Bill McBride is a co-founder and the president and CEO of Active Wellness, a San Francisco-based club management company that owns and operates three clubs in the Bay Area, each of which has a retail component, and manages 52 other facilities. He’s also the CEO of BMC3 Consulting, and a former chairperson on IHRSA’s board of directors.
Kevin McHugh is the COO of The Atlantic Club, a sprawling multipurpose facility in Manasquan, N.J., which operates a second, smaller club in nearby Red Bank. The 675-square-foot boutique shop in its Manasquan location generates a net profit of approximately $90,000 a year.
Jillian Leo, based in New York City, served, until recently, as the director of retail operations for all 30 of Crunch Fitness’ company-owned facilities. She now oversees the retail arm of Blink Fitness, which owns and operates nearly 80 locations in five states.
Are retail and health clubs a good match? What are the most popular retail offerings these days?
Kevin McHugh: Whether or not retail works depends on the type of club. At some, members are “in and out” for a workout and aren’t likely to stop and shop.
Our members enjoy browsing to relax, and eventually they become buyers. Shopping becomes part of the total member experience. They have the time to enjoy the benefits of a one-stop, multipurpose facility that, in addition to a wide variety of amenities, also offers retail. In our case, nicely displayed, fairly priced boutique products are most popular.
Bill McBride: Some clubs have been very successful with nutraceuticals—supplements, meal replacements, and smoothies. Strong apparel brands also are getting good traction.
If clubs don’t have a shop, it may be because traditional retail involves managing inventory. For operators who aren’t really retailers, having a shop has often involved an administrative burden and product “shrinkage”—lost inventory—often for what’s proven to be a relatively small revenue stream.
Jillian Leo: To some extent, despite all of the new options, we’re still talking about a pro shop. But the industry is exploding with new products—from natural drinks and bars to vibrating foam rollers. Clubs with retail space have the chance to be among the first to sell some of these new and unique items.
Those that offer personal training also can profit by offering a line of supplements. Trainers typically are well-informed in this area, and some supplement companies provide guidance to assist with selling.
What about retail and small independent clubs?
BM: A retail strategy makes sense for all clubs. The key is to decide on the scope of what you want to do based on your club’s capabilities.
KM: I suggest that you test the market and try a variety of approaches. You may just want to provide a few essentials. Or you might want to have the kind of shop that allows members to pick up a gift for a friend, without having to stop elsewhere. Start small and grow as it seems appropriate.
JL: If you can’t have a robust retail footprint, what you do offer should be meaningful. Also, branded apparel and small accessories can be a great marketing tool, creating valuable brand awareness.
What percentage of total revenue can clubs reasonably expect retail to provide?
BM: That’s a difficult question. I have one client who does $1.5 million a year in meal replacements and nutraceuticals. It’s a major component of their comprehensive weight management program, which involves group meetings, health coaching, etc. But, for a typical club, 1%-3% of total revenues from retail isn’t unusual. Ideally, I’d like to see it grow to a bit more than 5%.
JL: The answer depends on what type of other non-dues revenue a club is producing, but I think 8%-10% would be reasonable.
What can clubs do to maximize the retail opportunity?