwards to work out based on the size of your club and the layout and what you need to do to make sure it's a safe environment.
Based on that, what is your capacity? Based on the club, based on the capacity, based on how many members can get in, how do we charge?
You could consider instead of 10 bucks a month, it's $1 a visit. We have a membership model where it’s a monthly fee. We don't like the pay-as-you-use, so it's not something that we will do. But, in this interim measure, if we've got pretty significant restrictions around capacity, a different financial or different way of charging may be required for the short term or during this period.
And those are things that we're discussing internally now. So you may have to look at something like that, simply because of the capacity restrictions.
Q: What is the plan if this crisis were to come back in September, October...
A: Assuming it goes away by then. The question is...what does it look like when we come out? Is it going to go away?
All I can say is what we're doing. We're getting prepared for a lot of these restrictions around capacity and class usage and class size and what have you. So how do we run business under those conditions for an extended period of time. I think quite a few of these restrictions will have to stay in place for maybe a bit longer, whether it's the mandatory temperature checks, or maybe some of the classes will have to be a bit smaller than normal, maybe talking to 10 people instead of 50.
It's really hard to predict. I think you've got a look at your business with a lot of these restrictions, perhaps as I've mentioned that we're under at the moment in Shanghai, and they will loosen a bit but what's the right financial model for that? How do we charge for that? Maybe work backwards first.
Q: Do you intend to raise the price to attend group classes if restrictions are maintained over the medium term?
A: All of our group classes are included in the membership. That’s our model, so we definitely couldn't charge for them. So we're in the middle of working out based on the current restrictions that we have what the best way is of charging members.
This is a conversation we started yesterday, so we're kind of in the middle of it. Maybe if I do another one of these I can share, but we're in the process of trying to work it out. It's a different financial model. Very different. We're trying to fully understand all the implications on our business.
Q: Do you have enough time slots for members that want to come into the club for that or do you have to allocate, and if you do have to allocate, how do you do that?
A: We have four slots. They get to choose, but the prime time is lunchtime or in the evening time, it would mean 50 or 70 people and that’s not many for our clubs. So [those slots] would get full. Then, they would either go on a waitlist, or they would have to go into another
... time slot that they didn't prefer. The prime times got full, but this is a quite a lower kind of threshold that we normally would get maybe double, 150 people in that time.
The actual take up was pretty good in Shanghai. People came back quite quickly. I think if the restrictions are lifted a bit, we'll definitely be able to fill those slots. It's a question of when.
When people first came into our club when we opened two weeks ago, they did feel comfortable, and they’d share that on social media. We saw a lot of those posts. We got some good press, and just the word of mouth was positive. Word of mouth is very important in people's eyes, say to see what their friends are saying and they feel comfortable, they will come.
But we wouldn't allocate them, they would choose.