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The 'New Normal' Makes Next-Level Cleanliness Crucial for Clubs

As they reopen, fitness centers need to meet heightened member expectations for consistently sanitized environments.

When it comes to bringing consumers back into retail operations across the board, cleanliness and sanitary environments have become the new bellwethers, replacing more traditional concerns of the past. If you’re looking for a sort of universal statistic regarding the importance of cleanliness, in general, these days, consider this: According to The Wall Street Journal, hand sanitizer sales jumped 600% in 2020.

In fact, consumers have indicated that they’re willing to open their wallets for spaces they deem to be clean.

For example, a March 2021 study by global consultant Simon-Kucher & Partners reveals that restaurant customers are likely to spend more than two times as much money at establishments they feel meet their cleanliness standards, making a sanitary facility truly “table stakes.” In fact, notes the study, lower menu pricing is not receiving the same attention as food safety post-COVID-19. Sanitation standards have become among the top purchase criteria for consumers.

Those standards extend beyond the restaurant business into general retail expectations on the part of consumers. Customer experience management software and services company Intouch Insight recently produced its spring consumer habits study, which explored changes in in-store customer expectations due to COVID-19. Topping the list were ensuring that customers wear masks or face coverings and improved cleanliness.

Other key findings in the Intouch study included higher customer expectations that retailers would provide cleaning materials for customer use; 82% of respondents said they feel more comfortable entering a store when hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are made available for their use.

Consumers Better Understand Sanitization

“Cleanliness and hygiene have always been important to club members, but now people will insist on the highest levels of cleanliness before they are comfortable coming back to gyms and studios,” notes Stewart Mandler, chief executive officer at GoodEarth Products, founded in 1996.

To that end, he says, consumers have become more informed about the products they use in their everyday lives. Gyms should expect that when their members return, they will be just as informed about the effectiveness of their disinfectants, sanitizers, and other cleaning products because they have needed to become more informed for personal and at-home cleaning.

The fact that we have all, to some degree, become germaphobes—at least according to Forbes—has played a role in consumers stepping up both the education about and acquisition of their cleaning products during the past year.

Facilities cleaning treadmill stock column

The magazine highlights data from Prosper Insights and Analytics, which shows that the average amount of money consumers spend on cleaning supplies each month jumped from $17.30 in January of 2019 to $19.41 in January of 2021. Purchasing frequency for specific cleaning supplies also appears to be going up since the onset of the pandemic. Monthly purchases of disinfectant sprays, for instance, have increased 4.8%.

Using the Right Products

Beyond the environment simply looking clean, health club members should expect that such products as EPA N List Disinfectants are being used to clean and that FDA Sanitizing or EPA Disinfecting wipes are being provided,” Mandler says. “Club management should be educated so that they can have informed discussions when members ask questions about products being used. This will bring a sense of comfort and reassurance that the proper steps are being taken to keep them safe.

“Gym wipes, for example, are now the single highest spend item,” he continues. “In 2020, gym wipe sales within our fitness customer base increased by more than 200%. One way we’ve worked with our customers to limit the impact of this increased spending is by transitioning them from EPA Disinfecting wipes to FDA Sanitizing wipes and increasing the frequency that the club is disinfected by staff. FDA Sanitizing wipes kill 99.99% of most common germs that cause illness and can cost as much as 50% less than EPA Disinfecting wipes. If staff is regularly cleaning with an EPA N List Disinfectant, then an FDA Sanitizing wipe is more than acceptable to uphold a safe and clean environment for members.”

This reduced cost helps to offset other new expenses, such as masks, face shields, front desk sneeze guards, safety signage, and other COVID-19 related supplies.

GoodEarth also found that its hand sanitizer sales jumped almost 500% in 2020, which is why another common trend has been the transition away from proprietary hand sanitizer dispensers to universal products.

“Having a dispenser that only works with a specific refill left many gyms scrambling to locate a branded product that was not available,” explains Mandler. “Transitioning to a sanitizer dispenser that is compatible with any standard liquid or gel hand sanitizer leaves the flexibility to source alternative products to assure your members have consistent access to hand sanitizer.”

A Partner in Clean Reopening

As clubs look to reopen with a full complement of appropriate cleaning supplies on hand, GoodEarth has been more than ready to act as a springboard.

“We partnered with our customers to start building reopening plans as soon as they closed,” imparts Mandler. “Orders were kitted in our warehouses for all reopening supplies, including cleaning chemicals, wipes, sanitizer, safety and PPE, dispensers, sneeze guards, face shields, and everything in between. Deliveries were scheduled and GoodEarth reps went on-site as well. Every gym’s supply closet was fully stocked with these critical supplies by June of 2020. This gave our clients the peace of mind that when they did get the exciting news that they could reopen on short notice, there would be 60 days of supplies on-site when their doors reopened.”

Facilities cleaning supplies Good Earth column

The company offers a product range including FDA-registered non-alcohol sanitizing wipes, 75% alcohol disinfecting wipes, and EPA-registered disinfecting wipes. The products range from 60-pack and 100-count canisters for the direct consumer to industrial size rolls for commercial use. Its FDA-registered products are completely safe for use on skin in addition to sanitizing hard surfaces. In addition to its line of wipes, GoodEarth developed and manufactures a line of dispensers ranging from stainless steel floor stands with trash receptacles to plastic, wall-mounted dispensers. It also tailors janitorial supply to each of its customers based on their specific needs.

GoodEarth’s long-standing direct factory partnerships have allowed it to control its supply chain and allocate inventory to fulfill the ongoing increase in demand for these products. The company has also been communicating with clients to understand their usage trends once they reopen, which has been critical to supporting their needs in the longer term.

A One-stop Resource

“In 2014, we developed a thesis to become a single-source supplier to the fitness industry,” relates Mandler. “GoodEarth became the one-stop shop for all operational products used in the day-to-day running of your gym. Utilizing a network of 125 distribution centers in North America, we built a portfolio of more than 1,000 products—including products such as towels, cleaning and maintenance, amenities, personal care products, gym wipes, and retail bags—specifically for the fitness industry. Customers ranging from national luxury brands, HVLP models, franchise gyms, studios, regional gyms, and single locations can all take advantage of the benefits of our program.”

GoodEarth’s customized web ordering platform, he continues, allows its customers to centralize all indirect spend into a single ordering platform with budgetary capabilities, real-time reporting, and hierarchal workflow approvals. This provides clients efficiencies, total corporate control, and visibility.

Going forward, he says, “our number-one priority will continue to be finding ways to help our customers. We believe they deserve a partner; someone creating products and systems to enhance their lives. The needs of our customers will always play a part in dictating the future of our company. We will continue to be agile, adapt, and develop the products necessary to support their businesses and help them and their customers feel safe.”

To learn more about GoodEarth’s products and services, visit their website.

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Jon Feld

Jon Feld is a contributor to IHRSA.org.