Dazzle Your Health Club Members Without Busting Your Budget

Today’s consumers want it all. Here’s how today’s facilities can serve their demands.

The state of the health club industry is, happily, very good. According to the 2018 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, clubs now serve more than 70 million members, a record high since IHRSA first began tracking consumer statistics in 1987.

But as the market experiences growth, so do the demands of the consumers who walk through your gym doors. The expansion of fitness programming, fueled by the specialization of boutique studios and intendant fitness entrepreneurs who flourish on social media, have heightened the expectations of today’s consumer. Multipurpose clubs who service a general population have to be ready to satisfy a growing list of demands.

The 2018 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report notes a few of these changing trends, which vary among different generational age groups. When it comes to equipment and activities, researchers found that:

  • The treadmill is still the most popular piece of equipment (with 43% member usage), with resistance machines second (35% member usage);
  • The use of stair climbing machines has increased by 27%, though elliptical machines and stationary bikes have declined;
  • HIIT (high-intensity interval training) has grown by 21% is just two years, while group cycling has declined by 9%;
  • Group training of all sizes is on the increase, especially with younger demographics.

While these statistics may reflect what you observe in your club, there are reasons why they may not. For instance, while group cycling is down overall, it’s still one of the two most popular activities for those ages 25-34, a valuable consumer demographic for any industry. And while stair climbing machine usage may have declined overall, stair climbing is still one of the top three activities enjoyed by at least one demographic, Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, younger demos (Generation Z and Millennials) are flocking to yoga classes.

Then there are those trends that are harder to measure but still significant. For instance, consumers want all the bells and whistles of high-tech equipment while still minimizing their carbon footprint. And younger members are increasingly joining more than one facility (usually consisting of a boutique and a multipurpose club), which jacks up the pressure on retention efforts.

How do you afford to keep up with all of this while delivering an experience that will keep your members coming back for more?

Mind the ‘Expectation Gap’

The increasing demands of consumers often outpace market response. Business experts call this the “expectation gap,” and the gap is widening.

According to an IBM report:

  • 81% of consumers demand improved response time;
  • 76% of consumers expect organizations to understand individual needs;
  • 68% of consumers anticipate organizations will harmonize consumer experiences.

Keeping up with consumer expectations is no easy task for health club owners. Equipment is expensive and can’t be swapped out on a whim. Satisfying today’s shifting trends takes a careful approach.

“‘Tired’ clubs quickly become obsolete, and invite competitors into the market,” say experts at IHRSA. “At least once every five years, a club will need to expend approximately 10% of revenue to make market-driven improvements, such as a new yoga studio, or Pilates equipment, or a weight management center, or a major renovation.”

Landon Burningham knows the challenges of closing the expectations gap. The owner and director of operations for Physiq Fitness, Burningham opened up his first club in Salem, OR, in 2010 and now runs four clubs in the area. As his business has grown, so has the diversity of demands from his wide-ranging membership.

“Trends are changing, and our demographics are changing,” says Burningham. “We have a higher amount of younger people working out, more Millennials. They don't necessarily want to get on a regular treadmill. They want to get on motorless treadmills. They want the big squat racks and big turf sections in addition to the standard equipment.”

How do you satisfy these members while staying on budget?

One Supplier for All Your Needs

Article image

It may sound like a contradiction, but when it comes to serving today’s diverse audience and their growing demands, it helps to simplify your operations. For Burningham, that means relying on a single supplier for the majority of his equipment needs.

Using one supplier almost exclusively may seem risky, but to Burningham and his four Physiq Fitness clubs, it’s been an advantage. He’s worked with Matrix Fitness since the launch of his first club. One of the premier brands in the industry, Matrix has the quality and variety that meets the heightened expectations of his diverse membership.

“We have the advantage of having all of our strength and cardio equipment from Matrix instead of having to go to four or five different companies,” says Burningham. "We can have the equipment we need for small group training and for team training all from the same vendor. Some companies do cardio equipment better than strength or the other way around. Matrix does both at the same high quality. It's really made opening new clubs so much easier.”

Matrix has also helped Physiq’s growth through its branding opportunities.

“They've really helped us with our custom branding, everything from using our custom colors to putting our logo on all the equipment,” says Burningham. “For us, branding is super-important. We want to make sure that our name is out there, so as we grow, people in the community know who we are.”

And Matrix has the digital features and variety of equipment that today’s demanding consumer expects. They’ve kept pace or exceeded industry standards since Physiq’s inception, says Burningham.

“We're in a day and age where people want technology, and Matrix keeps up with it, which is another reason I haven’t had to switch suppliers,” he says. “And their equipment is great for coaching and classes. They’ve kept up with the clientele.”

To Burningham, Matrix acts more like a partner than a supplier, and their assistance has been invaluable as he’s added locations and programming. “It's not just the equipment, it’s the customer service that’s really helped us grow. It's nice to have a company that has our best interests in mind. Whatever we need, they respond immediately.”

To learn more about Matrix, visit their website or email them at info@matrixfitness.com.

Related Articles & Publications

Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org