How to reopen your fitness business in a new and changing world
While there had been talk about an economic recession for years now, nobody could have ever predicted the emergence of a worldwide health pandemic that would change the fitness industry as we know it.
Experiencing a global lock-down that saw countries forced into isolation and businesses made to temporarily shut has truly been one of the most difficult situations we have ever been through as an international community.
Still, the industry was forced to adapt with many gym owners and personal trainers pushing their services online in an attempt to help supplement income. While many have seen success with this strategy, questions surrounding the reopening of gyms still seem to be left unheard.
As such, we have conducted research from Government articles and medical resources in an attempt to provide some guidance for business owners as restrictions surrounding gym lock-downs begin to be lifted or eased.
How Gyms will be affected following life after COVID-19?
While there is no way of telling just how the fitness industry will be affected in the afterlife of COVID-19, health clubs around the world can expect to notice some significant changes in terms of consumer behaviour and external economic environments.
Rising Consumer Concerns
Even long after the COVID-19 pandemic is over, consumer concerns will remain with members acting particularly cautious in terms of their health and wellbeing. As such, members may be more hesitant when it comes to gym attendance, requiring gyms to offer affirmative communications to overcome this mental barrier. Simple gestures such as public sterilisation reports or cleaning schedules are expected to become a part of the norm, working to slowly rebuild confidence over the long-term.
New Consumer Lifestyles
As the world was forced into isolation, consumers were made to adapt, building new fitness habits along the way. Whether members have invested in a home gym setup, discovered a passion for online training or simply replaced the short-term need for fitness clubs, expect some members to move on.
A New Fragile Economy
Once underlying health concerns have cleared up, you can expect to see a lasting effect on the economy caused by dormant businesses and rising unemployment rates. Though this may cause few people to cancel their memberships, the fitness industry tends to hold up during times of economic hardship. In fact, historically speaking, the fitness industry has seen positive growth percentages in times of recession. This was seen more recently through ‘The Great Recession’ of 2008-2009 where health and fitness clubs had an overall revenue growth of 2.2 percent. Why? Because consumers tend to place a greater importance on maintaining their health in times where financial circumstances can’t be controlled. The key here is to consistently look for ways to adapt to external environments, help struggling members, deliver results, and add value.
How to keep gym members and staff safe at your fitness club?
As many fitness businesses prepare to reopen around the world, questions regarding the safety of staff and members have been mentioned quite frequently. As such, we have condensed information found across numerous sources to best assist you with guidance through this unfamiliar time. The key recommendations made are aligned with advice from public health authorities and Government bodies. These suggestions cover:
- Physical Distancing
- Good Hygiene Practices
- Enforcing ‘Stay at Home’ Rules
- Contact Tracing
Following the reopening of fitness businesses around the globe, alterations to club layouts may be required. Ensuring that adequate social distancing practices are upheld is essential (1.5m +), meaning machines and equipment may need to be relocated. In tandem, class sizes and member attendance should be limited to ensure members are able to appropriately distance themselves. Core recommendations include:
- Establish restrictions regarding the quantity of members allowed in specific areas of the club
- Ask members to leave the premises once their workout session or visit has been completed
- Place signs around the gym including floor markings to best outline correct distancing practices
- Remove areas where members can socially congregate such as chairs or lounges
- Utilise health club sound systems to periodically inform customers to maintain distancing practices
- Relocate machines to ensure adequate space is kept between members. If not possible, certain equipment should be disabled to allow for correct distancing measures to be upheld.
Good Hygiene Practices
Vigilant hygiene and cleaning processes must be implemented immediately moving forward. As an industry, we play a pivotal role in ensuring the general public stays fit and healthy. This means we must not only help members strive towards fitness goals, but prioritise daily club sanitation and the availability of adequate hand/equipment cleaning products. Core recommendations include:
- Fitness clubs are fully cleaned and recorded at least once per day then intermittently cleaned based on contact levels (More frequent cleaning and disinfecting of frequently handled surfaces such as gym equipment, weight machines, door handles etc.)
- Gym members must be required to disinfect surfaces before and after using equipment
- All staff should be trained on and adhere to the correct infection control procedures (Washing hands before the use of common areas, correct cleaning protocol etc.)
- Ensure members are washing their hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser upon arrival (Provide entry and exit sanitisation spaces).
- Ensure members using a clean towel each time they attend their session or class
- Close shared hydration stations which dispense water for drinking (water bubblers)
Enforcing ‘Stay at Home’ Rules
As per the advice of public health officials, gyms must advise all members to stay at home if they are unwell or display any symptoms of COVID-19. This should be implemented through club communications with members via email, sms, newsletters, and gym signage.
A key component which business must adapt to better manage the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce the transmission of infection, is contact tracing. Core recommendations include:
- Developing a ‘Register of Attendance’ to digitally or manually manage all persons who have visited the club
- Establish new protocols that allow the necessary authorities to access member logs and permitted contact details to best minimise the spread of infection.
The Future of Online Fitness
Perhaps the most pivotal learning point for fitness businesses throughout the pandemic, has been a lesson on the importance of service diversification and adaption. As such, more gyms than ever have begun offering online solutions as a means to supplement income. While initially daunting, these virtual services opened a new window for members and showed the fitness industry a glimpse of what the future could look like.
While online services won’t replace fitness clubs around the world, developing new digital products could prove to be extremely beneficial over the long-term with the ability to diversify revenue streams and future-proof your business.
We know that fitness is a vital aspect of everyone’s life given its link to positive physical health and mental well-being. So, finding alternate ways to keep members motivated through changing times is an opportunity that shouldn’t be looked down upon.
The best testimony to this are future growth forecasts within the global fitness app market which is estimated to grow at a compounded rate of 26.2% per year from 2020-2026; reaching an anticipated value of $US15.96 Billion by 2026.
The Lasting Need for Hygiene
The other major learning to be taken simply comes in reference to cleaning and hygiene practices. Moving forward, you can expect members to be more critical of how the fitness industry implements processes to keep health clubs safe.
While before, personal towels and relaxed member hygiene rules were adequate, there is a real need for vigilant processes and cleaning transparency. To adapt, businesses should take necessary steps to meet new demands such as staff training, stricter sanitary regulations and frequent cleaning timetables. These could all prove to be necessary steps that are vital in improving member experiences in the future.
Helping the fitness industry well into the future
The effects we have seen on the fitness industry so far have been heartbreaking with many made to temporarily stop operation and some even forced out of business… At VIGYR our primary concern is helping gym owners and franchises alike make it through to see better times. Our vision revolves around enabling the fitness industry to build healthier, happier, and more inclusive communities around the world. As such, we’d love to hear how we can best help you build a fitter business. Contact us today and let’s talk.